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 via Wi-Fi and cellular connections. 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; a badge appears on the Mail icon when new mail is available.

Because frequent mailbox polling uses your monthly cellular data allotment, iOS includes an option to prevent Mail from checking for messages via cellular connection and instead use only Wi-Fi for that purpose. With cellular data turned off, offline reading and writing are possible any time, but the messages only sync with the email server when the device is connected to Wi-Fi.

Information in this article applies to the Mail app in iOS 13, iOS 12, and iOS 11.

How to Stop iOS Mail From Using Cellular Data

To turn off cellular data usage for iOS Mail, open the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad and select Cellular. Then, scroll down and tap the toggle switch next to Mail until it is in the Off position.

Cellular settings on iPhone

With cellular data turned off for the Mail app, 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 iPhone in Airplane Mode.

Modify the iOS Mail Polling Frequency

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

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 in the iPhone email account settings. Disabling push on an email account also disables pushing of calendar events and contact changes associated with the email account.

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. Tap the setting next to each email account.

    Passwords & Accounts, Fetch New Data, Fetch buttons in iOS Settings
  5. Choose Fetch from the options in the new screen that opens and tap Fetch New Data at the top of the screen to go back to the Fetch New Data screen. Repeat the process for each email account.

  6. Select Manually in the Fetch section of the Fetch New Data screen. This setting controls whether and how often the iPhone checks for email. The same setting applies to all the accounts that are chosen for Fetch.

    iPhone settings showing Mail fetch options

When you set your iPhone to Fetch New Data and select Manually, the Mail app only refreshes when you open the app.

Other Settings That Affect Email Data Usage

When set to Push, iOS continuously checks the server for new information and then delivers that information to the iOS device in near real-time. Because Push causes the Mail app to update as often as possible, it isn't a good choice if you are concerned about data usage.

When set to Fetch, iOS has options to check the email server in five ways:

  • Automatically: The iPhone fetches new email messages in the background when on Wi-Fi.
  • Manually: Email refreshes only when you open the Mail app.
  • Hourly
  • Every 30 minutes
  • Every 15 minutes

Each of these settings restricts the Mail app's access to the email server in one way or another. Select the option that works best for you.