Friday, June 11, 2010

Who your iPhone calls while you’re asleep


I’ve now heard back from three customer service reps at AT&T regarding the unexplained transmissions made by my iPhone in the middle of the night.

In so many words their leader said, you’re imagining this.

Actually I’m not, I replied, and you need to kick this up to a supervisor.

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Here is the latest. More background is here at my previous blog post.

I and many other iPhone users have noticed large data transmissions in the middle of the night that show up on our phone bills.

In essence, it appears that our phones are sending big chunks of information – as much as 15 megabytes in one night for me – without our knowledge.

Others have noticed too. It’s the subject of numerous blog and forum posts, as you can see by Googling the terms "iphone data use overnight" without the quotes. (Some links are below.)

I sent messages to Apple and AT&T asking for an explanation. Apple has not replied.

From AT&T, I’ve now heard from Zachary and Ryan, who passed my complaint along to Joe, an eCare Customer Service Specialist with AT&T Business Solutions Customer Care.

Let me say that I’m sympathetic to people who handle technical questions from the public. It’s a job with few thanks. But really, it’s hard to see that AT&T is taking this seriously.

“These are not ‘unexplained transmissions,’” Joe wrote. “This is your phone accessing the internet to download emails.”

“Joe,” I replied, “You may not have read my earlier note.”

“As I pointed out, 15 megabytes is enough to handle thousands of emails.” And I reminded him that the records show these are transmissions FROM my phone in the middle of the night.


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Friends, I don’t know if 15 megabytes sounds like a lot to you, but let me put it this way:

That is enough to send nearly a dozen copies of the entire Bible. The King James Version is about 858,000 words and fits in a 1.3 megabyte file.
(Get your copy here: http://www.truth.info/download/bible.htm/).

I checked just to be sure, and I’m not sending 9 million words of emails out to people in the middle of the night.


Well, no problem in any case, Joe wrote:

“You have the unlimited plan and unless you change it of your own decision then you have nothing to worry about.”

That’s not reassuring.

Joe, I said, “Just ignore this” isn’t the right answer.

I don't want my phone sending large chunks of information every night to people I don't know. And it’s weird to find a customer service rep who can’t understand that.

In the long, honorable tradition of customers who feel they’ve been wronged, I asked to talk to a supervisor.

I’ll let you know what happens next.

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Let me know if you’re seeing this, too.

If you’re an iPhone user curious to know who your phone is talking to in the middle of the night, check the paper copy of your bill or log on at www.wireless.att.com/, where you can view the bill online or use the ”Contact Us” feature to communicate via email.

You can reach AT&T Customer Service at or 611 from your wireless phone.

For more on what other users are seeing, Google up some of the forums on this topic. Here are a couple of examples:

“Apple - Support - Discussions - Unknown data usage early morning ...”
http://discussions.info.apple.com/thread.jspa?messageID=11630958

“Mysterious data transfers on my iPhone - Mac Forums”
http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=926618

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