News, — December 16, 2011 11:03 — 0 Comments
This is a constant nightmare, especially when using your iPhone abroad. Confusion over a setting on the iPhone and iPad means people may be using them to download apps over mobile networks instead of Wi-Fi — despite a setting which appears to prevent it. Instructions are clearer on US iPhones with iTunes Match service enabled
Owners of iPhones could be charged for using mobile data to download apps even though they think they have disabled it in the phone’s settings.
The effect could mean that thousands of pounds are being spent when people go over their mobile data allowances.
The flaw cost one user more than £50 when he downloaded a number of apps while in Spain, on roaming data. He told the Guardian that he began setting his iPhone up by loading five apps from Apple’s App Store while in a Wi-Fi zone, but then walked out of it — but the apps continued downloading, eventually using up 76MB of data. He was then charged for roaming data use by Vodafone.
James Morris, who says he was the victim of this flaw, says that Apple has ignored his complaints about it. He has confirmed it that it exists from iOS 4 onwards, on both the iPhone and iPad. “Thankfully I had an EU cap on the phone, although unfortunately when I realised what had happened, Vodafone was sending me an alert for every 5MB downloaded (almost every few seconds), hindering my ability to turn off data all together in time,” he told the Guardian.
While Apple has made no official comment, sources have indicated that Morris’s experience is blamed on a misunderstanding over the wording of the settings in the iPhone.
The setting in question can be found in the ”Settings” app of the iPhone, under “Store”. That has a heading saying “Automatic Downloads” which includes on/off switches for Music, Apps and Books (for those using Apple’s iBooks). Beneath that is explanatory text which says “Automatically download new purchases (including free) made on other devices.”
Under those switches is another switch saying “Use Mobile Data” which by default is set to Off. Beneath that it says “Use mobile network to download purchases.”
Morris says that he understood the ”Use Mobile Data” switch to control whether apps would be downloaded over the mobile network, and that if it was off that there would be no download.
But others say — and the behaviour of the phone confirms — that the ”Use Mobile Data” switch is only meant to apply to the three categories directly above it where people are synchronising their apps across multiple devices, and that it is not a switch to control whether apps, music or books can be downloaded for the first time directly from the App Store.
That is clearer in the US, where Apple has enabled the iTunes Match service which allows people to synchronise their music libraries with the cloud. There, the setting (which reads “Use Cellular Data” and defaults to off) has explanatory text saying “Use cellular network for iTunes Match and to automatically download purchases.”
The omission of ”automatically” in the non-US version of the software means that it can be read to indicate that the toggle prevents any mobile data downloads from the Store — rather than preventing mobile data downloads of existing purchases.
Versions of iOS before 4.3 do not offer the synchronisation option: iOS 3.1, used originally on the iPhone 3GS, offers only “View Account” and ”Sign Out” under the ”Store” setting.
Downloads are limited to 20MB per item over mobile networks, but the majority of apps and songs are less than that — which means that people could, like Morris, be downloading more content over mobile data than they think they are.
Morris told The Guardian: “the manual Apple provides, the text on the settings page, and the fact Apple Care seem to also not fully understand what the setting does by multiple members of staff stating that it should not allow any Apps to download fullstop over the cellular network, how is the average consumer able to either?” He added: “Given I work in the IT field I felt this was extremely misleading, especially when there are other settings under the ”Automatic Updates” title unrelated, such as the default Apple ID for the whole store app which lead me to believe this setting which is separate also given the manual doesn’t state at all it is for automatic downloads and just for app store purchases.”
To prevent the device from downloading data content over mobile networks, users have to disable the mobile data connection in the iPhone’s settings.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010