Why Is My phone Using Data Even With Mobile Data Turned Off?

Why is my phone using data even with mobile data off?

Like many iPhone and Android users, you may notice that your phone is using mobile data even when it’s off or when connected to Wi-Fi internet. 

When turned off, your phone may use data due to incorrect APN settings, or if “Mobile Data Always Active” is enabled. Other causes include auto-shifting to mobile data when Wi-Fi is weak (“Wi-Fi Assist” in iPhone), or shifting from 4G to 3G mode when calling then reverting back when the call ends.

Why is my Android using data with mobile data off?

Here are some possible reasons your Android phone may be  using mobile data even when it’s turned off.

1. Incorrect APN settings

An APN (Access Point Name) refers to the gateway between the carrier’s network and the internet. It is needed for mobile data connectivity on your phone.

Every carrier provides APN settings when you insert a new SIM card into your phone. A wrong APN setting can lead to the device using data even when mobile data is off. 

This issue can often be resolved through a reset of the APN setting. . Here’s how this can be done on a Tecno device:

  1. Go to Settings  and tap on  “Network & Internet “
  2. Tap ”Mobile Network” > select “your data SIM “
  3. Tap ”Access Point Names” >  tap on the three dot menu
  4. Select “Reset To Default”.

2. Issue in the Android OS

An issue   in Android OS might   result in the phone using mobile data even when it’s disabled.

For instance, some devices will turn on mobile data automatically if you send or receive an MMS while you have the mobile network setting “Send/receive MMS When Mobile Data is Off” enabled.

This setting is only supposed to use mobile data for MMS, not for any other apps.

Install the latest system update or Android version upgrade to fix mobile data-related bugs.

3. Mobile Data Always Active is on in Developer Options

Another possibility is that you have the “’Mobile Data Always Active” settings enabled in Developer Options. 

This feature keeps mobile data active for quick switching between Wi-Fi and mobile data even when Wi-Fi is active. You can disable this setting as follows:

  1. Go to Settings > System > “Developer Options”.
  2. Scroll down to the “Mobile Data Always Active” option > toggle it off.

You can enable Developer Options if it’s not enabled as follows:

  1. Go to Settings > My Phone.
  2. Tap on “Build Number” seven times. After the first few taps, a message will appear that counts down the attempts until the Developer Options is unlocked.You’ll now find the “Developer options” menu in the System section of your Settings. 

Does my mobile data get used when turned on but I’m not using my phone?

If your mobile data is consumed even  when you are not using your phone, leading to your data plan being used up faster, here are some possible reasons:

1. App and OS background activity

When mobile data is enabled and you are not using the phone, some apps and the OS may still be using the data for background activities.

For instance, the apps auto sync  in the background for push notifications e.g. weather and news updates. 

Apps can also use mobile data for creating online backups and using your location.

At the OS level, your data (e.g. contacts) is regularly synced with your Google account on an Android phone. System updates are also  checked and installed  using  mobile data if the auto-update setting is enabled on your phone.

Here’s how you can disable auto-update on a Xiaomi Redmi phone as an example:

  1. Go to Settings > About Phone > tap the MIUI 12 logo.
  2. Tap three dots > “Update Settings”.
  3. Toggle off “Download Using Mobile Data”. This will prevent auto-download of system updates over mobile data at a set schedule.

2. Auto-updating of apps

If app auto-update over mobile data on Android or iOS is enabled, this can potentially lead to a significant amount of data being consumed. 

To prevent this, set apps to auto-update over Wi-Fi only. This is done in the App Store and iTunes settings for iOS devices, or  in Play Store settings for Android devices. 

For an Android device:

  1. Launch Play Store > Tap your profile icon.
  2. Go to Settings > Network Preferences > Auto-Update Apps.
  3. Select “Over Wi-Fi Only”.
  4. Tap Done. 

Why is my phone using mobile data when connected to Wi-Fi?

The following are some of the reasons why your phone may be  using mobile data even when connected to Wi-Fi:

1. Your phone shifts to mobile data when Wi-Fi signal is poor

Most phones have a feature that allows them to use mobile data even when connected to Wi-Fi, allowing the device to auto-switch to mobile data when  the Wi-Fi signal is poor. 

This allows the phone to provide a better and more reliable connection using mobile data in addition to Wifi when necessary.

On iPhones, this feature is known as Wi-Fi Assist. On Android phones it has a different name depending on the brand, model and the OS version.

You can enable/disable Wi-Fi Assist on your iPhone as follows:

  1. Navigate to Settings > Cellular or Settings > Mobile Data.
  2. Scroll down and toggle on/off “Wi-Fi Assist”

On a Samsung Galaxy device, the feature is called “Switch To Mobile Data” and can be enabled/disabled in the Advanced Wi-Fi settings. 

2. Specific apps are set to use mobile data

Some Android phones like Samsung Galaxy devices have a“Mobile Data Only Apps” feature that allows selected apps to use mobile data even when connected to Wi-Fi. 

The feature may be enabled on your device, and some apps may be set to use only mobile data.

See next section for how to disable it. 

How do I stop my Android from using data when connected to Wi-Fi?

Here are a few ways to stop your Android phone from using data when connected to Wi-Fi:

1. Disable automatic switching to mobile data

You can disable automatic switching to mobile data on your Android phone. Here’s how (Tecno device):

  1. Tap   Settings > Network & Internet 
  2. Go to Wi-Fi > Wi-Fi Preferences.
  3. Toggle off “Auto-Switch To Mobile Data”.

2. Disable the “Mobile Data Only Apps” feature on Samsung devices

On a Samsung device, here’s how to turn off the feature that lets apps switch to mobile data when connected to Wi-Fi:

  1. Go to Settings > Connections > Data Usage.
  2. Toggle off “Mobile Data Only Apps”.

3. Turn off mobile data while using Wi-Fi

You can also turn off data while using Wi-Fi as follows:

  1. Open the Quick Settings panel by swiping down from top of the screen. 
  2. Tap on the “Data Connection” icon to turn it off. 

How do you know if your phone is using Wi-Fi or data?

You can determine if your phone is using Wi-Fi via a fan-shaped icon in the status bar on top of the screen. 

If you see bars along with 3G, 4G, LTE, or 5G, on the other hand, it means that your phone is using mobile data.

                                                           Wi-F icon   Mobile Data icon

You can also see if you’re connected to Wi-Fi by going to the Wi-Fi settings on your phone. The word “Connected” should appear below the Wi-Fi network name (SSID).

If both connections are enabled, the icon displayed at the top of the screen will alternate often between the wifi and mobile data indicator, depending on the strength of the wifi signal. 

What happens if both data and Wi-Fi are enabled on the iPhone?

If both mobile data and Wi-Fi are enabled on the iPhone, the device will use Wi-Fi instead of data.

After you’ve set up a Wi-Fi network by login in to the network on your iPhone, the device will then auto-connect to wifi whenever the network is in range. The device will always give preference to Wi-Fi over mobile data.

If the iPhone is connected to Wi-Fi, all the apps will exchange data over  Wi-Fi with the exception of a few features (e.g. MMS) which requires mobile data. When Wi-Fi is not available, the iPhone will connect to your mobile data automatically. 

How do you prioritize Wi-Fi over data?

Like an iPhone, your Android phone will prioritize Wi-Fi over mobile data if it’s enabled and connected to a network. 

If there is no Wi-Fi available or your phone or you can’t connect to it (e.g. when a Wi-Fi network is secured but  you have provided an incorrect password), it will automatically shift to mobile data.

You can also attempt the following ways to prioritize Wi-Fi over data:

  • Disable Wi-Fi Assist on iPhone (this will stop the device to switch to data if Wi-Fi signals are poor or there’s no connectivity). See section “Why is my phone using mobile data when connected to Wi-Fi” above. 
  • Disable auto-switching to mobile data on your Android phone if Wi-Fi is poor. See section “How do I stop my Android from using data when connected to Wi-Fi”.
  • Turn Airplane mode on and then back off. This disables mobile data, however, you won’t be able to make / receive calls and send messages.  See section “Why is my mobile data not working”. 
  • Enable Airplane mode on your phone first, then turn on Wi-Fi. This disables mobile data and lets you use the internet through Wi-Fi (essentially prioritizing wifi).
    Note that you won’t be able to make or receive calls and send messages. 

    See section “Why is my mobile data not working” for how to enable/disable Airplane mode” on an Android phone. 

Why is my phone using data in the middle of the night?

Here are a few possible reasons your phone may be using data at night::

1. The phone turns off Wi-Fi if not plugged in and switches to mobile data

When Wi-Fi is connected and the phone goes to lock screen, it goes into sleep mode which turns off Wi-Fi if the phone is not  plugged into a power source.

Many smartphones are set up to do this to reduce the battery drain as Wi-Fi uses power constantly even when no data exchange occurs through it.

Any app that is updating in the background will shift to mobile data when the phone’s screen is asleep.

Since this occurs especially at nighttime, it’s always a good idea to turn off mobile data for all or specific apps.  

On an iPhone, here’s how to turn off mobile data for apps:

  1. Navigate to Settings > Cellular.
  2. Toggle off mobile data for the desired apps

2. The phone auto-switches to data if Wi-Fi is poor

As stated before, many phones can switch to mobile data if the Wi-Fi signal is  weak to establish a faster data connection. 

You can turn off the auto-switch feature (e.g. Wi-Fi Assist in iPhones) during nighttime.

Why is my Android phone using so much data all of a sudden?

Here are a few common reasons your Android phone is suddenly using a large amount of data:

  • Google Play Store is auto-updating apps over mobile data
  • A large number of apps are running in the background to send real-time notifications and performing  tasks like syncing and uploading data to the cloud
  • You are doing data-intensive tasks on your Android phone like streaming videos and music via apps such as YouTube
  • Your email, calendar, and contacts are syncing at regular time intervals e.g. every 15 minutes
  • You are downloading large  files without noticing
  • Social media apps like Facebook perform  tasks like auto-playing videos as you browse through your feed

Why is my mobile data not working?

Here are some possible reasons your mobile data may not be working:

1. Airplane mode is on

If the Airplane mode is enabled on your phone, this will disconnect your phone from the mobile network. Disable airplane mode to resume mobile data::

  1. Swipe down from the top of the screen to open “Quick Settings”.
  2. Tap on the Airplane icon to disable it.

If Airplane mode isn’t enabled on your device, try turning it on, waiting for 30 seconds, then turning it back off by tapping the icon again. This will typically reset the settings and get mobile data working again.

2. Incorrect network mode

It’s also possible that you are using an incorrect network mode on your smartphone. Some devices use 4G networks, while others use 5G. Selecting the wrong setting can result in internet connectivity issues.

Here’s how to select the appropriate network setting on a Samsung device:

  1. Go to Settings > Connections > Mobile Networks.
  2. Tap on “Network Mode”.
  3. Select the “LTE/3G/2G (Auto-Connect)” option so that your device can switch to the optimum mode in a specific area.

3. Device or network issue

There could be a minor glitch in your device or a fault from the mobile network that may cause your mobile data not to work. 

Try to restart your device and see if you’re able to use mobile data again. 

To restart your Android phone, press the power key on the side for a few seconds and select Reboot or Restart from the options that appear.