How to Turn On Mobile Data

Plus how to turn it off when you need to

A person holding a smartphone using a mobile network

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The ability to make calls, send emails, and use text messaging depends largely on cellular data use. The advantage of that is that cellular data is available nearly everywhere. The disadvantage is that it can be difficult to limit the use of your mobile data. And if you're on a limited data plan, this can result in large usage fees.

Why Turn Mobile Data On or Off?

There are many reasons you may want to disable mobile data on your smartphone.

  • Out of control apps: Sometimes, you may find your phone is using a lot of data and you're not sure why. This is usually the cause of poorly-designed or malicious apps that regularly consume data even when you're not using your phone. Disabling mobile data will put this to an abrupt stop.
  • Traveling off-the-grid: If you're traveling somewhere where mobile data isn't accessible anyway, there's no sense leaving your mobile data turned on and having your phone regularly "pinging" cellular towers that aren't there.
  • Prevent data roaming: If you're traveling somewhere (like another country) where you'd incur data roaming charges, turning off mobile data will insure you aren't hit with unexpected charges.
  • Reduce overall data use: In general, turning off mobile data when you aren't using it will reduce your overall data use. This can help you get to the end of the month without hitting your cellular plan's data limit.
  • Save battery life: Turning mobile data off can dramatically extend battery life. This is especially useful when you're traveling and can let you use your phone for phone calls and other non-data uses for a longer period of time.

    Disabling mobile data is a great way to cut down on data use and save battery life, but it does require remembering to manually turn cellular data off and on.

    How to Turn On Mobile Data on Your Android

    If you need to limit the amount of data you're using with your Android, there are several ways to do so. The easiest is just to manually turn your mobile data off when you're not using it, and back on only when you need it.

    1. Tap the gear icon to open your Android's settings menu. Then tap Data usage.

      Screenshot of Data usage in Android settings
    2. In the Data usage menu, tap the Cellular data setting to turn data usage off.

      Screenshot of the Cellular data setting in Android settings
    3. Once you turn off Cellular data, you won't be able to access any websites or use any apps that use internet data. The only way to access the internet is by enabling Wi-Fi when you're near a Wi-Fi hotspot. You can enable this by going back to the main settings menu and tapping Wi-Fi. On the Wi-Fi screen, tap to enable Wi-Fi.

      Screenshot of Wi-Fi connections in Android settings

      Using Wi-Fi hot spots is a great way to avoid hitting your monthly cellular data limit. Thankfully, there are Wi-Fi hot spots available all around the world in convenient locations. Turning off cellular data also cuts down on the temptation to use your phone while you're driving.

    4. Finally, tap the Wi-Fi network you want to connect to and tap Connect to connect the phone to that Wi-Fi network.

      Screenshot of connecting to Wi-Fi on Android
    5. Once you're connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot, you can continue using the internet and any mobile apps that require internet data, even while you have cellular data turned off.

    Hot to Turn On Mobile Data on iOS

    Enabling or disabling mobile data on an iPhone is very similar to Android. There is an easy setting in iOS settings where you can quickly turn mobile data on or off.

    1. On your iPhone, go into Settings and tap Cellular to open the Cellular data menu. On the Cellular screen, tap the Cellular Data toggle button to turn it on or off.

      Screenshot of turning off cellular data on iOS
    2. With iOS, you can fine tune exactly what elements of cellular data are turned off. If you tap cellular data options, you'll see a menu where you can disable the use of LTE voice when you're in a roaming area. This is useful for when you're traveling internationally and don't want to incur roaming charges.

      Screenshot of roaming settings on iOS

      Turning roaming off while traveling internationally is a very smart choice. International data roaming charges can be very expensive. And if you make the mistake of using an app like Google Maps while driving, the roaming charges can be surprisingly expensive.

    3. Just like with Android, manually disabling cellular data when you don't need it can save significantly in data overage charges. Instead, focus on visiting Wi-Fi hotspots whenever you want to access the internet or use apps that require internet data.

    Use Data Warnings to Control Data Usage

    If you're using an Android, another option to control how much data your phone consumes is by using data limit settings.

    To access these settings, open Settings, tap Data usage, and tap Cellular data usage. This screen shows how much data you've used so far during this billing cycle.

    Screenshot of data usage screen on Android

    Tap the gear icon at the upper right to view data controls. On this screen, you can enable Set data warning to get a notification when you're approaching your monthly data limit.

    Or you can enable Set data limit to automatically turn off cellular data when you reach your monthly data limit.

    Screenshot of the data limit screen on Android

    You can adjust the actual data limit to match your data plan by tapping Data warning and adjusting the limit.

    Controlling Your Data Usage

    As you can see, it's very easy to turn mobile data on or off on either an Android or an iPhone. Using this feature can help you take control over your data usage and avoid any unexpected charges at the end of the month.