Arcade Fire was spot-on with Infinite Content. The internet is awash with viral videos, celebrity tweets, and epic fail compilations, all readily available in the palm of our hands. Yes, smartphones are officially our browsing device of choice, and while that might make life more interesting when you’re waiting for the bus, you pay the price in dollars and cents.
Every time you tap an app, whether it’s to watch YouTube, update your status, or find your way home, those gigabytes start crumbling away like a cookie left in milk too long. Unless you’re on an unlimited data plan (which are often expensive), go beyond your allowance and you’re slapped with big bills, throttled speeds, or no internet access at all.
So what can you do about it?
The simplest answer is to save data wherever you can. This is easier than it sounds, and you won’t really need to change your habits too much – just follow our tips below.
Disable background data and push notifications
Both iOS and Android apps have a nasty habit of gobbling up data when you’re not using them. Also, some apps periodically use data to notify you of a new event (like an email).
How to turn off background app data and notifications on iOS (Apple)
To turn off background app data, navigate to Settings > General > Background App Refresh and change it to Off or Wi-Fi.
To turn off push notifications, head to Settings > Notifications > select an app > toggle Allow Notifications off.
Android (Samsung, HTC, Google, etc.)
To turn off background app data, go to Settings > Data Usage > click the three vertical dots in upper right corner > select Restrict Background Data.
To turn off push notifications, head to Settings > Notifications > select an app and toggle Off.
Track usage, cap data, and set alerts
If you know you’ve only got 2GB of data each month, track your usage and set alerts for when you’ve used it up. On Android, you can even place a data cap that’ll stop all mobile data once you’ve reached your limit.
Both Apple and Android smartphones have data tracking services built in, but only Android includes a native alert and data cap feature (nice work, Google). For alerts on iOS, you’ll need to download a data management app like My Data Manager.
How to track data usage on iOS
Head to Settings > Mobile Data > scroll down to see your usage for the current period. Make sure you reset data statistics every billing cycle (from within the same menu), as iOS won’t do this automatically.
How to track data usage, cap data, and set alerts on Android
Head to Settings > Connections > Data Usage > Mobile Data Usage
To limit data: toggle Data Limit on > tap Data Limit > set limit value > tap SET
To track usage and set an alert: toggle Data Warning on > set the alert value > Start billing cycle on > set your billing dates > tap SET
Use Wi-Fi wherever possible
Seems obvious, but it’s easy to forget there are millions of free Wi-Fi spots around the globe, most commonly found in restaurants, cafes, public institutions, and shops. Though do use a VPN where possible, as public Wi-Fi is easily exploited by hackers (and don’t use them to transmit sensitive information, such as bank details).
If you’re unsure where to find free Wi-Fi near you, apps like Wifi Map can help. So next time you’re out and about, connect to free Wi-Fi instead of chewing through your data like a beaver on a breadstick.
View videos, maps, and webpages offline
Whether it’s Netflix movies or photo albums, download them to your device over Wi-Fi instead of using cellular data. Similarly, Google Maps can also be downloaded for offline use, making it easier to get around your local area without devouring data. Even web pages can be stored for offline viewing with apps like Pocket.
Turn off “autoplay”
Facebook, Instagram, and other social media networks do whatever they can to keep you hooked. A particularly clever trick is autoplaying videos that churn through your mobile data without your permission. Thankfully, these apps do give you the option of turning this feature off, so head to the relevant app’s settings and disable autoplay now.
Hopefully these tips keep your data within budget. If all else fails, you can simply disable cellular data completely from your phone’s mobile data settings. It’s an extreme measure, but with so much free Wi-Fi, it’s a valid one.