• Do not panic if your iPhone cellular network data usage spikes to over 8GB
  • Do not panic if your iPhone cellular network data usage spikes to over 8GB
    Written by battye
    Thu Nov 18, 2010 6:37 pm

    Often on the news you hear about mobile phone horror stories of people racking up thousands of dollars in debt - and then thinking that you aren't like those people.

    On November 12th I checked my iPhone usage, just like any other time. Then I almost flat lined.

    My iPhone cellular network data meter, which had accumulated about 500MB of downloads and 100MB of uploads since May, had spiked to 4.5GB of downloads and 4.1GB of uploads. I panicked. But the moral of this story is that there is no reason to panic. It is an iPhone fault, which I will get to shortly.

    I was on the phone to my service provider (Optus Australia) straight away - and by chance got connected to a support employee with no hold time. I explained that I had no idea what happened, how could my usage have possibly gone so high so fast? I was reassured that the records Optus had showed I was well under my 250MB cap (at about 65MB) and that there was nothing to worry about.

    It was probably clear to him on the other end of the line that I wasn't yet completely relieved (I was concerned that the Optus records may not have updated yet, and I still didn't know what accounted for the data spike). So he went ahead and set up an online account for me to check my official usage instead of relying on the iPhone's statistics.

    As the days passed and I kept checking to make sure no huge data values appeared next to my account (8GB of excess usage would have come at just under $3000!), I became more relaxed. Now I know that it was actually a problem with the iPhone, after stumbling across this discussion on Apple's website: http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jsp ... ID=2620623

    There are perhaps half a dozen people who have reported this problem, and on the internet overall very little information about it. So I hope this article does ease the concerns of anyone that does encounter this, that the 8GB (4.0GB added to the downloads and 4.0GB added to the uploads) is a false reading.

    I still don't know what caused this incorrect reading. The fact that it added 4.0GB to each counter makes me think it was just a mathematical mistake (the powers of two rule in everything computer related) due to some bug in the iPhone software. But that so few people have experienced this problem makes me wonder if something unique triggered it.

    The only unusual things that happened in the lead-up to this bizarre "usage spike":

    - I hadn't reset the iPhone statistics since May (about 6 months), perhaps after so long the iPhone gets into some sort of loop. This was the reason suggested to me by the Optus representative, who suggested a hard reset of the phone for good measure.
    - The night before I received an email with a 20MB zip attachment. This doesn't seem too unusual, I have received in the past a lot of emails with attachments under 5MB with no problems. My only worry at the time was that the phone tried to continually download the email overnight.
    - I was trying some new push apps a few nights prior, but at the time of the "spike" push was disabled and millions of apps are installed every day around the world. So this is clutching at straws a bit.

    What perplexed me most about all of this was that if my phone somehow did download 8GB of data, the battery would have completely drained. Yet when I discovered the error I still had 70% remaining.

    If anyone else has had this 8GB spike occur on their iPhone and they did something similar to what I did above, or might know of another reason why it happened, please let me know by posting a message on the forum and I will update this article.

    So in the end it seems that all's well that ends well. One benefit to come out of this experience was the creation of the online account to monitor my usage. I had been fairly good about checking it on my phone (but evidently that meter is not to be trusted), but it turns out Optus have an iPhone app called "My Account" for checking usage. It is free and available in the App Store through iTunes or at http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/my-accou ... 27154?mt=8

    Here is what it looks like:

    (the dollar values aren't too important as it comes under the cap)

    You can also see past bills and there is also a feature to pay the bill through the app (probably more useful for prepaid customers who can redeem by entering a voucher code). When it comes to billing, it's your mobile phone service provider's thoughts that count - not the iPhone data meter. So if you are using Optus this is a handy app to have. I'm sure other major providers around the world have similar apps as well.

    In conclusion, if your iPhone's data usage spikes by exactly 8GB for no known reason - don't panic. It might not hurt to call your phone provider, but chances are it is a bug in the iOS software.
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