10 easy ways to reduce mobile phone data usage

Marc Saltzman
October 8, 2012

Aside from texting and maybe the odd call, all the fun things you can do on your smartphone require data.

This includes email, web browsing, downloading and running apps, accessing social media, and streaming music and video.

What's not fun, however, is a huge bill at the end of the month.

To ensure you don't go over your monthly data allowance, take heed to these following tips and tricks.

1. Try to save the activities that eat up a lot of data — like streaming video -- for when you're in a wireless network at home, a café, airport lounge or hotel lobby. To make sure you're using Wi-Fi, temporarily turn off cellular data (in Options or Settings).

2. Be sure to properly close apps when you're not using them as they still might be running in the background and thus, possibly using up data. Doing this will also extend your battery life. On the iPhone, double-tap the Home button to see what's still open (at the bottom of the screen).

3. Try to limit apps that have regularly pushed content — such as stock quotes, weather updates, live sports scores or any such thing -- as your smartphone will use up data on an ongoing basis. Ditto for Siri on your iPhone: your voice-activated personal assistant rocks, but can be a bit of a data hog.

4. While tempting, refrain from creating a personal hotspot with your smartphone as you can have multiple devices eat up your data wirelessly. Similarly, try not to tether your smartphone to your computer to use as a wireless modem.

5. If you need to do any major email correspondence or extensive web surfing, ask yourself if it can wait until you get to a computer. Just because you can do it on a smartphone doesn't mean you should — especially over cellular connectivity.

6. On a related note, turn off "push" mail if you really don't need to know whenever an email comes in right away. Then, when in a Wi-Fi hotspot, pull it all down. Also, enter your email settings to choose "View only," rather than downloading a full attachment.

7. Try to find apps that use less data by doing your research prior to download and use. For example, Apple Maps uses only one-fifth the data of Google Maps, says analytics firm Onavo. Many websites will break down the data amounts for you, per app.

8. When traveling to another country, be sure you're well aware of their roaming rates as it'll be significantly higher (and on top of) your existing data plan. Some carriers offer various travel plans, so be sure to consider one to avoid a nasty surprise on your bill. When in doubt, disable data roaming in the Options/Settings section of your smartphone.

9. Instant Messaging programs like iMessage, WhatsApp Messenger and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) are affordable solutions for friends who want to keep in touch. They use little data, they're fast and reliable, and they offer advantages over texting (such as getting a confirmation when a message has been delivered and read).

10. Don't update apps over cellular connectivity when you can do it on your computer -- and then synchronize the updates to your smartphone via a USB cable or Bluetooth. This will also save you on battery performance, as well.

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