How to Stop iOS Mail from Using Cellular Data

Taking a photo with an iPhone in a field of flowers

 Susanne Nilsson / CC BY-SA 2.0 license

Do you need email now and always, or could you use a little battery later and longer? Those megabytes on your cellular data plan, should they go to what fills your inbox as you, well, go, or could those same MB help you navigate and share pictures?

iOS Mail habitually checks for new email, either on a schedule or downloading new messages as they arrive in your inbox (or, whew, inboxes). What is convenient, fast and maybe useful (so you can delete without reading, for example…) at the office and city might be but an obnoxious burden to your cellular data plan, battery, and nerves.

Less Data and More Fun

Now, you have better things to do with your phone and your time and your money than have emails downloaded in the background.

Fortunately, iOS Mail can be convinced easily not to check mail automatically—then, you can still use Mail when you need it, using a cellular plan or Wi-Fi; iOS Mail can also be set not to use cellular data—then, it will check and download only via Wi-Fi while offline reading and writing is possible anytime, of course; finally, iOS Mail can be made not to use cell data (together with all other apps)—then, you are effectively offline.

Stop iOS Mail from Ever Using Cellular Data

To turn off cellular data for iOS Mail (and use it online only while you are connected to a Wi-Fi network):

  1. Open the Settings app on your iOS device.

  2. Go to Cellular.

  3. Now make sure Mail is turned off under USE CELLULAR DATA FOR.

Of course, you can re-enable Mail cellular data use in that same place.

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.

Stop iOS Mail from Using Cellular Data

To quickly disable cellular data for iOS Mail:

  1. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to bring up Control Center.

  2. Tap the Airplane mode icon (✈︎) to enable it.

This will entirely disconnect the device; you will not be able to make phone calls or do anything that requires an internet connection.

To turn off just data services:

  1. Open the Settings app.

  2. Go to the Cellular category.

  3. Make sure Cellular Data is disabled.

Note that this will turn off data services for all apps and system services; you can still make phone calls, though VoIP calls will not work.

Prevent iOS Mail from Checking Mail in the Background

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

  1. Open the Settings app.

  2. Now open the Mail, Contacts, Calendars category.

  3. Tap Fetch New Data under ACCOUNTS.

  4. Make sure Push is disabled.

  5. Now make sure Manually is selected under FETCH.

This will turn off push email for all accounts, and disable automatic new mail checks for accounts set to do so on a schedule. Note that this will also disable pushing of calendar events and contact changes, for example.

(Updated July 2015, tested with iOS Mail 8)