A class action lawsuit is unveiling some questions about the way that AT&T counts their customers' smartphone data usage for billing purposes. The lawsuit asserts that AT&T's data records are as high as three times times the customer's actual usage and that AT&T improperly monitors the usage, often applying usage to the wrong months.
Included in these overly high usage counts are what the plaintiffs in this suit call "phantom charges" that occur when the phone is off and incapable of data usage.
The law firms involved in the case decided to study this "phantom charges" theory to determine the cause. They hired engineers to test brand new iPhones, monitoring the data usage accrued. The engineers did not set up any email accounts and turned off all push notifications and location services. They had no applications running - essentially ensuring that no data usage should be accruing on the phones. Still, after 10 days of sitting completely idle and offline, AT&T recorded 35 usage instances on the test iPhones at a total of more than 2MB of usage.
For it's part, AT&T says the lawsuit is "without merit," and the mysterious data usage is likely the result of background processes on the iPhone that operate without user intervention and download and upload information to the mobile network.