Ways to Reduce Your 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 have to 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, then, to try and reduce the amount of data you use whenever possible. Here are some tips and tricks for limiting your data usage.

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 will not work unless you have access to a Wi-Fi network. Your phone will continue to function, but you'll reduce the amount of data being used. This is a useful option if you are nearing the limit of your data allowance at the end of a month.

View the Mobile Version of Websites

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

Most websites now provide both a desktop and mobile version. The mobile version will almost always include fewer images and be much lighter and faster to open. Many websites are set up to detect whether or not you are viewing on a mobile device and will display the mobile version automatically. 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 can normally tell if a website is running the mobile version by the presence of the letter "m" in the URL. Browser settings usually allow you to select a preference for mobile versions. 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 help 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 can be provided faster, because there's no need for the data to be downloaded from the server.

Emptying the cache will free up internal memory and help the system run more smoothly, but it will consume data if 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

There are several third-party browsers, such as TextOnly, which remove images from a website and display only the text. By not downloading the images, which are the largest files on any web page, your phone will use up less data.