4 Simple Ways to Reduce Mobile Data Usage

Save your data allowance with these helpful tricks

Using your phone usually calls for access to the internet. If you're not in a location where you can use Wi-Fi, you rely on a mobile data network to browse the web or check your social media. Mobile data, either as part of a cellular service or a pay-as-you-go plan, costs money. Unless you have an unlimited data plan, the more you use, the more you pay.

It makes sense to reduce the amount of data you use if you aren't on an unlimited plan. Here are some tips and tricks for limiting your data usage on your mobile device.

Cellular tower.
​​Chris Gould /  Getty Images

Restrict Background Data

Most operating systems, including iOS and Android, allow you to restrict background data with the flick of a switch in the network settings. When you restrict background data, some apps and phone services don't work unless you have access to a Wi-Fi network. Your phone continues to function, but you reduce the amount of data being used. This is a useful option if you track your data usage and are nearing the limit of your allowance at the end of a month.

View the Mobile Versions of Websites

When you view a website on your phone's web browser, every element, from the text to the images, must be downloaded before it can be displayed. This isn't a problem when viewing the website from a broadband connection, but each of those elements uses up a bit of your data allowance on your phone.

Most websites provide both a desktop and mobile version. The mobile versions of browsers and browser apps always include fewer images and are lighter and faster to open. Many websites are set up to detect whether you are viewing on a mobile device and display the mobile version automatically even if you aren't using an app. If you think you are viewing a desktop version on your phone, it's worth checking to see if there is a link to switch to the mobile version.

Aside from the difference in layout and content, you may be able to tell if a website is running the mobile version by the presence of the letter "m" in the URL. However, this designation has declined in popularity and is rarely seen now.

Stick to the mobile version whenever possible, and your data usage will be lower.

Don't Clear Your Cache

There is an argument for emptying the browser cache and the cache of other apps to keep your phone running smoothly. The cache is a component that stores website data. When that data is requested by the browser, having it in the cache means it is provided faster because there's no need for the data to be downloaded from the server.

Emptying the cache frees up internal memory and helps the system run smoothly, but it consumes data when you're on a carrier network. Task managers and cleaning utilities often delete the cache, so if you have one of those installed, add your browser to the list of excluded apps.

Use a Text-Only Browser

Several third-party browsers, such as TextOnly and Violoncello, remove images from a website and display only the text. Your phone uses less data by not downloading the images, which are the largest files on any web page.

  • What is mobile data?

    All internet content such as emails, webpages, and apps accessed through a wireless connection via a mobile device qualifies as mobile data. Since mobile data is measured differently from phone calls, it can substantially impact mobile users' monthly bills who do not have unlimited data plans.

  • How do I monitor my mobile data usage?

    To monitor your phone's mobile data usage, you can make use of the phone's built-in monitoring system. On Android: Go to  Settings > Connections > Data Usage. On iPhone: Go to Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Usage.

  • What happens if you leave your mobile data on?

    Without limiting the amount of data your phone or tablet is using, things like notifications can continue to increase your mobile data usage. Make sure your Wi-Fi is turned on on your phone so that when you are at home, your phone uses your home’s internet service. To address unwanted mobile data usage manually turn your mobile data off when you're not using it, and back on only when you need it.

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