Most smartphones come with a data plan, which sets a strict upper limit on how much data you can use (without running into overage charges). If you want to stay within the boundaries of your contract, and avoid those excessive fees, you’ll need to find ways to use less data every month.
Since so much of our modern world depends on connectivity to keep moving—and since wireless carriers expect mobile data usage to double each year for the next several years—it’s even more important to get a handle on this.
Using Less Data
Fortunately, there are some easy strategies you can use to limit your personal data consumption:
- Use Wi-Fi for video streaming. Video streaming uses more data than any other activity. You’re receiving both audio and video information, sometimes in high definition, at a constant rate—and sometimes for hours at a time. Don’t stream video unless you’re on a dedicated Wi-Fi network; every hour you stream in standard definition is 1 GB, and every hour you stream in high definition is 3 GB (or more).
- Use Wi-Fi for calls and texts. You may not realize it, but you can also use your Wi-Fi network to transmit data for calls and texts. Through Wi-Fi calling, you can talk to anyone, anywhere, without worrying about how it’s going to impact your plan. Through Wi-Fi based messaging, you can send text messages the same way (though texts won’t eat up nearly as much data).
- Restrict app store downloads in Settings. Another major source of data is the apps you download—especially if you download a lot of them. Apps can be minimally invasive, at just a few MB, but often range into the hundreds of MBs. Again, you should reserve this feature for when you have access to a stable Wi-Fi connection. Take a moment to restrict app store downloads to Wi-Fi only in your Settings menu.
- Disable app refreshes. Most apps have a feature that allows them to automatically “refresh,” or fetch new data from the app’s central servers. For social apps, this may include newsfeed updates. For games and other apps, this may include new content. Either way, each refresh will cost you some data—so disable app refreshes altogether in your Settings menu.
- Set upper limits on your data-intensive apps. While you’re in Settings, you can take a look at your apps to determine which ones use the most data overall. You’ll see the total data usage for each app in your lineup, and should be able to pinpoint the top few offenders. If these apps continue to be a problem, set upper limits to how much data they can use; this will help you keep your data usage under control.
- Download, rather than stream. When possible, try to download your content and save it to your phone while you’re on a Wi-Fi connection, so you can enjoy it later without the need to stream it. For example, on most podcast apps, you have the option to download new episodes while you’re on a Wi-Fi connection, and play them at your leisure later—without wasting a single byte of your data plan.
- Retrieve mail less frequently. Most phones automatically update your email inboxes every so often—at least once or twice an hour. Each time they do this, you’ll use a small bit of data—but all that data adds up over time. Go into your Settings, and change the rate for retrieving your mail. You can also resort to checking it manually instead.
Monitor Your Usage
The most important step you can take in limiting your data overage charges is simply monitoring how much data you actually use on a monthly basis. Check in at least a few times a week, viewing what pace you’re on, and if there are any abnormal spikes in your usage. If there are multiple users on your plan, this is even more important. The more information you have, the more accurately and effectively you can employ these techniques—and the less you’ll pay for entirely preventable data overages.