Photo: Pojcheewin Yaprasert / EyeEm
A San Jose family was optimistic after returning to California from an annual reunion with relatives in Vietnam – until they found a shocking phone of $ 13,470 received invoice from T-Mobile.
Vivian Chung had thought her family was covered by high fees while they were overseas, but apparently half an hour of telephone use in the air resulted in massive charges.
Her son Nicholas Ho told KGO that he used his iPhone to play a game during a flight. But here's the thing: he played the game offline while the phone was in flight mode.
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"How can this phone bill how $ 13,740.19 in half an hour?" Chung said in an interview with KGO. "Oh my God, we almost fainted, I say that costs more than the journey."
The family reached for T-Mobile, but the porter was not particularly sympathetic. The company told them that their son must have downloaded a movie. T-Mobile reduced the bill to $ 3,800.
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KGO, as part of his "7 on your side" segment, dug into the agony of the family and confronted T-Mobile with the charges. The phone company said only that at the time Vietnam was not included in the free-roaming T-Mobile plan that the Chung family considered them. After further research, it became clear that the game app Ho was playing used data in the background for advertising and software purposes, even while the phone was in airplane mode.
T-Mobile broke the fees.  It is not a problem that is limited to T-Mobile customers or American smartphone users. Consumers with Verizon and other network operators have reported spikes in data usage by similar apps being silently updated in the background without their knowledge.
It is a problem that can easily be avoided, at least in the US. Follow these steps for iPhone or Android to limit background data usage.
Alyssa Pereira is an SFGATE employee. E-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org or search on Twitter at @alyspereira .