Why Does My iPhone Need Cellular Data with Tracfone for Text and Picture Messages

A reader Wayne commented…

The Only way I got to work was to leave your data turned on. Defeats the purpose of using Tracfone for me. I have returned the phone to Tracfone. I spent several hours on the phone with three separate Tracfone reps no help. Now using my inexpensive LG and Samsung phones. No problem. Works great and data is turned off.

Wayne,
You are correct. MMS Service requires cellular data. The difference is that tracfone and other prepaid services will deduct that data from your data balance. Your testing may show differently, but it is my understanding that all MMS requires data, and your phone is using data to send it even if data is turned off. In addition to testing this with data off, have you confirmed that it’s not impacting your data balance? You’d probably need to send a few photos to see your tracfone balance change, the on phone usage tracker might show otherwise.

But I would like to understand why this is such a deal breaker for you. First, with iPhone to iPhone messages your phone would use only data to deliver messages to other iPhones using iMessage.(blue bubble), it doesn’t use any text messages. iPhone to Android text message use Text messages (SMS), and iPhone to Android picture messages and group text use both a text message(SMS) and data to deliver the multi-media message. Tracfone data costs $10 for 1GB. Text messages are a half cent ($5 for 1000).

Does really make an impact on your overall costs or is your objection more on principle? I generally want to understand your perspective.

It’s my experience with iPhone you want to leave data turned on so that you can use iMessage. The data controls on iPhone are granular enough that you can prevent other apps from using cellular data.
I’ve have several friends and family members set up this way, no one has reported Messages using up a meaningful amount of data. I’ve also had readers here express a similar concern when switching from Android to iPhone using tracfone. I shared the same advice, no one has ever returned to report that Messages was using an unreasonable amount of data.

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