Smartphone data. We all use it, and many of us probably use more than we even realize. And chances are, at one time or another, you’ve gone over your limit—leading to extra charges on your phone bill or significantly lower speeds when doing things like browsing the Internet or streaming a video. Which, of course, is right when you absolutely need to show your friend that funny cat video you’ve been talking about for two weeks now.
I used to use over 10GB a month—which is a lot. But now I use 4-5GB.
So how’d I do it?
First, I was more aware of streaming data-heavy content, like music and videos—as well as downloading things like podcasts. Streaming and downloading over cellular (4G LTE) is the fastest way to eat your data. For example, watching a two-hour movie from a streaming app can use anywhere between 1/2 and 3/4 of 1GB. So, if your phone plan gives you 3GB of data—that’s a large amount gone very quickly.
So taking a minute while on Wi-Fi to download some of this data-hungry content—so you can watch or listen to it directly from your phone instead of streaming it—can easily save a few gigabytes of data.
And while you may not use streaming apps like Netflix or YouTube every day, there are other apps that may be part of your daily routine—like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram—that could be culprits, too. That’s right! I realize you want to watch Bad Lip Reading in your friend’s FB post over and over again (and you should, because it’s great)—but it, too, is using quite a bit of data. And some apps even auto-download videos and pictures to make them feel faster, even if you don’t end up choosing to view them.
The good news?: Most apps have built-in settings to help you conserve data.
The bad news?: Those are usually turned off by default.
The great news?: You can easily turn these settings on.
Where you go in each app to change these can be slightly different. Usually, they live in the Settings area within each app. To make it a bit easier, here’s how you can find and manage data settings in a few of the most popular apps:
Open the Facebook app, press the menu button () in the bottom-right corner of the screen. Tap Settings, then select Account Settings from the pop-up window. Tap Video and Photos > Autoplay, then select Never Autoplay Videos or On Wi-Fi Connections Only. This way, the videos in your newsfeed won’t automatically play unless you’re on a Wi-Fi connection.
From this screen, you can also see if photos and videos you upload are HD. If this is turned on, the quality of the photos and videos you upload are better, but the data you use to do so is also greater. So, you can turn these off, too, if you want to save even more data.
Open the Instagram app and tap the Profile icon in the bottom-right corner of your screen. Tap the Settings gear in the top-right of your screen, and select Cellular Data Use. Then, turn on Use Less Data.
This stops Instagram from pre-loading videos and their 24-hour ‘stories’. It will only load the photos and videos you can see on-screen, or stories you tap to watch.
Open the Snapchat app, then tap the ghost icon along the top of your screen. Tap the Settings gear in the top-right corner of the screen, then tap Manage, and turn on Travel Mode.
This mode prevents Snapchat from pre-downloading all of your friends Snap Stories (and snaps sent to you) when you open the app. These will only load once you tap to watch them.
Additionally, the Settings app on your phone give you the ability to manage app data.
• Tap Settings, then tap Cellular
Here, you can see how much data each app has used, and even restrict its access to cellular data.
• Tap Settings > Wireless & Networks > Data Usage
Like iPhone, you can see how much data each app has used, and restrict its access to cellular data. But, you can also do things like set billing cycles, mobile data limits, and more—so you don’t accidentally go over.
Of course, the most accurate way to know your data usage is to check your phone bills—as what you see in your smartphone is an estimate of your usage (although pretty accurate estimates). And your carrier may even have an app for your phone that also shows your data usage, too. To find out, check the App Store on iPhone or Google Play Store on Android—or just contact your carrier for more information.