Save Your Mobile Data When Tethering Android Tablet or Phone

This Hidden Setting Saves Mobile Data

Tablet Computer and Smart Phone
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No Wi-Fi network available? No problem! If you pair your smartphone (with its cellular data connection) or a dedicated 3G/4G mobile hotspot with your Wi-Fi-only Android tablet, you'll be able to get internet access on your tablet even when there's no Wi-Fi network available. Similarly, you could use a mobile hotspot to give your mobile phone internet connectivity when it doesn't have a good (or any) wireless signal but your other internet-connected device does.

Just make sure when you tether, you don't unnecessarily use up all your precious mobile data.

Most wireless carriers' tethering plans share an allotment of monthly mobile data when you tether devices together like this. To conserve your mobile data, head to this hidden Android setting from the device you're trying to get online. 

The Hidden Setting

Android devices (those with Android 4.1 and above) have a not-so-well-known option to mark Wi-Fi access points as "mobile access points." This tells installed apps that you're connected to a mobile hotspot (with limited data available) rather than a typical Wi-Fi network, and that they should, therefore, limit the amount of traffic they use. Your tablet or phone will treat the network like a mobile data (4G or 3G) network instead of Wi-Fi, and this should limit the amount of background data that apps pull in when you're connected to that mobile hotspot.

With this setting checked, you might also get warnings when there's a large download or other data-hogging activity (like large files or music downloads) you should know about over those networks.

Change Your Settings to Save Data

Android Central notes that if you're tethering one Android (4.1+) device to another (say, your Android tablet to your Android smartphone, both running Jelly Bean or above), these devices will automatically figure things out for you and handle the data access to minimize your data usage, so you (hopefully) don't go over your mobile data plan allotment.

If you are not connecting two Android devices, though--maybe you're connecting an Android tablet to a Mifi or any other non-Android mobile hotspot (like the iPhone) for internet connectivity--, this hidden setting should come in handy:

  1. Go to Settings (swipe down with two fingers from the top, then tap Settings)
  2. Under Wireless & Networks, tap Data usage
  3. Tap the three dots in the top right corner to get to the menu to select Mobile hotspots
  4. Click the checkbox to the right of each of the Wi-Fi networks you want to specify as a mobile hotspot and then just hit the back button (no Ok button confirmation needed).

This should help you conserve more mobile data when you're sharing your wireless data with your wireless tablet, phone, or other mobile gadgets.

These tactics, while designed to minimize data usage on your wireless hotspot, could also help limit your data usage (most importantly, data roaming) when you're traveling. Just set any wireless network as a mobile hotspot to limit the kinds and amount of traffic that get pulled. (But for a more foolproof method, turn everything off.)

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