My wife has inherited my iPhone 3G and it's using a few megabytes of GPRS data every month even though she doesn't deliberately use any services that cost mobile data. The problem is that she doesn't have a data plan, so these few MB's cost as much as a few gigabytes would with a data plan.

1: How can I set up the iPhone 3G (OS 3.1.3) so that it absolutely never sends or receives any data except on wifi?

2: Also, what is sending/receiving this GPRS data if it isn't the user? My wife never launches the web browser or other Internet-needing apps.

Please don't simply suggest the obvious get a data plan because my wife doesn't want one. She wants to use the thing as a cell phone and for text messaging, but certainly absolutely positively no Internet or e-mail or whatever, except when she's on our home's wifi.

I thought I had thoroughly turned off mobile data. Here's what I've done so far (written from my memory, might be inaccurate):

Settings > General > Network:
- enable 3G = off
- cellular data = off
- data roaming = off

- 3G = off
- data = off
- bluetooth = off
- location = off

Based on all this, the damn thing should only use wifi, but somehow it uses GPRS data anyway. Argh!

Well, I didn't manage to turn off the mobile data usage despite all your very useful and helpful suggestions. Instead, I spoke with the provider and they offered me 8 months of 1GB-per-months for free, and after that I'm free to cancel it or continue at €7 per month (or whatever the rate will be at that time). They also gave me the money back for the data costs on the last bill. Very good customer service, thank you tele.ring of Austria.

  • It's not a direct answer, but I have had great success using the netstat app to correlate app use with network connections. On some tough cases, paying for the delta mode and background features are able to detect and track usage by setting a trap to monitor each connection. For me, this app was money and time well spent.
    – bmike
    Commented Oct 9, 2012 at 19:18

11 Answers 11


In my country (Australia) we are able to ask the mobile provider to disable data on our accounts to ensure we cannot use any at all, and thus cannot be charged for it unwillingly. It might be worth calling up the provider and asking if they can disable the data service.

  • I should've done that right from the start!! In fact I just did call them and instead of preventing data usage they just gave me 8 months of 1GB-per-month for free.... very odd, but it "solved" my problem :-) Commented Dec 24, 2010 at 7:12

That's pretty bizarre. This should have done it:

  • enable 3G = off
  • cellular data = off
  • data roaming = off

The only thing I can think of is perhaps visual voicemail? If you have this turned on and it's working then it's using data. Try turning it off. If not, then I'm not really sure what the problem could be, but I suggest calling up your carrier and asking them to block data on their end so that you don't get charged for it.

  • Thanks for confirming my settings should work! Yeah, I'll have to ask the carrier to turn it off. They probably won't though since they're getting rich off of me. It's not visual voicemail for sure; I'm not in the US and that's the only place that works, afaik. Commented Nov 19, 2010 at 17:49
  • 2
    Actually visual voicemail is available on many carriers outside the US.
    – MJeffryes
    Commented Nov 21, 2010 at 15:01

It is possible to have a voice-only no-data iPhone.

Be careful about trying to set this up yourself on the phone. Phones have been known to use data (and get charged) even when all phone options have been set to not use data.

Your best bet is to call the carrier and ask them to disable all data from their end.

  • 3
    I was going to add the same warning. IPhones cannot be prevented from sending&receiving data no matter how hard you try to turn off data services! So if your voice-only plan allows data, but as a separate cost, then it will cost you a fortune!! The only option is to have the provider specifically turn data OFF. Commented Feb 14, 2011 at 8:36
  • This depends on operator and their APN settings. My iPhone, when not covered by a data plan because I was in the process of changing it, just refused any connection over 3G, and didn't pay anything without having to turn off data.
    – Agos
    Commented Feb 15, 2011 at 0:05

Changing the APN (if you have access to those settings, AFAIK some carriers block that specific menu) to some random set of chars (fake APN) will disable all data communications. However, everytime you try to access internet, the iPhone will pop up a message saying that you are not subscribed to a cellular data service.

You can also change it to a fake one even if your carrier disallowed access to that setting, by visiting http://www.unlockit.co.nz/ using your iPhone and letting it install the fake settings for you.


I can add a few things that bothered me when I did the same.

  1. I had to go to the network settings of the carrier and remove the user/pass for the “EDGE” network. Inserting bogus information prevented the iPhone from connecting at all.

  2. Voicemail. Here in spain we have visual voicemail (and so do other EU countries as well). I disabled the voicemail too (there is a ## command you can type, ask in your company).

Despite having everything disabled, the phone, notably mail, tried to do things, but after #1, it started failing (giving me an annoying popup that it couldn’t connect). So I went ahead and obliterated Mail settings, and such.

Since then it has been silent. ;)

  • We don't have visual voicemail here. I did mess up the network settings, but to no avail. Odd. Commented Dec 24, 2010 at 7:13

You can switch mobile data off in Settings.

Go to Settings > General > Network and set the Mobile/Cellular Data switch to the 'Off' position

See this Apple Support note for exactly what turning off Cellular Data affects.

  • it could be my iPhone's OS version(3.1.3), but I only have the following 4 options under Network: Enable 3G, Data Roaming, VPN and Wi-Fi.
    – Meringros
    Commented Feb 14, 2011 at 1:58
  • You're correct, this is an iOS 4.0 feature. See here theiphoneguru.net/2010/07/22/… why don't you upgrade? Commented Feb 14, 2011 at 2:36
  • 2
    Don't rely on this setting...! I know by personal experience that the iPhone consumes data even when all data-consuming services are turned off. This can become very expensive! Commented Feb 14, 2011 at 8:37

Actually there's one thing you can do, and that's mess up with carrier settings. APN is the keyword here. Under Settings / General / Network you should have a menu Cellular Data. If you don't (and you probably do not) have it, search for APN on cydia. You should find something there to enable it. Then just clear up all fields in that menu.

Another option would be going to www.iphone-notes.de/mobileconfig or other similar websites on your iphone and install a invalid carrier setting. I'm not sure this would do the trick, but with the proper custom .mobileconfig I'm sure you could.

Good luck! ;)

  • I had already done this -- all the Internet and MMS fields were filled with the obviously invalid value xyzzy but it would still connect about hourly for a few kilobytes. I'm starting to believe that an iPhone just isn't designed to be totally offline (which makes sort of sense, I admit). Commented Dec 24, 2010 at 7:09
  • @torbengb well, if that didn't work my only guess is that it keeps sending data for lost my iphone being able to recover it. but it's still way to odd on how it would be able to send any data without knowing where to. how do you measure data is being transfered anyway?
    – cregox
    Commented Dec 24, 2010 at 14:51
  • Measurements: 1) the Settings app tells you the mobile data consumption. This stated some 170kB sent and ditto received. 2) the provider monthly bill. This stated 14 MB for the same period! I have no idea whatsoever what data was sent or received, what app (or OS "feature") did it, or why. Commented Dec 24, 2010 at 19:32
  • @torbengb Well, as for the monthly bill, that's very hard to know what it means for sure. You could only be sure it's iphone fault by leaving the SIM card on another phone for the whole month bill period. The settings, in other hand, in my end never move if I just use SBSettings to turn off 3G, cellular data and nothing else. So there is some odd behavior on your end indeed.
    – cregox
    Commented Dec 24, 2010 at 19:52

If your wife hast set up an email account: are the "fetch" settings set to "manual"?

  • Yes, it's manual, and the network settings are intentionally garbled in order to stop it from working. Commented Dec 24, 2010 at 7:09

Try turning off location services and see if it helps. If I remember correctly, the iPhone 3G has assisted GPS, so it might be using a data connection to help with satellite acquisition.

"Standalone" or "Autonomous" GPS operation use radio signals from satellites alone. A-GPS additionally uses network resources to locate and utilize the satellites faster as well as better in poor signal conditions. [...] An Assisted GPS system can address these problems by using data available from a network.

  • Yes it does have assisted GPS but that shouldn't use any GPRS. Plus I think they want GPS working as it should without any data consumption.
    – cregox
    Commented Dec 23, 2010 at 22:34
  • Location services has been turned off the entire time, and no location-aware apps were ever started. Commented Dec 24, 2010 at 7:10

You could call your carrier and tell them to block all data from the SIM card.


Put it in Airplane mode! Works for me.

  • 4
    What, all the time? Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 16:55
  • 1
    at least on newer iOS versions, after turning on aeroplane/airplane mode, you can then re-enable wi-fi and bluetooth Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 0:36

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