Apple’s 2020 iPhone plans are some of its most exciting in years and an iOS 14 early beta has already revealed some of the company’s biggest secrets months ahead of schedule. But for every iPhone owner currently using iOS 13, Apple may have just given you a reason to quit your phone right now.
Earlier this week, I was tipped off by a reader about a serious iOS 13 cellular bug which is consuming mobile data without explanation and increasing bills. Remarkably, while this was the first I had heard of it, affected users (at least those aware of the issue) have been suffering for months and even switching off mobile data has not stopped it. The only solution for some has been to shut down their iPhones completely.
03/16 Update: since publishing this story, I’ve been contacted by multiple readers who have found the problem is still present in betas of iOS 13.4 (the final version of which is tipped to launch this week), so a fix is not coming any time soon. I’ve also been sent screenshots of extreme examples of this bug with data consumption north of 50GB, which has led to even those on ‘unlimited’ contracts being contacted by their carrier for stepping beyond their fair use policy. The purpose of Uninstalled Apps is to show the data used by apps that have since been uninstalled (hence the singular categorization) but affected users have ruled this out by resetting these statistics and even resetting their iPhones and purposefully not removing any apps, but Uninstalled Apps data consumption continues to mounts up (some see just kilobytes, others with multiple gigabytes). I have pressed Apple again for a clarification on what is happening with this data consumption. I will update this article when I get one.
Complaints about this can be found in multiple forums, including Reddit and Apple’s Support Communities (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13 etc) impacting every iPhone model and every version of iOS 13, including the latest iOS 13.3.1 release. The problem always takes the same form: users navigate to Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data (either by chance or because of a big bill) and find a mysterious entry called ‘Uninstalled Apps’ which is steadily consuming data.
For some, the total only uses kilobytes but for others, it can hit gigabytes a day and affected users are being told Apple has been aware of the problem for some time.
“Apple Support said it’s been a known issue since January… but no ETA for a fix, no explanation for where the data is going, or if they will compensate customers for busting data plans” explained the reader to me. “I spoke with Verizon about the usage. They said it’s getting categorized as audio and video streaming, but only because it’s using network ports normally associated with those types of services.”
Sending me the screenshot below, he explained: “This is from a two day road trip where I had cellular data turned off most of the time, I had to upgrade my data plan to keep from going over my allowance.”
And it’s a worryingly familiar story:
“My wife’s phone has had this same problem since ~ 13.3. Hers is using around 1 GB per day between Uninstalled Apps and System Services. This is a major issue and Apple is aware of it. I’ve been working with their support and they do acknowledge the issue but are unable to provide any ETA for a fix.” – source
“I have this issue too and it seems quite common as I found quite a lot of posts online about it. It must be some sort of iOS bug but it’s annoying not to know exactly what it is, to say the least.” – source
“So this is what happened: After 2-3 minutes my phone became hot. I checked iOS setting/cellular and saw an uninstalled app used 700-800MB. I closed the settings and reopened it and it was 900MB. The uninstalled app[s] used 1.2GB data in less than 5-6 minutes… I reset my cellular statistics many times since yesterday and didn’t install or uninstall anything but ‘Uninstalled App’ is still transferring data.” – source
“Same issue except mine uses GBs of data. I have even completely wiped my phone and made as new. Yet still the ‘unused apps’ goes through data.” – source
“I’m at 2GBs and so is my wife’s phone. It’s crazy and frustrating. Had to change cell plans bc Apple was so worthless at helping.” – source
“I just noticed this issue on my iPhone XR. I got a notification from my carrier that I’ve used 90% of my 8GB of data and I have 11 days left in my billing cycle. My data usage is usually around 4GB per month, so this was pretty strange. I noticed that System Services and Uninstalled apps were taking up the majority of my data usage…. This seems to have started around the time I installed iOS 13.3.” – source
“Everything everyone is trying and have experienced I have already been through. I even tested after a clean installed X. (And noticed the same behavior on a brand new 11Pro) So it’s either nefarious apps that stick to the phone/appleID/phone# after a clean wipe, or it’s a bug in iOS. Honestly at this point, I think it’s best if the media picks it up so we can get a reliable response from Apple.” – source
“Unless it makes the headlines I don’t see Apple changing a thing to rectify the issue.” – source
Interestingly, the only fix I’ve found for this problem was back in the early days of iOS 13 when affected users could still roll back to iOS 12:
“I’ve been fighting this too with 300-600 MB attributed daily to uninstalled apps. A rollback to iOS 12.4.1 stops the usage but then can’t use my Apple Watch with watchOS 6.01 as it requires iOS 13 to pair. Problem returns” – source
Needless to say, I have been in contact with Apple multiple times this week trying to get answers. The company has acknowledged the inquiry but has yet to issue an official response. I will update this article as soon as I have an update.
Edit: my thanks to readers who pointed out a 2016 blog post which discusses the function of Uninstalled Apps. As multiple comments below the post in recent months point out, however, this is not the experience affected users are having currently with both carriers confirming the data use and users reporting Apple has acknowledged the bug in tech support calls.
Until then, if you are affected by this bug and you are not on a very high or unlimited data plan, there seems to be little you can do other than swapping away from an iPhone until the problem is resolved. Apple is currently beta testing iOS 13.4, so a (long overdue) patch may arrive when it launches in the next few weeks. That said, given the bug has existed since the earliest iOS 13 betas, it may be that Apple is unable to make the necessary changes to address it until iOS 14 is released in September.
So right now, impacted iPhone owners are forced to play a waiting game. A long, expensive waiting game.
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