Does iPhone 6 Use Cell Data When Connected To Wifi?

cartoon: afraid to use cell phone

I hate wasting money. And I especially hate wasting money on something that I can get for free. I can get Wi-Fi for free, and cell phone data can be pretty expensive, so I hate using up data if I don’t have to. Because of this, I’ve often found myself wondering, “Does my iPhone use cell data when I’m connected to Wi-Fi?”

I Refused to Buy a New Smartphone

For almost 2 years, I actually took my hate of money wasting to the point where I even downgraded from an iPhone 4 back to my old dumb phone. My son’s cheap dumb phone had finally konked out, but to buy him a new iPhone while we were halfway through our contract would’ve been like financial suicide to this cheapskate. There was no way in hell I was going to spend hundreds of dollars for my son to have a new iPhone.

So I decided on a compromise: we switch numbers and I let him have my iPhone 4, and I went back to using my old Pantech slide phone. I was actually quite proud of my money-saving ways with this set up. I had an iPod touch, and free Wi-Fi is everywhere, so why not just use a dumb phone and my iPod?

I was so brilliant.

So like I said, for about two years I went old school yo and just used an old dumb phone and an iPod instead of a smart phone. It actually worked out pretty well that way. Or at least, I felt completely satisfied the situation.

Well, I WAS completely satisfied, until a week ago when my slide phone kicked the bucket and we were forced to go buy me a new phone.

Last Week I Caved, And I LOVE My iPhone 6S!

So now, here I am, back in the smart phone game with a brand-new iPhone 6S. And even though we have a pretty good shared data plan with Sprint, we still need to be aware of our data usage and make sure that we don’t get too carried away with our smart little devices.

Like I said, I hate wasting money.

photo: my iPhone 6s

So…Cell Data?

So back to our question, “does iPhone use my cell data while I’m connected to Wi-Fi?”  When I’m connected to Wi-Fi, and my cellular data is also turned on, am I using my cell data? Am I being charged? Am I wasting money?

For all this time, I just never knew. So what I would end up doing is I would just turn off my cell data as much as possible, and just stick to Wi-Fi to save money on my cell phone bill. I even had my son doing that the past couple years, because we didn’t want him using up too much data watching YouTube videos and streaming music and causing us to go over our data limit and incur additional charges.

But it still bothered me, because I just never knew for sure.

Nobody Seemed To Know For Sure

So finally – today – I googled it to get a definitive answer to my question. Google took me to one forum, and then to another, and then to another. Everywhere I looked, I saw people asking this question, and I saw other people giving definitive, confident answers.

The only problem was that everyone’s definitive answers contradicted everyone else’s definitive answers. So after about half an hour, I was no closer to a definitive answer than when I had started. What to do? What to do? Ah, I know what to do! I’ll do what people did before the Internet: pick up the damn phone and just call customer service.

So that’s what I did: I called AppleCare and talked to a rep named Stephanie, and three minutes later I had my definitive answer.

Stephanie at AppleCare to the Rescue!

According to Stephanie at AppleCare, the iPhone will only use either cell data or Wi-Fi at one time, not both. So you can leave the cellular data turned on in your settings, and also leave your Wi-Fi turned on in your settings, and whenever you’re at home your phone will automatically connect to Wi-Fi and it will not use cell data.

This was awesome to know.

However, there is an exception to this rule. If your iPhone is having trouble connecting to Wi-Fi, or holding that connection, then it can automatically switch to cellular data to complete its task. This feature is called, “Wi-Fi Assist,” and it needs to be turned on in your cellular settings. If you don’t want your iPhone to automatically switch to cell data when Wi-Fi coverage is spotty or lagging, then be sure that this feature is turned off to keep your data usage down.

While you’re in your phone cellular settings, you also have a big long list of all the different apps that use Internet. So if you’d like to manually switch off an app’s ability to use cellular data, you can do so right there in your settings, and those apps will only connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi, and that won’t cost you a thing.

So I sure wish that I knew all this stuff two years ago when I had my first iPhone. I think we could’ve saved ourselves a lot of hassle and money by keeping a tighter rein on our cellular data usage. Oh well, at least I finally have figured out.

One Last Thing

Shoot. I just remembered one more thing.

In one or more of the forums some guys said that when your iPhone is not being used, it will automatically use cellular data for your push notifications, even if you are connected to Wi-Fi.

Unfortunately I forgot to ask Stephanie at AppleCare about this, whether it was true or not, so I guess I don’t have a definitive answer on that one. Let’s just call it a rumor and leave it at that. If it is true, you’ll be happy to know that those push notifications only use a trickle of cell data, and you probably won’t even see any difference on your cell phone bill.

Chris Desatoff is a freelance writer and cartoonist. Check out his blog: