Managing your smartphone’s data allowance, and ensuring you use it wisely, can sometimes be a balancing act. Browsing merrily about your phone, enjoying video, downloading images and just generally surfing the web can soon see your well of data dry up. Exceed it, and your network provider will strip your wallet faster than you go say 4G.
Carefully monitored however, you can make even the briefest of data allowances stretch out for a whole month. Here are a few tips for dodging those painful data penalties.
The best and most simple method for keeping up with your data use is to monitor it. Both iOS and Android devices come with built-in tools to monitoring and restricting data use.
Android: Settings > Mobile Data
On Android, you’re able to see how much data you’ve consumed within certain dates, which you can freely adjust. Move the parameters around in accordance with when your data is reset, and see exactly how much data has been used during that cycle. Below are a list of apps and figure amounting to how much data has used during that period, allowing you to pinpoint where the problem is stemming from.
Tap on any of those apps, and you get a breakdown of how much data is used in the foreground (i.e. when you are directly using the app) and background (when you’re not on the app but it’s still running). Plus, you can restrict any particular app’s background data (when on mobile data) so you’re not having your pocket picked by an app you don’t use.
iOS devices have a similar feature, accessed by the following.
Settings > Mobile
Alternatively, you can shut down an app you are no longer using rather than allowing it to run in the background. On Android, tap the square icon suspended along the bottom of your device to bring up the multi-tasking menu. You can swipe away apps to close them completely, or press “clear all” to bin the lot of them.
On iOS this can be done by double-tapping the iPhone’s home button.
Disable automatic updates
One greedy feature that will continue to chow down on your data allowance is auto-updates on apps. App developers are constantly releasing updates with new features, and often these can be large files that need to be downloaded. Thankfully, you can restrict app updates to only happen on Wi-Fi by doing the following:
Android: Google Play Store > Settings > Auto-update Apps
iOS: Settings > iTunes and App Store > Automatic Downloads
Use a different browser
Mobile browsing can be a pain at the best of times, and knowing it also chops down your data allowance only adds to the frustration. To cut down on data use when browsing, you could download a browser with a built-in compression mode. One example is Opera Mini (available on iOS and Android). Opera Mini will compress down all your data when browsing, so all those data-hungry ads and graphics are squeezed down to a more manageable hit on your allowance.
If you don’t want to switch browsers, Google’s Chrome has a Data Saver mode, found in the settings when you boot up the app.
Be on the lookout for Wi-Fi
One rather obvious way to take a load off your data consumption is to distribute it across to Wi-Fi. Obviously, when you’re at home or in the office, it makes sense to hook up to networks you’re familiar with, but Wi-Fi is increasingly all around us when we’re out and about. Cafes, hotels and shopping centres are all likely to house their own public Wi-Fi networks, many of which are free of charge.
Keep on the ball and search for a Wi-Fi network when you’re sat having a coffee or shopping in town. Be warned however, public Wi-Fi is a dangerous animal if you waltz on in guns blazing. Check out our guide to staying safe when using Public Wi-Fi first.
Play safe with media consumption
The biggest draw on your data consumption, bar none, is likely to be streaming and video or music. Apps like YouTube and Spotify should largely be avoided if you can help it. Use your phone’s storage and download music for your commute beforehand, or sign up to Spotify premium. Video in particular will clean-up your allowance in just a couple of hours, and sometimes it can be unavoidable when an enticing viral vid crops up on your social media feeds. To avoid the endless procession of video automatically booting up as your scroll up and down your news feeds, head into Facebook and Twitter settings to turn off automatic video start-ups.
It can be tricky directly pinpointing exactly how much data video and music streaming are using, but head to our guide on “How much data do I need” for some rough guidelines. News articles are less of an issue, but if you want to get extreme and save yourself some valuable data, you could download articles (when you’re on Wi-Fi of course) onto a Reading List and save them for later.
Got anymore tips on how to save on your valuable data allowance? Let us know in the comments below.