Avoid expensive iPad data overage charges

July 9, 2012

4G LTE data on your iPad is great. But if you're not careful, you can burn through your data package in just minutes. Here's how to keep a close eye on your usage (and your bill).

When Apple finally added 4G LTE radios to the iPad, everyone cheered. The next-gen cell networks are much faster than their 3G predecessors, which seemed like a boon for mobile workers. But there is a dark side. Faster network access means that data-heavy apps become easier and more appealing to use.

If you've signed on for one of AT&T or Verizon's lower-tier plans, it's possible to burn through a couple of gigabytes of 4G data with just a couple of streaming movies from Netflix, for example. Keep that in mind the next time you're traveling and trying to avoid your hotel's costly on-demand video.

Thankfully, there are a few ways you can monitor data use on your iPad. Apple buries your data usage in Settings > General > Usage > Cellular Usage. On that screen, you can check how much data you've sent and received using your cellular data plan. Unfortunately it doesn't restart when your billing cycle starts, so you'll have to remember to go to hit the Reset Statistics button on the first day of each billing cycle.

If you can't always remember to reset your stats each month, try Data Usage in the iTunes Store. It'll take a few minutes to set up, entering your billing date, data quota, current usage, and other info, but you'll only need to do that one time. Going forward, the app will track your usage in the background, and notify you when your data consumption as reached pre-defined levels.

In addition to tracking your total usage, Data Usage can also tell you when you're consuming more data than you should be, based on the number of days left in your billing cycle. It also offers up useful stats like the date that you're likely to hit your data cap based on your current usage. The app can also separately track WiFi usage, which is handy for travelers using pay-per-gigabyte networks common in airports and hotels.

Data Usage runs in the background keeping tabs on your iPad, so you'll see a slight hit in battery life while it's enabled. With overage fees up to $60 per gigabyte on some cellular data plans however, a slight decrease in battery life is a small price to pay to save big on overage charges.


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