May 28 2014

A call to assist came into our office as a lawyer who normally uses very little data each month on their iPhone got a bill for using 11GB of data in one month. The highest previous usage reported for that user had been 600MB. An estimated overage rate of 5 cents per MB and 9GB overage could mean this extra usage had generated an extra $450 in data usage fees! For comparison Telus produced this table in their online portal:

How much data is that? – Estimated usage for various downloading and streaming activities.

A web page 0.17 MB
A small novel 1 MB
A high-resolution photograph 2 MB
A game or app download 4 MB
A 10 minute YouTube video 10 MB
A full length MP3 album 60 MB
A feature length movie 700 MB

Note: these are averages and provided here only as best estimates.

This was the equivalent of watching 10 feature length movies in data usage. The user was shocked as their data usage had not changed and now they were faced with additional charges.  Searching online Mark, the lead of Customer Care at our office, found that other users had experienced something similar. Apparently when an iPhone has an email stuck in the Outbox and it is connecting to an Exchange server this can cause a large spike in data usage. Checking the user’s iPhone – sure enough there was an item stuck in the Outbox. We won’t know if this was the real cause as the carrier was of no help in isolating the cause for the increase.   Their primary interest was in isolating how the bill would be paid so they could get their balance owing eliminated in under 30 days and the customer was left on their own to figure the cause out.

I had read where iPhones connecting to Exchange could cause a massive spike in processing power due to integration issues. Seeing how it could also cause data usage to increase was a new danger requiring new diligence.

Other than never letting an email stay stuck in the Outbox on an iPhone there are other tools that can be of help. Apparently onavo is an app that can measure data usage. Some of the carriers also publish an app that will inform you of your data usage. I had downloaded the Telus app a couple weeks prior and could not get it configured to work at the time. This was done while travelling out of town so it could be due to lack of information on my part. If you are roaming out of the country or with a different carrier such a precaution is important so you will not be the next user with a $450 data usage bill. Also, if you ever notice something stuck in the Outbox, get it deleted fast….

Written by Darren Boyer

Darren Boyer

Darren Boyer is the founder and president of pcit.

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