It’s the middle of the month, and you receive that most dreaded text from your mobile provider: “You have used 90% of the data in your plan.” Your blood runs cold. Your breathing goes shallow. Okay, maybe it’s not that bad — but you may find yourself counting the days until you can use your data again without sweating the overage fee.
An unlimited data plan is the obvious solution, but data is expensive. Instead, here are a few ways you can cut back on your data usage, while still enjoying the sweet data-driven luxuries of your smartphone.
1. Watch Your Consumption
One of the best first steps you can take in curbing your data usage? Keep track of it. If you know where your data is going, you can figure out where to trim the fat. You can either download an app to monitor your data usage, or find out from your phone’s cellular data settings.
For Android phones, go to Settings > Wireless & Networks > Data usage
For iPhone, go to Settings > Cellular
You may be surprised to find out which apps are chewing through data without your knowledge. However once you’re aware of where your data is going, you can be more cognizant of only using certain apps when you’re on wi-fi, for example. And that leads us to our next tip…
2. Make Smart Use of Wi-Fi
If you have a smartphone, you probably already know it’s best to use wi-fi instead of cellular for your data needs whenever and wherever possible. But you may not know how many of your apps are using up your cellular data without your knowledge or direct interaction.
Check your phone’s settings and turn off cellular access for anything you can live without while away from your favorite wi-fi network (looking at you, Facebook). Only keep cellular access for the applications you use frequently, so you waste as little data as possible. If any of those apps has an “offline” mode, make use of it. And if for some reason you’re having trouble connecting to your wi-fi network, check out these wi-fi troubleshooting tips — your data plan will thank you!
3. Limit Your Streaming
Nothing kills a data plan like streaming. Whether it’s music, video, or online gaming, streaming can eat through gigabytes of data in as little as an hour or two. A single minute of video footage is about 200 megabytes of data, so streaming that YouTube video for your friend while on your cellular network is basically punching your data plan in the face. Try your best to save it for when you’re on a wi-fi network.
Music can also be a major culprit. If you play music on your phone, download it to the device instead of streaming, or opt for a less bandwidth-intensive streaming service like Pandora. This will help minimize damage to your data plan.
In terms of gaming, most casual games won’t kill your data, but this is where monitoring your usage comes in handy — if that high-intensity shooter is chewing through megabytes, it may be wise to find something else to do during your train commute.
Finally, while sending and receiving photos is one of the great joys of owning a smartphone, keep in mind every photo sent over a cell network will eat into your data. So maybe wait until you get home to upload those two hundred party photos to Facebook.
4. Turn Off Push Notifications
Push notifications are those fun updates that tell you about the latest weather update, Twitter mention, mobile game update, and so on. They can be useful (and sometimes entertaining), but they also nibble away at your data by constantly pinging remote servers for updates. Keep only the notifications you need and turn off the rest. Less data used, and fewer interruptions during dinner. Everybody wins!
5. Plan, Monitor and Adjust
Management of your data usage isn’t something you do once and then forget about forever — it’s an ongoing process. Once you’ve gotten a handle on how much data you’re actually using, you may find you need to switch plans or save with a prepaid carrier. Maybe you need more data — or, if you’ve played your cards right, less! With a little cleverness and vigilance, you may never get another dreaded “out of data” text again.
Do you have any tricks for reducing data usage on your phone? Let me know about them in the comments! And if you’re in the market for a new phone, check out BLINQ’s savings on smartphones — just don’t forget to keep an eye on that data!