Hey, You, Get Off of iCloud! (It's using all your cellular data!)

There is a serious problem with iCloud at the moment - and it's not that it's boring, crashes too often or that
its overall purpose is vague and difficult to understand.

No.... the problem is that iCloud has a data leak.

It will CONSTANTLY use your cellular data - even when the phone is sitting idle.

Even when all iCloud services are turned off!
There are 3 iPhone 5s in the AAAD household. 2 are mine - one for work, one for home - and the other is my wife's. My wife and I share a 2 GB data plan on Verizon.

Last month, we came VERY close to chewing through the 2 GB cap on our family "share everything" plan. Which is a bit odd, considering that we'd been right at 1 GB for each of the last 2 months.

My phone used about 90% of that 2 GB cap. I figured that the issue was that I was no longer working in my wi-fi filled home office - I'm in a corporate environment now, and I haven't connected my "home" iPhone to our work wi-fi.  

Besides, we didn't get charged an overage last month, so "no harm, no foul", right?

Then my phone used half a gigabyte in 3 days. Without me touching it. There was something wrong here.

Runaway Data

I opened up the "cellular usage" page in Settings, reset the counter, and put the phone down. A minute later, I reopened "cellular usage", and found that I'd used 80 KB.

Ten minutes later, well over a megabyte. I reset the counter again, and then went in and out of the "cellular usage" menu as fast as I could.

2 KB.
5 KB.
8 KB.
12 KB.

Literally every time I'd open the "usage" menu, I'd find that the phone had chewed through another 2-4 KB. 2 KB is not a lot of data... but I was losing a MB every 15 minutes or so.

Over the course of a month, that's 1.4 GB! For nothing! It's entirely wasted data!

Identifying the Culprit

I went into all the settings, and started turning off things that COULD have been data hogs. Location services. Maps. Traffic. I turned all iCloud services to "off".

I deleted a bunch of my son's older games, thinking that maybe they were interfering with the latest Apple and Verizon updates. Nothing worked.

I talked to a very helpful Verizon rep, who reset their software on my phone. The problem continued.

Until I found the culprit - iCloud.

"But wait", you're probably thinking - "You said you turned your iCloud services off!" Well, yes, I did.

The problem only stopped when I deleted my iCloud account altogether.

That's a serious problem for Apple. The data usage issue isn't caused by "iCloud doing its thing". This isn't iCloud legitimately using cellular data to back up items.

That would be an easy fix... Apple could limit those iCloud functions to wi-fi only.

No.... the data leak is caused by a bug in the iCloud system itself. The only remedy is the total removal of iCloud from your phone.

And that stinks. I like iCloud. More than that, I like the idea of what iCloud COULD and SHOULD be - the greatest tech company on earth, completely untethering "our data" from "our devices".

It should work. But if it's going to use 1.4 GB of phantom data every month, it's a Maps-level failure.

At least Maps is pretty. And doesn't cost me money.

So, AAAD reader - go to Settings -> General --> Usage --> Cellular Usage, and reset your statistics.
Back out of the menu, and then IMMEDIATELY go back to Cellular Usage.

It should still be at zero. If it's at 2-3KB, you have a problem. And the problem is iCloud.


  1. You're absolutely right. Same testing as you, same EXACT results. Very annoyed. Now backing up to iTunes wifi sync at night. Just as safe. Not losing anything either... Don't care about photos IMMEDIATELY going to cloud... That's a waste of data. Since I shut it down. Month ago, now my wife's SGS3 is the data hog, using almost 1.5x the amount of data as my i5... Now I can go back to the normal data plan instead of the 6gb share on verizon. I can't believe apple is ignoring this obvious epidemic.

  2. Thank you!! This was so helpful-prevented me from paying extra in overages-used almost all my data (2G) in three days.

  3. Exactly what happened to me as well. A real annoyance. I was getting used to updating my Contacts and iCal manually with an iTunes synch, but then OS Mavericks update makes it IMPOSSIBLE to do that now as they've removed that feature in iTunes now. Mind boggling.

  4. I had this problem for the last 3 months and tried everything to stop it. The only solution was to connect my phone to iTunes through my PC, back the phone up, reset it to factory settings and then restore the phone again from iTunes. Doing the factory reset option on the phone itself doesn't work, you need to do a clean reset / install through itunes