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The iPhone® Meter Must Be Broken

For a lot of us, data usage is a mystery. With some people reporting iPhone bills ranging in the thousands of dollars, it’s important to understand how your iPhone uses data and how to avoid the billing. Because of privacy rules, they cannot tell you exactly where you went or what you did. We are told that we must have downloaded “large” files, run several “updates” or visited “data intensive” web sites. Just what does that mean anyhow? Kilobytes (KB), Megabytes (MB), Gigabytes (GB); how can we get a grip?

Be careful not to take iPhone capabilities for granted

Different phones use data in different ways. The difference in settings could easily increase your data use astronomically and cost you big, especially when traveling outside your coverage area or on international networks. iPhones are more data intensive because of their full HTML email feature, automatic check settings, enhanced internet experience and all those really great applications we cannot seem to live without.

International roaming and data usage are not included in the standard data plans you get with your iPhone. It’s important to understand how much data different applications and downloads use. A good rule of thumb is that if it is digital or it is video related, uses Flash or moves around the screen or uses GPS (like google maps), it uses a lot of data. For example, a standard digital cameral takes a 5 megapixel picture. Opening an email with a 5 megapixel picture or downloading a 3 minute video on YouTube will use about 2-3MB on your iPhone. On an international network, that would be a charge of around $40 for each of those activities.

Turn it off

You can typically disable browsing on any phone. iPhones have a default setting for international data roaming to be “OFF”. In the settings area, this can be found under Settings>General>Network>Data Roaming. This will block email, browsing, and visual voicemail as well as other internet downloads, but it will not block text or picture/video messages (SMS or MMS). You will be charged for text and picture/video messages which we now know can be as much as $40 each.

You can also turn “Fetch New Data” off. This will disable your email and calendar syncs. Although you will have to do those things manually, it will put you in control of the data flow. If you just have to have it, consider using Wi-Fi spots which are available at many international airports, hotels and restaurants. This can save you big.

Package deals

When traveling overseas, there are global add-ons you can purchase that will allow you a limited bundle of service in 90 countries. A good idea would be to run your iPhone with the counter on before your trip to see if your bundle will be enough. Also, verify that the iPhone network will work in the country you are traveling to.

You may want to price these packages against other companies that rent such equipment on the actual network of the country you are traveling. Companies like Cellhire ( have network relationships in over 180 countries. They are competitively priced and you have the peace of mind in knowing that because you are on that country’s network, your device will work.

Use your counters

When you arrive overseas set the usage tracker to zero (Settings>General>Usage>Reset Statistics). You can then monitor your usage and prevent overages. All trackers are estimated usage only and should not be used to calculate your bill. It will keep you in the ballpark and help you to avoid high usage bills.

Remember the magic number: 1024

When tracking your usage against a MB or GB bundle or when reviewing your bill, remember the number 1024. It takes 1024 KB’s to make 1 MB. So when you see your bill and it has, for example, 9600 KB, that is 9.375 MB. It also takes 1024 MB to make a GB.
1 GB equals 1024 MB and 1 MB equals 1024 KB.
A 5GB bundle = 5,120 MB or 5,242,880 KB.
A 200MB bundle = 204,800 KB.

Ready, set, get me to my destination

AT&T and Apple both offer more details on how to manage your data while traveling overseas. Do your homework and be proactive. Now that you have the information, enjoy your trip.

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