How to Cut Down On Your Mobile Data Usage

You can save battery life while you're at it

Businesswoman in office working on smartphone
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Unless you're still taking advantage of 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 simply ways in which you can reduce your data usage.

Start by Tracking Your Usage

With any goal, whether it be losing weight, quitting smoking, or lowering data usage, you have to know where you stand.

That starts with tracking your activity and setting a goal. So, first, you have to know how much data you use every month, every week or even every day. Your goal may depend on the allotment granted by your wireless carrier or you can set your own depending on your situation.

Luckily tracking your data usage is easy with Android. You can easily see your usage at glance in settings under data usage, and even set warnings and limits. You can also download third-party apps that offer even more insight into your usage. Let's say you typically use 3.5 GB of data per month and you'd like to reduce that to 2 GB. You can start by setting a warning when you reach 2 GB, and setting a limit of 2.5 GB, for example, and then gradually lower the limit to 2 GB. Setting a limit means your smartphone will turn off data when you reach that threshold so there's no mistaking when you've reached it.

Identify Data-Hungry Apps

Once you've got a goal in mind, start by identifying the most data-hungry apps you use.

You can see a list of data-using apps in settings as well. On my smartphone, Facebook is near the top, using more than double what Chrome uses. I can also see that Facebook uses minimal background data (when I'm not using the app), but disabling background data globally, can make a pretty big difference.

You can also set data limits at the app level, which is cool, or, uninstall the offending app altogether. Android Pit recommends using Facebook on a mobile browser or a lightweight web app called Tinfoil.

Use Wi-Fi When You Can

When you're at home or at the office, take advantage of Wi-Fi. At public places, such as coffee shops, be aware that open networks can pose security risks. I prefer to use a mobile hotspot, when I'm out and about. Alternatively, you can download a mobile VPN, which protects your connection from would-be snoops or hackers. There are many free mobile VPNs, 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. Just be aware that when you do turn on Wi-Fi, a slew of apps will start updating at once (if, like me, you have tons of apps installed.) You can find this setting in the Play Store app. You can also disable auto-updating in the Amazon Appstore.

Cut Down on Streaming

This may seem obvious, but streaming music and video uses 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 or you can simply transfer some music to your smartphone from your computer.

Just make sure you have enough space on your smartphone or take some steps to gain back some space.

If you've tried all of these steps and still find yourself reaching your data limit early in the month, you should probably update your plan. Most carriers now 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're nearing your limit so you always know if you need to cut back on usage or upgrade your data plan.