Burton Kelso, Tech Expert
How to Save Data on Your Mobile Plan
Updated: Feb 21, 2021
It would be nice if all cellular providers automatically provided unlimited data plans when you signed up for their services with many of us relying more and more on Internet-based content. Also, if you're in an area where land-based Internet service is poor, using mobile data is your only access to fast, reliable Internet. Unfortunately, unlimited data is an expensive option that may not be part of your household or business budget which means most of you have a limit on how much mobile data you can use per month. If you're looking for ways to use less data on your iPhone, Android, or mobile hotspot, use these tips that will help you save money and prevent you from exceeding your monthly limit.
1. Understand how your phone and hotspot use data. Most of you don't understand what exactly mobile data is. It's important to understand that mobile 'data' is when you access anything that is on the Internet. When you look up web sites, get on social media, listen to music streaming sites, and watch video streaming sites, you are using your mobile data. Not all sites use the same amount of data. Looking at web sites or scrolling on your social media pages doesn't use much of your data, however those videos and steaming apps can burn through your data very quickly. Also, gaming sites use a large amount of data. If you have a limited data plan and you want to stream music or videos, your best bet is to connect to a land-based WiFi network such as the Internet at friends' houses or at your place if it's allowed. You can also connect the public Wi-Fi networks in your area to conserve data, but make sure you don't go to sensitive web sites such as banking when you're connected to a public network.
2. Configure your devices to monitor your data. If you're using your Android phone or iPhone as a hotspot, you can configure them to monitor your data and limit which apps use your data.
How to configure your iPhone: On your iPhone, visit Settings > Cellular to look at data usage. Scroll down to the Cellular Data section and you'll see how much data you've used. Unfortunately, this period does not update automatically, so you will have to manually monitor it. From this section you can configure your apps on your phone and how much data they've used. To prevent an app from using data in the future, simply disable its slider.
How to configure your Android Phone. On Android, go to Settings > Network & internet > Mobile network. This screen shows you how much data you've used in the current period. You can also enable the Set data warning and/or Set data limit sliders and specify values.
Your phone will send you a notification when you hit your data warning amount.
3. Configure how your apps use data. If connecting to a land-based Internet Wi-Fi isn't an option, there are several things you can do the limit data use within your computer and apps. When using social media, make sure you turn off 'automatic video play'. When this feature is enabled, it can consume a lot of your data. Here is how you can turn it off per service.
Facebook. If you’re using Facebook on your computer, you can turn off autoplay videos this way:
Go to the drop-down menu at the top right of the page.
Select “Settings & Privacy” > “Settings.”
Look for the “Videos” listing on the left-hand menu. Inside of that option is a toggle where you can turn off autoplaying videos.
Facebook has similar options available for its iPhone and Android apps:
iPhone. Click the menu button on the bottom of your screen.
Once you’re there, tap “Settings & Privacy,” then “Settings.”
Scroll down until you find “Media and Contacts,” then tap “Videos and Photos.”
Finally, once you find “Autoplay,” you can turn off the feature.
Android. Click the menu button at the top right of your screen.
Once you’re there, scroll down and tap “Settings & Privacy,” then “Settings.”
Scroll down until you find “Media and Contacts” and tap on it.
Tap on “Autoplay” and set it to “Never Autoplay Videos.”
Twitter. if you're using Twitter on your computer, turn off autoplay the following way: Click on “More” in the left-hand menu, and then on “Settings and privacy.”
Select “Data usage.”
Click on the “Autoplay” setting. You can then switch off the autoplaying of videos on your feed.
Twitter also allows you to change the setting in its apps.
Click the profile picture at the top of your phone screen.
Select “Settings and privacy” in the menu.
Navigate to “Data usage,” tap on “Video autoplay” and set it to “Never.”
Instagram. The Instagram app doesn’t allow for autoplay videos to be turned off. Videos don’t autoplay if you use Instagram on your computer or smartphone browser, but since most people use Instagram via the app, you will have to limit your use if you are trying to save data.
Apple Music or Spotify. Audio doesn't use as much data as a video, but you want to makes changes to your music streaming services to save data. Most streaming services allow you to download music or playlist to your devices. You will want to do this while you're connected to WiFi to cut down on your data usage.
YouTube. It doesn't take many hours of video watching to eat through your data. You can change this by lowering the quality of the videos you're watching. Tap the three-dot Menu button on any YouTube video and change the Quality option. You'll want to set it to 360p which is fairly grainy but will save you data.
Video Streaming Services. Most video services like Netflix, allow you to download content to your devices. Check with your streaming service to see how too download your favorite shows and movies to your computer smartphone and tablet. Downloading ahead of time lets you enjoy content on your devices without using tons of data.
Cloud Storage Services. If you use the photo backup feature in cloud storage apps like Dropbox, Google Photo, and Amazon Photo, you will want to look at the settings in each app and disable the Use Cellular Data to restrict the feature to only upload photos when you're on Wi-Fi only.
4. Consider Land Internet Options. If you're in a rural area and you have been using your smartphone or your hotspot for the Internet, you want to verify there aren't any other options in your area. You might think your only options are for HughesNet, Viasat, or CenturyLink, but many smaller Mom and Pop ISPs are installing fiber or offering high-speed internet options that may be available in your area. Check around in local community groups or talk with your neighbors to see if there are any options available.
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