Twitter app users should urgently check their settings to avoid big data bills when videos are set to automatically play on a phone or tablet. Our investigation has found an app update this week restored this potentially wallet-busting feature as the default option for many who'd changed it.
We first warned in June, when social media giant Twitter launched video autoplay, the app's default setting was to play videos when they appear on your feed if connected to a mobile of WiFi network, even if you've not pressed 'play'.
Many users changed their preferences to avoid big data charges for playing videos outside their inclusive limit after we raised the alarm. Of course, if you haven't changed anything you still risk big bills.
However, concerned MoneySavers have told us Twitter seemingly reset their video playback to the default option without their knowledge during this week's update.
Check your settings immediately
Twitter denies updating its app wipes people's settings, but we found numerous examples that they were indeed restored to the default when we investigated, such as when MSE managing editor Guy Anker updated his iPhone 6 Twitter app this week.
He took a screenshot (below, left) seconds before the update where videos were set to play automatically via "WiFi only", as he'd previously requested. But the next screenshot (right), taken immediately after the update, shows this had been automatically changed to play using "mobile data and WiFi".
Concerned MoneySavers have also tweeted us (yes, we get the irony too) after the app update overrode their autoplay settings:
- @bunsey73: "Twitter playing videos automatically & using up data. I changed it but after an app update, it has gone back to autoplay."
- @britishaussie: "I followed your instructions so videos didn't automatically play in Twitter but overnight Twitter's updated & now they autoplay."
- @markbobkershaw: "Twitter has started autoplaying videos too. Data alert! Can be turned off in settings."
Guy says: "It was bad enough that the default setting on the app launch was to play videos using data automatically. Now it's utterly outrageous that after altering your settings so you're not hit with unexpected charges, Twitter rips up your good work, possibly landing you with unexpected big bills.
"We'd urge all Twitter app users to urgently check their settings to ensure they're set to their preference, such as only playing videos when on WiFi."
Beware up to £8/MB data charges
You may not even realise the app has been updated as many people's settings permit automatic updates. If you don't have unlimited mobile data, urgently change your video autoplay settings to play on WiFi only or never to play automatically.
As playing videos on a phone or tablet via a mobile network requires the internet, it eats into your data allowance at a rate of knots, and once the allowance is breached, it becomes mega-expensive.
Which handsets are affected?
We haven't had confirmation from Twitter which handsets this latest update affects, but from our tests we saw the video autoplay setting restored to the default on the iPhone 6, iPhone 5, iPhone 4, iPad Air and Samsung Galaxy S5 after this week's update.
We tested three Samsung Galaxy S3s but didn't see the problem replicated there. On one iPhone 4 we tested with an older version of the app, it did not have the autoplay option.
How to turn off automatic videos
Whatever version of the Twitter app you have, it is vital you check your settings to ensure you're not hit with a nasty smack in the wallet. Here's how to set videos to play on WiFi only:
- iPhone and iPad: Within the Twitter app, go to your 'Settings' (you can do this via the gear icon – the small wheel at the top of your profile) > tap 'Video autoplay' > select 'Never play videos automatically' or 'Use WiFi only'.
- Android: Within the Twitter app, go to your 'Settings' (you can do this by clicking the three vertical dots icon) > select 'General' > tap 'Video autoplay' > select 'Never play videos automatically' or 'Use WiFi only'.
Twitter denies that updating the app wipes previous settings, so it couldn't tell us who exactly is affected.
What about Facebook videos?
On Facebook, videos will also play automatically when they appear in your feed unless you choose otherwise.
However, unlike Twitter, Facebook says your settings will not be overwritten when you update the app. We checked this in the office on an iPhone 6 and the settings hadn't changed after the most recent update.
Here's how to turn off autoplay on Facebook:
- iPhone and iPad: Open the Facebook app > tap the icon with three horizontal lines > tap 'Settings' (might say 'Account Settings' or 'App Settings' for some) > tap 'Videos' (might say 'Videos and Photos' for some) > select 'Autoplay' > select 'WiFi only' or 'Off'. If you don't see Videos in your app settings, try updating the Facebook app.
- Android: Open the Facebook app > tap the icon with three horizontal lines > click 'App Settings' > then select Video auto-play as 'WiFi only' or 'Off'. If you don't see the Video Auto-play settings, log out of the Facebook app. When you log back into Facebook, Video Auto-play should be visible in the 'App Settings'.
I've been hit with unfair charges. What do I do?
First ask your mobile provider if it will refund them as a gesture of goodwill. It won't be its fault but there is no harm trying.
If that doesn't work, you can always complain to Twitter directly, given its settings change caused the problem.