Virtualization, Cloud, Infrastructure and all that stuff in-between

My ramblings on the stuff that holds it all together

iTunes Match and the 380GBP data bill

Be careful out there, I have an iPhone 4s with a UK carrier (Tesco Mobile) and a 1GB data bundle on a pay-monthly contract.

I recently upgraded to iOS5 and iTunes Match – which is actually great and makes my music collection much more accessible from my devices, I found this setting the other day to see if it would let me stream iTunes content over 3G – which is did However, there is a risk to enabling this.


Whilst I fully understand how data works and roaming on/off WiFi onto 3G – read this post for more info (see picture above– settings->store, don’t set it to YES unless you are careful or have an unlimited plan)

Whilst on a WiFi connection I queued up a whole bunch of albums (probably 15-20) to download to my iPhone (Over WiFi/broadband) and left it overnight, as it no longer seems to sync with iTunes directly when you enable match on a new phone.

There would seem to have been some issue with my broadband overnight and those downloads stuttered to be fair there may have been an error message when I got to it in the morning, but certainly nothing that said – I’ll keep trying to download these, is that ok?

The next morning when I left the house (and thus my WiFi/broadband connection) it picked up a 3G signal and I can only think that it proceeded to download the rest of the stuff in the queue in the background, and ate up all my data allowance (and then some!)

Now, normally this wouldn’t be too much of an issue – later that day I got a text message from the carrier telling me I was within 100MB of my allowance – this was odd – but I reasoned maybe the streaming had used more than I thought so I decided not to do that any more. I left my phone on charge that night but didn’t use any further serious data – only to receive another message the following morning telling me that I was over my allowance and my service had been disabled.

I called the carrier – not only was my phone disabled but I had eaten through 1.6GB of mobile data, resulting in a charge of £0.60/MB for everything over 1GB – or, roughly £380, on top of my monthly £45 unlimited call/text + 1GB data bundle)!

Not happy about that really – so be careful out there, whilst enabling this setting was my choice/fault – iOS didn’t really explain what it would do in terms of queuing up the music to download when it saw the Internet again, so I was unaware of the consequences – I had assumed (logically) that it would be just for streaming music and downloading apps (within the 20MB max file size limit), which wouldn’t be a huge amount of data, but most individual album tracks from iTunes are < 20MB – and if you want to download lots of them (say 20 x (12 tracks to an album).

As a side-note for Tesco Mobile customers, they sort of suck…

  • They don’t have a higher/unlimited data bundle that you can choose over 1GB
  • They cannot/won’t set a lower credit-limit on your account (i.e say £100, rather than £400) to prevent the bill getting astonomical before you know about it – they can only “Network cap” your service, which essentially turns it into PAYG for anything that isn’t included in your bundle – i.e calling non-geographical numbers like 0845
  • Their over-usage notification text message notification system (by their admission) is 6 hours behind their billing system – by which time on a 3G connection you’re probably way over the 100MB and into expensive £0.60/MB territory.
  • If you run into this situation, the only way you can unblock your service is by physically going to an ATM or Tesco store and buying a top-up – they can only do a maximum of £30 over the phone! and apparently I need a minimum “top-up” credit of £90 for them to re-enable my service (which, to be fair will be deducted from the total bill at month-end)
  • Tesco carrier-block the iOS personal hot-spot functionality of the iPhone and don’t even have a service to re-enable it.

Whilst iOS keeps tally of cellular usage in the settings, a REALLY useful feature would be a user-customizable warning in the native OS for data usage over a period – however, I suspect there is likely to be an app for that!


So, lesson learnt – I’ll be leaving that setting off – but I am seriously considering leaving Tesco Mobile and going to GiffGaff – who also use the o2 network under the covers and offer a much cheaper unlimited data tariff – I am going to see if Tesco will be lenient with their charging, it’s not really their fault but their systems don’t make it easy to avoid this situation in future without essentially making my voice plan equivalent to PAYG, by my calculations I can sell my (network unlocked) iPhone, pay off the remaining 14 month contract term and break-mostly-even – so guess it depends if they want to lose a customer over it or not.

3 responses to “iTunes Match and the 380GBP data bill

  1. Someone Who Cares February 28, 2012 at 11:28 am

    mb? Mb? Gb? Really? C’mon…

    • February 28, 2012 at 12:51 pm

      Quite right, I can only attribute my lackadaisical approach to the correct deployment of SI units to the simmering rage towards Tesco Mobile that I was trying to contain 🙂

      I have corrected and sacrificed this post to appease the SI gods, but mainly in the hope you won’t then point out all of the same errors on the rest of my posts as I know I do it all the time 😉

  2. dale scriven June 26, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    That’s part of the problem with the UK and the cloud hosted apps etc its all very cool until the isps and telephone companies who’s policies seem little different from when dial up was king start capping and cutting you off from services. Completely understandable for those of questionable download intentions but streaming music/movies cloud apps all chew through AUP’s pretty quickly.

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