5 March 2017
(includes OS X Sierra)
First, let me tell you that I became an Apple customer in 2008, when I bought my first Mac, and I was delighted with the Apple Support as well as with the huge difference between my Apple computer and all the PCs I’d used previously (since 1989). Most specifically, I was thrilled with the lack of viruses and malware, and with the infrequency of updates. Microsoft is notorious for its continuous, “critical” updates. In September 2014, however, my happiness with Apple began to dissolve due to an unexpected and severe increase — on Apple’s part — of my data usage.
When I upgraded to Mavericks OSX in September, using my Verizon MiFi — which is the only way I have reliable Internet out here in the Great Desert Wilderness — my iMac and MacBookPro used 27 Gs of data. For any of you who are unfamiliar with just how much data that is, it’s the equivalent of my having watched over 13 movies (at 2 hours each), streaming them all within a 2-day period.
27 Gs of data.
And that was before I’d upgraded all the associated Apple apps, like Pages, Safari, and iTunes, that went along with the Mavericks upgrade, and my third-party apps, like Microsoft Office for Mac, which I need to run my businesses. The Apple Mavericks OSX upgrade was supposed to use slightly over 5Gs of data for each computer. Since I was on an 8G per month plan and it was only the beginning of my billing cycle, I had decided, before the upgrade, that I could afford the additional $20 it would cost me to move up to 12Gs for the month. I upgraded. The next morning, when I discovered that the computers had used a total of 27Gs of data, I was horrified. (I’d been under 1/2G when I upgraded.)
I spent hours on the phone with Verizon, attempting to determine what was wrong with their Mi-Fi unit that had caused it to use so much data, forcing me to move up to a 30G plan for that month, which would cost me an additional $225. Unfortunately, it was not a Verizon Mi-Fi problem. It was an intentional Apple OSX data usage.
And with the introduction of Yosemite OSX, the iOS 8 for iPads, iPods, and iPhones; and iCloud Drive, the data usage for Apple devices — even when they are asleep — has increased exponentially. We consumers are the ones paying for that data if we don’t live in a “free” Wi-Fi area. Apple knows about the exponential data drain, of course, because it is intentional. (Apple considers it an “innovation.”) But despite any complaints from consumers, like me, who have to pay for their data and know that the exponentially increased data usage is not an ISP problem and is not due to the consumer’s “streaming” movies or “gaming,” Apple is not going to change its monstrous data usage drain because it is being caused by its “forward-looking innovations,” like iCloud Drive, and the ability to sync your iOS devices with your laptop and desktop computers.
Verizon verified, for me and for Apple Consumer Relations, that the huge data usage I experienced when downloading Mavericks OSX in September was, indeed, from Apple IPs, and not from “streaming, gaming, or other 3rd party applications,” which is what Apple Support initially accused me “or someone in [my] household” of doing. Additionally, in order to be completely transparent, I will tell you that the Apple Consumer Relations Rep who eventually got my case did contact Verizon for me in September 2014 and convince Verizon to “eat the cost of the increased data plan for that month.” It took an entire month for Apple and Verizon to reach this agreement.
Furthermore, Apple only pursued this arrangement at my repeated insistence and only after Verizon escalated the case to the highest tier of Support and informed Apple, quite succinctly and unequivocally, that all the data had been used in 2 days (as I had been claiming), that all the data had come from Apple IPs (also my claim), that my usual monthly data usage was between 6-8Gs and had been at that level for over 18 months (as I’d also insisted), and that I had never “streamed” or “gamed” since no IPs indicated such activity (as I repeatedly assured Apple Support when I was accused of running up the data myself by streaming movies or gaming on one computer while the other was upgrading to Mavericks OSX).
Also, since I watch my data usage closely, I actually didn’t have an “overage:” I raised my data plan for the month as soon as I realized that I’d gone over my monthly plan. “Back-dating” my data plan for the month, as Verizon terms it, cost me an additional $225 rather than the $330 it would have cost me had the bill come out and the extra data been charged as “overages.”
After fighting with Apple about this data usage for the last 4 months, constantly being reassured that Apple would do “whatever it could to reimburse me for the unexpected data overage charges” and to, furthermore, “make me happy so that I would remain a loyal Apple customer,” the Apple Consumer Relations Representative with whom I have been dealing since September 2014 informed me yesterday that he “doubted whether Apple would be able to do anything for me regarding my higher data usage & subsequent ISP charges.”
And this is despite the fact that Apple knows it is using its consumers’ data without their knowledge or permission. It has become painfully clear to me over the last several months that Apple simply does not care about consumers who have to pay for data and who inadvertently have huge data charges or even higher overage charges after updating to Mavericks OSX and iOS7, and exponentially larger data overages with the upgrade to Yosemite OSX and iOS8.
Apple is doing more than draining consumers’ data.
It is stealing consumers’ data and forcing the customers to pay for the overages by refusing to inform them of the changes in the Mavericks-Yosemite OSX and iOS7-8 defaults.
Since Apple claims that “I’m the first customer to notice the data drain and report it to them,” I guess it will be up to me to inform other Apple consumers where all the hidden data drains are, and, more important, how to turn off the hidden defaults so that you can stop the excessive data usage that you’re paying for.
This is one of the monsters of all the data thieves in Apple’s new arsenal. One day, while my computer was asleep, it used 7Gs of data. Why? Because I had mistakenly assumed that Apple’s iCloud Drive was a storage cloud, and I put a couple of my e-books up there. If you are signed into your iCloud account, and have iCloud Drive checked, Apple’s iCloud will literally ping your computer every 2 seconds in order to sync all your devices, documents, and photos — even if you haven’t opened said documents, changed them in any way, looked at them, or even thought about them. And it doesn’t matter if those documents are Pages, Word, or PDFs.
That’s how my iMac used 7Gs of data in one day, while it was asleep: the iCloud Drive was sending and receiving data every 2 seconds. Every 2 seconds. And I wasn’t even on the computer, let alone on the Internet or checking my mail.
To disable the data drain of the iCloud Drive
First of all, the iCloud Drive is on by default, so you must turn it off in order not to use vast amounts of data which you will be charged for by your ISP. Go to System Preferences > iCloud > and uncheck iCloud Drive. To be safe, you should also uncheck Documents and Photos, as these will pull down monstrous amounts of data every 2 seconds.
Also, you should remove any Documents and Photos from the iCloud itself, which is now the iCloud Drive, by going to icloud.com, signing into your account with your Apple ID and password, and deleting any documents and photos. (They will still be on your computer. I’d advise you to back them up on a third-party, external hard-drive as well as on flash-drives for protection. I also use Time Machine for backups: it doesn’t go to the iCloud, but to my external hard-drive back-up, where I can retrieve anything on my computer.)
You can leave the following items in iCloud Drive checked if you wish, since they use minimal amounts of data to sync with all your devices, and only when your Wi-Fi is turned on: Calendar, Contacts, Find My Mac (iPhone, iPad, etc). I also have Notes checked in the iCloud since I often research information for blogs on one device, put it in a Note, and want it available on another device when I write the blog post.
These items do not use an excessive amount of data. In fact, they use very little, so it is safe to leave these on. I have nothing else checked so I cannot report on the data usage of any other item in the iCloud.
When you uncheck items (all of them are checked by default), you will get dire warnings about things being deleted from “shared computers.” These items will not be removed from your computer. They will not even be removed from the iCloud itself unless you go to icloud.com and delete them yourself. It will, however, prevent you from syncing among different devices. Use a flash-drive instead to sync documents and photos: a flash-drive doesn’t use your data.
For iOS devices, go to Settings > iCloud and uncheck the iCloud Drive, Documents, Mail, Photos, etc. You can leave the things I have listed above checked (Calendar, Contacts, Find my iPhone/iPad) as they do not use excessive data. The other remarks listed above for the OS devices are also applicable for the iOS devices.
Yes, you have to use a Wi-Fi connection for most Apple devices to connect to the Internet and to get your mail. Some of the newer iOS devices are both cellular and Wi-Fi, but most of the iOS devices, like iPads, are Wi-Fi only. If you leave your Wi-Fi connection turned on when you are not using the Internet or Mail, your computer will now use over 1G of data a week, from Yosemite OSX to the newest OS X Sierra and iOS 10. Each computer and laptop you own will use at least 1G of data per week even when you are never on it if the Wi-Fi is turned on. Your mobile devices will also use extra data, but I have no way of checking exactly how much on those devices. iOS8-10 do use data when Wi-Fi is turned on, however. (See update below for my confirmation of an approximatation of the data over-usage on iOS devices).
The Upper Level Support Tech at Apple asked me to stay off the computer completely for the entire month of December so that Apple engineers could monitor my computer’s data usage. After a week, I reported that it had used 1G of data without my being on it at all — for anything. The Tech asked me to turn on the laptop’s Wi-Fi connection as well for the next week — while not using the computer or laptop — so Apple could see if the laptop used the same 1G of data, which would have had my computers using 2Gs of data while they were asleep. I irritably but politely declined.
The third week, he requested that I be a “Guinea Pig” — and, yes, those were his exact words, telling me, furthermore, that “Apple needed a Guinea Pig” — and turn on the Wi-Fi on my iPhone 6+ and iPad-mini to see how much data was accumulating when those devices were asleep.
In short, he wanted me to continue not using my desktop computer altogether, to stop using my laptop as well, and to stop using my iPhone & iPad-mini, through which I was getting my mail and using the internet via cellular data.
I’m afraid I did berate and reprimand him in no uncertain terms, telling him to be his own “blanking Guinea Pig.” (To his credit, he called me the next day and apologized: it seems he had found my refusal annoying and had told his wife that I was being “extremely uncooperative.” She had apparently yelled at him for asking a customer to be an “Apple Guinea Pig,” especially when that customer had to pay for the excess data usage. Thank you, Mrs. Tech Support; may Apple hire you in the near future.)
So my computer, originally upgraded to Yosemite OSX 1G of data when it began to use 1G of data while it is asleep and the Wi-Fi connection was left turned on, continues to use excessive data in OS X Sierra . Since my Verizon data plan starts at 10Gs, and now goes up by at least 5Gs at a time — 10, 15, 20, 30, 50 — the computer’s using over 4Gs of data per week could ostensibly bump me up into a higher data plan, which would be prohibitively expensive.
Disingenuously, Apple claims that you cannot turn off or disable any of the system programs that are using this Wi-Fi data because “they are necessary for the efficient operation of the OS and iOS.”
Don’t you believe it.
It’s necessary for Apple to gather and send (unknown) data to your computer, and you can stop this data usage yourself without affecting the performance of the computer, iPad, iPhone, etc.
To disable the excess Wi-Fi data usage
Simply turn on the Wi-Fi when you want to get your mail or be on the Internet, and turn it off when you’re not using said programs. It may be slightly annoying at first, and you may forget a few times, but it will soon become second-nature and you’ll find that it’s no more inconvenient than “waking up” the Mac by touching the keyboard or mouse.
The computer works just fine without the Wi-Fi turned on 24/7.
So do all the iOS devices.
If you don’t already have the Wi-Fi connection showing at the top of your computer screen, go to System Preferences > Network and check the box at the bottom that says Show Wi-Fi Status in Menu Bar. Now a “hand-held type” fan will appear at the top (mine is between the volume control and my Time Machine Backup icon (the circle with clock hands in it). You can now click on the Wi-Fi fan to easily and quickly turn it on and off.
When the Wi-Fi is on, there are 4 black curved lines in the fan; when the Wi-Fi is off, an empty outline of the fan shows in its place. To turn it on when it’s in the menu bar, click on the fan-outline, choose Turn Wi-Fi on, choose your Network (it’s listed by name, like Verizon Mi-Fi). It will connect automatically. (Once you have initially connected to your Wi-Fi and put in your password, it will remain listed in the available Wi-Fi networks unless you go back to System Preferences > Network and tell the computer to “Forget this Network,” so don’t do that.)
To turn the Wi-Fi off when you’re done with Mail or Internet, click on the lined-fan in the menu bar and choose Turn Wi-Fi off. That will save you 4-5Gs of data a month.
If you have a Cellular+Wi-Fi combo iOS device, you can still get your mail and use the Internet just fine, without accruing the 1G+ data a week (or whatever excessive amount the iOS devices use), which is clearly connected to the Wi-Fi’s being turned on.
First, make sure that both the Wi-Fi and Personal Hotspot are turned off. Go to Settings > Wi-Fi. If it doesn’t already say Off, go into Wi-Fi and slide it off. Do the same for Personal Hotspot, which is a couple of lines beneath Wi-Fi.
Note: If you are on WiFi and have Personal HotSpot turned it, other devices will automatically connect to it, even devices in a public place, without their entering any password that you have. Apple insists it does not know how this could be possible, but I sat there one morning and watched as virtually everyone in my local Starbucks connected to my Personal HotSpot.
If you have an iPhone or a combo Cellular/Wi-Fi iPad, you can access the Internet and your mail through your carrier’s wireless towers, and this access will not accrue excessive data charges. Go to Settings > Cellular > Enable Cellular Data. In the same area, go to Enable LTE if your device lists it and choose Data. Under Roaming, choose Data or Voice & Data. Neither will incur inordinate data charges. In the same Cellular place, further down, ensure that Personal Hotspot is turned off. If not, turn it off here as well. (Why Apple has it in 2 different places, one of them virtually hidden, is beyond me, unless they don’t want us to find it and turn it off.)
Scroll down the Cellular “page.” At the bottom, you will see Use Cellular Data For, with a list of every single app on your iPhone or iPad. I have all my apps turned on for Cellular Data, and the usage is the same as it was before the introduction of iOS 7 & 8. In short, it is reasonable and normal, and I have quite a few apps. So it is probably safe for you to leave these on.
After I got my data “under control” by turning off everything except cellular on my mobile devices, and only turning on Wi-Fi on my iMac & MacBookPro when actually checking my mail or using the Internet, I discovered that I had enough Gs of data remaining to watch a series on which I wanted to blog. Out of my 15Gs, I had only used 5, so I turned off and unplugged the computers (to prevent their using any data), turned off the cellular data on the iPad-mini, and attempted to watch the show on Amazon Instant Video. Unfortunately, it requires a Wi-Fi connection so I had to turn on the Wi-Fi on the device. I watched the entire season – 11 shows @ 43 minutes each, which came to just under 8Gs of streaming data.
Unfortunately, to watch the approximately 8Gs of streaming data, my iPad-mini used 12.192 Gs of data. To verify that ridiculous & abusive over-usage of data by Apple, which I have to pay for, I tested another episode this morning. 43 minutes on Wi-Fi, which is my only option in order to see the show, used .9Gs of data.
Even Verizon was horrified. (I checked with them before and after to get the exact data rather that rely on my Mi-Fi or any other “rounded” data estimate.) Furthermore, the Verizon rep with whom I spoke today informed me that Verizon is getting more and more complaints from Apple customers about their data overages and unexplained data usage, insisting that they have not changed the way they use their devices, but the data usage has sky-rocketed. I advised the Verizon rep to have said customers contact Apple instead, since Apple intentionally caused the excessive and impermissible data usage, which it is causing its customers who have limited data plans to pay outrageous and completely unexpected data fees.
I have contacted Apple again in an attempt to discover if there is a way to disable this data drain on the iOS devices, but I have already confirmed that the Wi-Fi on the iOS devices devours data, just as it does on the Yosemite OSX devices. And if you have to pay for data usage, then you are the one paying for Apple’s data usage of your device.
End of UPDATE
Background Upgrade Downloads
This is another insidious monster of data usage, and you will not believe why Apple changed — and hid — the Background Upgrade Downloads and made it a default setting. I suspected that this setting had been changed almost immediately because my computers and mobile devices kept downloading upgrades when I had previously set everything to manual download so that I could control my data usage. I became increasingly annoyed when I kept insisting, to the Tier-3-Level Apple Support Technical Adviser who had been assigned to my case, that the background downloading of the upgrades had been changed to the default, while he kept insisting that there was no reason for Apple to have done that.
(Was he lying or did he really not know? He had to call the engineers to confirm my suspicions and seemed genuinely surprised at the new default — for all devices. Also, he didn’t know how to turn them off, so I’m guessing he actually may not have known. To which I respond, Shame on you, Apple. I was an English Lit major, for heaven’s sake, and I figured it out: why doesn’t Apple Support Staff, especially at the higher levels, know this?)
It was the Apple Consumer Relations Rep who told me why the Upgrades had been changed to download in the background by default.
Because some customers called Apple Support and complained that, when an upgrade was available and a notification Alert appeared, they had to actually click on Download Now or Remind Me Later.
Seriously, Apple? You changed a default setting, and hid it, causing major data usage for customers who have to pay for their data by not giving them the choice of when to download upgrades, just to save some other customers with free Wi-Fi and unlimited data a mouse-click?
If Apple’s decision to make background downloading the default — along with Apple Support’s continuing insistence that it was not the default and that I must have agreed to the download and so incurred the excess data charges by choice, making everything my fault — if that hadn’t cost me so much money over the past four months, I would laugh.
I’m not laughing.
And if you’ve been paying for data overages since Mavericks/Yosemite OSX and iOS 7-8, and you’ve been contacting your ISP because you didn’t know how the overages occurred, and the ISP didn’t believe you when you said you you hadn’t done anything to incur the overages — because your ISP insisted that “everybody who incurs a data overage says they didn’t do anything” — then you’re not laughing either.
How to Disable Background Upgrade Downloading
On Mavericks/Yosemite/Sierra OS X computers and laptops, go to System Preferences > App Store > and uncheck everything in the box. And I do mean everything. From Automatically Check for Updates to Automatically Download Apps Purchased on Other Macs. Uncheck it all or the computers will continue to download upgrades, sometimes upgrades of mega-Gig sizes. And if you have a desktop and a laptop, you could be hit with overages of 10Gs or more without even knowing how it happened. This is how Apple operates now.
At the very bottom of that box, it says Software Updates Are Available: Show Updates so that you can routinely check on updates and download them if it won’t cause you a data overage. (If it will, just wait till your next billing cycle to download the upgrades.) Clicking on Show Updates connects you to the App Store, where Updates will reveal any upgrades as well as the size of the files, so that you can keep your data usage and costs under control. Alternatively, Badges for the App Store appears to be the default setting, so you can simply look at the App Store icon on the dock to see when Updates are available.
On iOS 7 & 8 devices, go to Settings > iTunes and App Store (under iCloud), scroll down to Automatic Downloads and turn off Updates. I have Music, Apps, and Books (which means iBooks) all turned on, and they do not use excessive data (unless I have a brand new device that I’m setting up, which always uses a great deal of data since it’s downloading everything). Beneath that on the same “page,” turn on Use Cellular Data so that you will not have to turn on Wi-Fi when downloading the Music, Apps, and Books since Wi-Fi drains data if left on. (Note: some apps will not download unless the Wi-Fi is turned on, but if you turn it on only when you choose to download upgrades, and turn it off afterward, that data usage will be minimal.)
Turn On the Firewall
This applies to computers and laptops. If the firewall is on, only upgrades absolutely essential to keep the system secure will automatically download, and you do want those to download or you’re going to be effectively turning your Apple device into a Microsoft one, vulnerable to viruses and malware. Still, the firewall can be additional protection to ensure that no non-security or non-essential-for-the-system upgrades download without your permission, and incur data overages and charges.
To Turn On the Firewall: In System Preferences, go to Security & Privacy > Firewall. Unlock the lock icon in the lower left corner. You must be an administrator to do this, and you will have to have a password.
Yosemite requires a password by default, but since I am the only one who uses my computers, I find this an incredible annoyance, so I changed my “password” to nothing. To access anything in Security & Privacy, however, you must have a password. If you still have your password, enter it to unlock Security & Privacy and Turn on the Firewall. Choose Firewall Options > Block all Incoming Connections. This will not prevent system security upgrades from coming through. Choose OK. Lock the Firewall Lock.
(Note: turning on the Firewall does seem to slow down the Internet connections for both Safari and Firefox, but does not affect the mail.)
If You Don’t Need A Password
If you don’t need a password for anything except Security & Privacy, you can return to Apple’s previous settings of allowing you not to have a password which you have to enter every single time you do anything at all, including signing into your account. To change your password, go to System Preferences > Users & Accounts > Your Administrator Account > Change Password. When the box comes down asking you if you want to use your Apple ID password, choose Change Password > Enter Your Password. Leave New Password and Verify blank. Click Change Password. A box will drop down warning you that you have chosen not to have a password: click OK. Now you can just hit Enter/Return when something other than Security & Privacy asks for your Administrator password. Just like in all the pre-Yosemite Apple OS.
Background App Refresh
Most of the apps, whether Apple, like Mail, or third-party, like Twitter, will refresh themselves in the background. I’m not sure how much excess data this uses, but if you have your Wi-Fi turned off on the computers when you’re not using the Internet or Mail, and use Cellular data for the mobile devices, then Background Refresh shouldn’t cause any data overages.
The Yosemite-through-Sierra OS computers cannot refresh apps in the background unless the Wi-Fi is always on. If you turn it off when you’re not actively using it, you won’t incur data charges. The mobile devices may or may not use excessive data when refreshing apps in the background: Apple Support had me turn these off before I decided to keep the Wi-Fi off when I wasn’t using it.
To Turn Off Background Refresh
In Mac and MacBooks, turn off the Wi-Fi when you’re not actively using it. The apps will not refresh in the background. In mobile devices, go to Settings > General > Background App Refresh and turn it off. Alternatively, you can leave Background Refresh on, go down the “page” to each individual app, and turn off the ones you don’t want to refresh in the background, i.e., when you’re not using the app or your device. If your data usage jumps inexplicably and you get charged overages, then turn off Background App Refresh.
Am I unhappy with Apple? Obviously. Its disingenuous claims about its monstrous data theft and its blatant disregard for those consumers who have to pay for their data make me feel that I am an un-valued and unappreciated customer, despite my many Apple devices and my years of loyalty. Apple’s corporate mentality that everyone has free, unlimited data — simply because everyone who works for Apple does — is frustrating, disappointing, and vexing. Now that they have changed their Mavericks/Yosemite OS and iOS 7&8, this Apple data theft has become prohibitively expensive for those of us on limited data plans.
Apple has a fiduciary responsibility to its consumers, even if that means only informing us in detail about the changes in their OS and iOS, and giving us the choice about when and how to download said upgrades.
Furthermore, Apple has changed so drastically over the last several years that I’m not even sure I want to continue owning Apple products. In the past, Microsoft was known — and despised — for not checking its software before upgrades: MS simply threw its OS upgrades onto the market and forced consumers to discover what didn’t work. In 2012, I believe that MS issued over 700 upgrades. I am horrified to discover that Apple is now doing the same thing. Apple used to be so professional, so reliable, so dependable.
Now, it seems, Apple cares only about a few vocal consumers who don’t want to be bothered with clicking a mouse to choose between Download Now or Remind Me Later.
Apparently, I alone cannot be vocal enough about the $600+ I’ve been charged for data usage far beyond my normal plan’s allowance in the last four months to have Apple even honor its oft-repeated pledge to “take care of my data overage costs” and to “give me a significantly large Apple gift card to make me happy and retain [my] loyalty.”
It makes me want to send Apple’s CEO Tim Cook an email to see if he actually knows what’s going on in the company he’s now running. Or contact CEO Tim Cook on the Twitter, not that he’ll respond (he doesn’t). After all, he posted a Tweet today from Martin Luther King Jr:
I cannot be silent any longer.