How to Manage Your Smartphone Data Consumption

On a limited data plan? Track your data usage on any smartphone

Woman syncing phone with watch

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The majority of smartphones these days rely heavily on the internet. As you remain online, your phone uses more mobile data, which can quickly fill up a limited data plan.

To be better equipped at managing the data usage on your phone, you should first understand how your phone uses data. In other words, what on your phone requires the internet. From there, you can easily identify where your data usage is going and how to control it.

The information below applies no matter who made your phone: Samsung, Apple, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

What Uses Data on Your Phone?

For data to be used, your phone has to be disconnected from Wi-Fi and connected to a mobile data plan. For example, if you pay your phone bill to Verizon, then when you use the internet on your phone, you're using Verizon's cell towers to reach the internet.

The parts of your phone that require data usage include anything that connects to the internet. Web browsers, online games, instant messaging services, social media apps, navigation programs, video and music streaming services, email, and online shopping apps are some examples.

However, not all web-accessible apps on your phone use the same amount of data. An easy example is with email: an email with one small image attachment uses less data than one with three video attachments. Similarly, streaming a two-hour YouTube video uses much more data than browsing a few web pages.

Monitor Your Data Vigilantly

The easiest way to avoid exceeding your quota is to monitor your data consumption regularly. Do this several times during the month, especially after downloading apps or other files, and playing videos and music.

Even if you exceed your data limit, you can keep the additional charges to a minimum if you're aware of how far you've already gone.

If you're checking your mobile provider's website for your data usage, you should assume that you've used a little more than what's shown because this information isn't delivered in real time. Data monitoring apps can also be slightly inaccurate.

Other Tips for Minimizing Data Usage

There are several ways to reduce how much data you use on your phone, but these are by far the quickest and easiest to implement:

Use Wi-Fi More Often

Wi-Fi doesn't count against your mobile data usage, so you can stream videos and music, browse the web, download apps, etc., without worrying that it'll impact your limited data plan.

Since Wi-Fi isn't available everywhere you go, you can use special Wi-Fi finding apps to locate areas that offer Wi-Fi to the public to that you can go online without using up mobile data.

In fact, to be sure that you're only benefiting from Wi-Fi and not accidentally using your mobile plan's data, disable cellular usage completely. You can find this option in your phone's network settings.

Avoid Streaming

If you can't use Wi-Fi for everything, at least try your best to limit or completely avoid video and music streaming while you're using mobile data. These are the types of applications that demand the most data.

Some apps provide a way to reduce the stream to a point where it doesn't need as much data to get the same content (only in lesser quality). Others let you disable auto-play so that even if you do pass by a video, it won't download (use data) unless you explicitly give it permission to.

You could also download music offline or save movies to your device while on Wi-Fi. They'll still play when you're away from Wi-Fi but won't use mobile data since they've already been saved locally.