How to Stop iOS Mail from Using Cellular Data

Prevent your iOS device from checking for new mail in the background

Taking a photo with an iPhone in a field of flowers

Susanne Nilsson / Flickr

The iOS Mail app frequently checks for new email. By default, the app checks for mail in the background, so you don't need to open the app to see if you have new messages. However, because this frequent mailbox polling uses your monthly cellular-data allotment, iOS includes an option to restrict Mail from checking for messages when your device is connected to your wireless data plan.

Instructions in this article apply to iOS 12.

Modify the iOS Mail Polling Frequency

Configure the iOS Mail app to not check mail automatically. Then, use the app only when you need it and when connected with a cellular plan or Wi-Fi.

Additionally, iOS Mail can be set to not use cellular data. Then, it checks for new messages and downloads messages when using Wi-Fi. In this mode, offline reading and writing are possible anytime but messages sync when the device is connected to Wi-Fi.

Stop iOS Mail from Using Cellular Data

To turn off cellular data usage for iOS Mail, open the Settings app and select Cellular. Then, turn off the Mail toggle switch.

Cellular button, Mail toggle in iOS Settings

You can still read mail already on the phone and compose messages to be delivered as soon as you are connected to a Wi-Fi network.

To temporarily suspend iOS Mail — and all other apps — from using cellular data, put the phone in Airplane Mode.

Prevent iOS Mail from Checking Mail in the Background

To prevent Mail from checking for new email in the background, turn off push email for all accounts and disable automatic new mail checks for accounts set to do so on a schedule. This also disables pushing of calendar events and contact changes, for example.

To configure iOS Mail to not check for new messages in the background or receive messages automatically (through push email) from the server as they arrive:

  1. Open the Settings app.

  2. Go to the Passwords & Accounts category.

  3. Tap Fetch New Data.

  4. Disable Push and then configure Fetch for each account.

    Passwords & Accounts, Fetch New Data, Fetch buttons in iOS Settings

When set to push, iOS continuously checks the server for new information then delivers that information to the iOS device in near-real-time. When set to fetch, iOS checks in one of five ways — automatically (i.e., iOS computes the ideal schedule based on your device usage), manually (only when the app opens), hourly, every 30 minutes, or every 15 minutes.

Your iOS Mail app will only refresh when you open the app.