How to Cut Down On Your Mobile Data Usage on Android

You can also save your Android's battery life while you're at it

Businesswoman in office working on smartphone
Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

Unless you have an unlimited data plan, it's important to track and manage your data usage. Cutting down on data has other advantages including saving on battery life, avoiding overage charges, and reducing the time spent staring at a smartphone screen. Here are some simple ways to reduce data usage.

The directions below should apply no matter who made your Android phone: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

Start by Tracking Your Usage

Before you can begin cutting your data usage, find out how much data you use every month, every week, or every day. The amount you reduce your data usage depends on the allotment granted by your wireless carrier or your own personal preference.

When you track your data usage with Android, you'll see your usage at glance in the settings area under data usage. From here, you can even set warnings and limits.

How to see data usage on Android:

  1. Tap the Settings icon and tap Memory.

    Memory button in Android Settings
  2. Tap the dropdown selection and choose either 3 hours, 6 hours, 12 hours, or 1 day.

    Time periods for checking data usage on Android
  3. Tap the menu icon in the upper-left corner and select Data usage.

    Data usage button in Android Settings menu
  4. In the Data usage screen, view total data use since the beginning of the current billing cycle up to the present date.

    Screenshot of Android data usage screen
  5. This is useful for monitoring your data to avoid going over your limit and incurring extra charges.

These additional features can be enabled from the Data usage screen:

  • Data Saver: Enable this to prevent apps from transferring data in the background.
  • Data Usage Warning: Set a value to receive a notification when data usage reaches a warning limit.
  • Cellular Data: Enable or disable cellular data usage.
  • Wi-Fi Data Usage: Tap this to view a graph of overall Wi-Fi data usage over time.

You can also download third-party apps that offer even more insight into your usage. 

If you use 3.5 GB of data per month and you want to reduce your usage to 2 GB, set a warning when data use reaches 2 GB and set a limit of 2.5 GB. Then, you can gradually lower the limit to 2 GB. Setting a limit means your smartphone turns off data when you reach the threshold.

Identify Data-Hungry Apps

The next step is to identify the most data-hungry apps you use. You can see a list of data-using apps in settings as well.

To see app data usage:

  1. Open Settings and tap Apps.

  2. Tap an app to view internal storage and overall data use for that app.

    Screenshot of viewing app data usage in Android settings
  3. Go through the list of apps and determine which apps use the most internal data storage and have the highest data usage.

  4. To reduce data usage on an app, set data limits at the app level or uninstall the app.

Use Wi-Fi When You Can

When you're at home or at the office, take advantage of Wi-Fi. Using public Wi-Fi hot spots can save mobile data. However, in public places, such as coffee shops, be aware that open networks pose security risks.

Alternatively, download a mobile VPN, which protects your connection from would-be hackers. There are many free mobile VPNs available, though you may want to upgrade to a paid version if you use it often.

Set your apps to update only when Wi-Fi is turned on, otherwise, they'll update automatically. When you turn on Wi-Fi, installed apps will update at once.

How to set apps to only update on Wi-Fi:

  1. Open the Play Store app.

  2. Tap the menu icon in the upper-left corner.

  3. Tap Settings.

    Settings button for Android
  4. Tap Auto-update apps.

    Auto-update apps button in Android settings
  5. Enable Over Wi-Fi only, then tap Done.

    Done button in Auto-update apps dialog on Android
  6. Use the same setting to disable auto-update for apps in the Amazon Appstore.

Cut Down on Streaming

Streaming music and video uses a lot of data. If you regularly listen to music on the go, this can add up.

Some streaming services let you save playlists to listen to offline. For example, the premium version of Spotify lets you tap on any album or playlist and select Download to download that content to your phone for offline play.

Screenshot of downloading music on Spotify for offline listening

Or you can transfer some music to your smartphone from your computer. Make sure you have enough space on your smartphone or take steps to gain back some space.

Is It Time to Update Your Data Plan?

If you've tried all of these steps and you still reach your data limit early in the month, consider updating your plan.

Most carriers offer tiered plans, so you can easily add 2 GB of data per month for a decent price, which will always be less than carrier overcharges. Check if your carrier can send you email or text alerts when you near your limit so you always know if you need to cut back on usage or upgrade your data plan.