How to completely turn off mobile data in Android?

When you own a smartphone, are you expected to be subscribed to a data plan with it?

Apparently, the answer is yes if you own an Android device.

Turning off Mobile/Cellular Data in the Settings

In iPhones, if you turn cellular data off, it means no cellular data — completely. As long as it stays off, you will not be charged for any unintentional background data use.

That is not the case for Android. Apparently, even if you turn off mobile data in your Android device and solely use wifi for internet connection, the system still uses mobile data and connects to the internet from time to time.

So now you can’t fault me when my money mostly goes to my ever reliable iPhone in the battle between the two systems.

Why bother with this behavior?

In the Philippines, the two major telcos, Smart and Globe, absent a data plan, they charge internet connection based on time usage by default, instead of volume. Unless you are subscribed to a data plan, you will be charged Ph₱5.00 per 15 minutes of uninterrupted use.

If you are on a budget, and plan to just use the internet from your Android device when connected via wifi from your home or office, do expect to rack up unnecessary charges on your mobile plan or easily deplete your prepaid credits.

In my case, I just wanted to use my Android device, the old LG G2 (D802), as a back-up phone as well as a back-up network. I planned to use its mobile data from its Smart network only if my primary iPhone’s data from its Globe network returns intermittently. My Smart plan was the zero-based Freedom Plan that Smart used to offer.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you view this) for Smart’s Smartbro Prepaid users, load protect is now enabled by default.

Is this an Android version thing?

Nope. My LG G2 used to run on Kitkat, and now Lollipop, and I can’t seem to get rid of that pesky frequent data background connection even when mobile data is off. I thought this could have been resolved in later versions of Android. To my dismay, on my Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 (SM-T819Y) that ran Marshmallow and Nougat, the same problem persists — could even be worse.

Any workaround?

In Android forums and discussion boards, there are several workarounds offered by Android fans:

One workaround is to check the “Restrict background data” settings, which is found under Settings>>Mobile Data. This actually worked on my LG G2, but not on my Galaxy Tab S2. One major setback about this method is you can’t run the Google Play Store (among others) while background data is restricted.

The second hack involves deleting or editing the APN settings applicable to your network. Unfortunately, though, Smart’s data connection works at any APN settings regardless of what access point names you put in. So that renders this hack defective.

Finally, there are suggestions to just turn Airplane Mode on, which is really a suggestion geared towards people who intend to turn their Android devices into expensive paper weights.

Any other workaround that requires a root is out of the question. This is a simple problem, Android cannot solve, and you expect us to go out doing the trouble of rooting our precious Android devices?


So, to answer the question in the title of this article: NO CAN’T DO!

If you own an Android device and you want to avoid exorbitant fees that telcos like Smart and Globe are about to charge you just because of the fact that Android does not offer an option to completely stop cellular data from creeping in the background, then here are your options:

  1. Subscribe to a data plan;
  2. Get a Smartbro prepaid SIM;
  3. Get any prepaid SIM and stay with a near-zero credit;
  4. Turn on Airplane mode – you see, your Android phone can do a good paper weight;
  5. Switch to iPhone.

Violent Reaction?

Chime in with your comment below.


Just as I have published this article, Smart has come up with a new Enhanced Default Data Rates which is applicable to all new and existing Smart postpaid customers. Effective December 1, 2017, the new default data rate will be Php2/MB (which is still expensive, but that’s due for another article) instead of what I earlier described in this article as Php5/15 minutes. Read more about it here.

This new default rate will result to a not-so-necessarily exorbitant fees as described above. If you are a Smart postpaid user, you can sleep well at night knowing that while mobile data is turned off on your Android phone, you won’t be racking up that much mobile charges. You won’t be using as much as 2MB in a month anyway from frequent background data connection. But the problem still persists: there is no simple way to completely turn off mobile data in Android.

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