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Can I easily disable cellular data on an Android device and just use Wi-Fi? Does this change based on whether or not I have root on the device?

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3 Answers 3

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  1. You can pretty easily disable cellular data on an android device without root. On Android 2.2 and above, you can go to home --> menu --> Settings --> Wireless & networks --> Mobile networks --> and then uncheck Data enabled (on phones with Motoblur, the Data enabled setting might be in home --> menu --> Settings --> Data manager --> Data Delivery instead; YMMV).

    If you have Android 2.1 or less, or just want a widget that will let you turn mobile data on and off, there are several apps that do the trick, for example Widgetsoid and APNdroid.

  2. Like Matthew Read said, the major carriers won't let you put a smartphone on their network without a data plan. However, you might have better luck with smaller carriers that operate on the big carriers' networks. You end up getting better prices but the same coverage areas. For example, Walmart Family Mobile plans include unlimited talk and text, and pay-as-you-go for data. So if you don't use any data, you don't pay for data. They run on T-Mobile's network, and you can either buy one of their phones, use a T-Mobile phone, or an unlocked GSM phone. Here are a few other examples:

    And then you've got other carriers that operate their own smaller networks, but have roaming deals with the bigger carriers, so once again you still get coverage areas comparable to the major carriers:

    There's a more comprehensive list of US wireless companies that operate on the larger companies' networks here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_US_MVNO

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AT&T will let you put a smartphone on their network without a data plan - JUST DON'T TELL THEM YOU HAVE THE PHONE, and don't be locked in a contract. My wife and I have been using G1/Magic with Mobile Data disabled for at least 6 months on AT&T. –  Broam Aug 10 '11 at 16:24
    
Also, I'm using PAYG on T-Mobile without a dataplan. MMS works, and you enable data for that, but I turn it off afterwards. –  Broam Aug 10 '11 at 16:25
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@Broam I think the key is whether or not you're using a phone whose ESN is in the carrier's database. So yeah, if you use a non-AT&T phone (like the G1) with AT&T, you'll probably get away with it. But I know people who have put AT&T smart phones on AT&T by popping in a SIM card without a data plan, and AT&T adds the data plan automatically. As long as you're not on a contract, I suppose it's not a huge risk, but my preference is to bypass the increased prices and hassle of the major carriers altogether. –  bmaupin Aug 10 '11 at 16:38
    
I think you've stumbled upon it right there. Next stop, Rogers phone. :) –  Broam Aug 11 '11 at 14:40
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Yes. It is possible to fly under the radar. I have done this on AT&T and T-Mobile in the USA.

CDMA2000 providers (Verizon, Sprint) will instantly catch you because to activate the phone you have to provide the ESN - which they will look up.

For AT&T, I switched to an unlocked phone (OpenMoko FreeRunner) a while back, so AT&T isn't sure what phone I have - the site says "We don't recognize your phone." I'm now using an HTC Magic (T-Mobile MyTouch 3G) that's unlocked. I have data disabled and only turn it on to send MMS. I have used data with their "WAP.Cingular" data plan. It's EDGE and it's a penny a KB, but it does work (I've loaded a few websites to test mobile data.)

My wife, best friend, and his father all use G1's with data turned off on AT&T and they do not pay for data plans.

All our contract terms are expired - we're month-to-month and can leave at any time.

The website doesn't recognize my phone because AT&T does not issue the Dream or Magic, this may be part of the solution. Using an AT&T phone on AT&T may be inviting trouble.

Keep your data turned off and never tell AT&T what phone you have, and you should be fine. Change your useragent in your browser (Cyanogenmod has a way to fake some old Nokia, that's what I use).

For T-Mobile, I'm using a G1 on their Pay-As-You-Go plan (it's a backup phone for running, SIM is usually in an old Motorola candybar). They know I have the G1, but a data plan isn't available at all for PAYG. As I don't use the phone this much, it's acceptable.

YMMV, buyer beware. It's possible, though.

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How to disable cellular data

You can open the “Tester” application by opening the phone dialer and entering the number

*#*#4636#*#*

(It is easy to remember as 4636 = INFO on the keypad.)

Now

  1. Tap “Phone Information”
  2. Press the Menu button
  3. Press the “More” item in the menu
  4. Now, select
    • “Disable data connection” to disable cellular data now
    • “Disable data on boot” to have cellular data disabled also after the phone is restarted

Why?

The carrier I use for my kids' phones does not allow me to disable cellular data from the carrier side, so I use this method to turn off cellular data on their phones.

As others write, several apps exist to accomplish the same, but doing the way described above does not leave an app on the phone that allows the kids to accidentally turn on data again themselves.

References

Thank you to these guys:

This is where I found the information after searching the net for a long time.

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