When iPhones go bad

When an iPhone goes rogue, it can be a costly experience. This is my story of a potentially errant iPhone 4.
Written by Ken Hess, Contributor

My iPhone 4 and I parted ways after I received my new iPhone 5 in June 2013 and I had no idea that things could go so wrong. If you recall, my wife bought me a new iPhone 5 for Father's Day almost two years ago. I wasn't too happy with the Lightning interface then and I'm still not on board with it now. I believe that Apple should have gone with the more reliable USB/miniUSB interface that other manufacturers use. But, that is another story, or rather was another story. This story is much different in that it is my old iPhone 4 I'm focused on in this tragic tale.

iPhone 3GS: slightly used
Figure 1: Gently used iPhone 3GS
I gave my son (The Ginger Avenger) my iPhone 4 because his iPhone 3GS had seen better days (See Figure 1). Plus, I was getting the "new" iPhone 5, so who needs an old phone hanging around except for the young man who treats his phone like a Yo-Yo (I'm guessing here).

His iPhone 3GS stopped really working. You couldn't read texts on it. You couldn't power it off. In fact the phone did very little except make an odd buzzing sound sort of randomly. I finally liberated from him, when he was at school, and hid it until a few minutes ago when I snapped the picture of it for you. I always knew it would come in handy for something other than an object of guilt.

Now, less than two years later, the iPhone 4 has gone haywire--haywire to the point of it's about to cost me a lot more money than it should.

We subscribe to AT&T U-Verse at home and we all use AT&T's cellular service as well. It's kind of a bundle thing. In that bundle, the five of us share 10GB worth of data per month, with the new rollover plan in effect.

Back in December, we received a nice SMS message from AT&T warning us that we had burned up most of our data for the month and we had several days to go before the new cycle started. Of course, everyone, including myself, had to confess data usage for the month. None of us would admit to using an extraordinary amount of data, although I suspected one of the kids (YouTube, Netflix, etc.).

Even after that warning, we used beyond our 10GB and had to pay a premium price for an additional amount of data. Unhappiness pulsed throughout our domicile.

Two days ago, we received an SMS message informing us, yet again, that we are at the 75 percent usage mark and the billing cycle began 1/15/2015, so we are really far from the 2/15/2015 reset date. I went into action to see if there's a way to check everyone's usage. There is on the phones, but only if you clear your usage data at the correct time. Mine hadn't been cleared in several months and so it was with everyone else.

iPhone Data: 7.1 GB is too much data
Figure 2: iPhone Data Glutton
I logged onto AT&T's site and looked at our usage data there. Fortunately, there it was as plain as day; the culprit, the dastardly deed was known. The Ginger Avenger was about to, once again, strike extra expense into my life (See Figure 2).

The rest of us had used very little (0.1 to 0.3 GB), although I had streamed Pandora music, uploaded pictures, and messed with a few apps that I know burn data. I use WiFi whenever possible, even at my day job. I don't ever want to run over and have an extra data charge. It's just silly to do that.

The giant ginger's usage hit 7.1GB, as you can see in the photo. I immediately turned of his ability to use data. His mother informed him while I went into a Yosemite Sam-like rant in my office. 7.1 gigs of data. Are you kidding me? When queried about the massive amount of data used, he calmly replied, "I think there's something wrong with my phone." I have to agree.

When I told him how much data he'd used, he texted me with the hashtag message: #gobigorgohome

To which I responded: "If it happens after you get your new phone, you'll be #payingyourownway"

Wanted: Big data unicorns to wrangle unruly data

He's technically competent enough to use his apartment's WiFi, which I setup for him. It's Cox Communication's 50Mbps download Internet service. So, he doesn't need to use cellular data at home. He works 40 hours per week, so he's not messing with his phone during the day. Something is quite wrong.

For the rest of us to use a very small amount of data and his to be 20 times ours is just ridiculous. When we trade in his phone in a week or so for his birthday, we're going to find out exactly what the problem is. If it's an iPhone 4 or iOS-related issue, you'll read an update about it. You'll probably read about it regardless of the problem. I'm irritated either way.

My advice to you is to keep a close watch on your data usage, especially on older phones. It probably wouldn't hurt to keep a close watch on any gingers under your care. I'm not saying that gingers don't have souls or can feel guilt, but I'm not saying otherwise either.

<To TGA: I told your mom when you were a little kid that we should leave you at the Fire Station or on a church's front steps. I'm still debating the decision we made. It's not too late, you know.>

Related Stories:

I got an iPhone 5, am iOS7 ready, and am irritated

10 ways to fix Apple's iPhone 7. No, really

Editorial standards