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Mobile Tips

8 Ways to Reduce Your Data Usage on Android and iOS

In a perfect world, you would be able to travel to any country, land at your destination’s airport to find a Wi-Fi connection on a silver platter waiting for you to use for the entire duration of your trip. Unfortunately if the spiked price of a small Starbucks coffee hasn’t convinced you of the imperfection of the world we live in then surely the attack of roaming charges on your data bundle once you travel abroad will prove just that point.

Mobile network providers have pretty much maxed out their ability to offer unlimited data at a time where it is perhaps in its highest demand.  So where do consumers find themselves now? Buying capped data bundles at sky high prices and looking for ways to appreciate their limited data plans. But how can Smartphone users make the most of their capped plans. How does an online savvy nation like Generation Y make the most of a limited data plan? The great news for you is that there are always hacks to such things, so here are 8 easy ways to reduce your data usage while you are travelling.

Keep track of just how much data you are using

It’s always a good thing for any Smartphone user to be able to track their data usage, or else controlling usage might prove to be a bit difficult. There are a few interesting options that will get you started on just the right track for both Android and iOS devices. Firstly, and the most obvious way to track data usage, is to search for that information right in our Settings option (Settings > Wireless and network, then press Data usage). The function gives you an indication of how much data you have consumed within a month with the option to view the consumption in previous months as well.

You will be able to check how much data each of your active apps consume too, although bear in mind that this function on Smartphone is as limited as the amount of ketchup sachets that come with your medium fries at Mcdonalds, and that’s really as limited as life can get. You will have much better options in tracking your data usage by using Onavo; it’s so much more detailed. It offers monthly reports and provides a detailed data plan analysis as well as summaries that will show you whether or not you are using all of the data each month. As an added benefit, Onavo even compresses your incoming and outgoing so that your overall data usage is reduced.

Some Apps Should Be Kept off of Cellular Data

With the amount of apps, games, music and video streaming sites available these days these days, mobile software developers have pretty much had to make ways to ensure that mobile users’ data doesn’t automatically surrender to automatic updates and downloads right after it is loaded in. Take iOS 7 for example, it allows you to stop certain apps from consuming your 3G/4G data, thereby only allowing them to use Wi-Fi connections. Just go to Settings, select Cellular, and then select Cellular Network Data. Here you will be able to see how much data you have used, plus there’s the toggle next to each app that you can use to stop it from using your data plan. Remember, or this function to be useful you must reset the tracker at the beginning of each data bundle cycle.

Always Go for Wi-Fi

Well here is an obvious one:

Just like the Lookout on the Titanic who yelled “iceberg!” ,this had to be said. Wi-Fi spots can pretty much be found just about anywhere these days, so if happened to save our web page before travelling and are now perhaps reading this article shipwrecked in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, try switching your Wi-Fi detector on, it’s no longer an outrageous thing to do.

Using Wi-Fi hotspots is always a recommended mobile data saving move, whether it’s the Wi-Fi in your home or at work. When you are connected to Wi-Fi, your apps and download will consume data from that connection and will save your data bundle from complete annihilation. Like all promising mass gain Protein supplements, however, using Wi-Fi also has a side-effect; it drains your battery quite significantly. A good idea on how to find Wi-Fi spots is too use a Wi-Fi app.

Wi-Fi Finder has over 550,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in 144 countries. The app works well with Smartphone GPS navigation systems to locate strong Wi-Fi spots nearby. The app goes even further by listing details of each Wi-Fi spot such as the provider, the type of location and whether it is a free or paid hotspot.

Try to Avoid Streaming Music or Video on your 3G connection 

So you’ve heard the new Tailor Swift album, and we know, every song on the album is a hit, how does she do it right? But streaming the entire album online will most definitely wipe out your data bundle faster than you think. So cutting down on your streaming time on any connection other than Wi-Fi is definitely a good idea. A good way to save yourself from stream temptation is to transfer your iTunes library to your iPhone so you don’t have to stream it later. Alternatively you can choose the option of adjusting the audio quality of your music to bitrate, that way you will limit the consumption of data.

Be careful of other data-heavy apps too

Okay so you are starting to master the art of turning a 2GB data plan into …but you aren’t out of the gutter yet. Social media apps, games, cloud storage apps all prey on 3G data plans and can easily consume your data with all the updates that happen in the background without your knowledge.

What will come in handy when it comes to getting all the facts on your data usage, there isn’t quite an app like Onavo. It’s available for Android and iOS users. The app has a free Onavo Count feature that shows you how much data your apps are using, plus you can see automatically generated weekly and monthly data usage reports. Onavo even shows users a list of the most popular apps on their mobile phones and how much data they use on average.

The added “You vs. Everyone” analysis feature, tells you how much data each of your apps is using in comparison with other people’s apps. This function really comes in handy because it can alert you to excessive data usage; for example, if your Cloud storage app is consuming way more data than other people’s Cloud storage apps are, you should probably adjust your sync settings to reduce data usage.

Turn off background app refresh

With the exception of the ability to babysitting your children on date night, iOS and Android have pretty figured out how to help us to run our lives.  These days mobile software can pretty much allow apps that you download to receive new incoming messages automatically or to download incoming media files on autopilot in the background while your data is enabled, and they all use your data to do so.  Disabling this feature is quite easy.

iOS users can simply open Settings>select General> then select Background App Refresh. Then switch the Background App to the off position. You should then tick the Restrict Background data to keep any background apps from consuming your data. For Android users, the steps are as follows: Select Settings app>then Data Usage>then go to More Settings (three dots in the top right corner). Finally, check the box labelled Restrict background data. Save your settings by tapping OK.

The good news with Android is that if you are connected to a Wi-Fi network, background apps will still be able to use this connection to send and receive information in the background unlike iPhone, so it’s pretty much a win-win for you and your data. Now that’s how to run a life

Set a data cap on Android

Android phones have quite interestingly become the ultimate convenience software. It keeps making sure that its users always know that they have all control over their mobile activity. That’s right, even with the complex apps and software upgrades getting into your phone; there are still options that give you the power to control your data activity. Android allows users to set an arbitrary mobile data limit and once that limit has been reached, your phone will prevent any app from using your 3G data connection and will allow them to use Wi-Fi connections.

To select this option, users must open Settings> then select Data Usage. From there Set mobile data limit. This option will now be turned on and you will be able to adjust your limit in the data usage chart below the mobile data limit toggle. Use the drag thumb on the right-hand side of the chart to set your data limit, and to tell your phone when you’d like to receive a warning about your data usage.

Turn off Push/Auto-sync

A really good way to shield your data from being even subtly consumed without you being aware is to restrict apps from automatically synchronizing with a remote server. How can you do this?

For Android:

Head for the Settings icon> select Wireless and Network> choose Data usage and tap on Auto Sync to turn the option on or off. A good idea to protect any unexpected data consumption is to restrict background data consumption by connected accounts such as Facebook, Google, and Linkedin. Go to Settings> then scroll down to the Accounts section, and select the account that you want to limit. You will then be able to choose what to sync or not to sync and how often e.g.: you can elect to sync your Facebook calendar, contacts, or pictures at different intervals.

For iOS users:

iOS users are also able to stay in control of their data consumption by turning off push mail and push notifications. For users to be able to do that they must ensure that your mail app isn’t constantly checking for new messages by going to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars and select Fetch New Data. Toggle the Push switch to off, and set the Fetch schedule to Manually.         

Now You Can Make a 2GB Data Plan Feel Seem like Its Unlimited

Granted, living on a 2GB Data plan still needs some getting used to, but it is definitely worth the effort.  In any case, do you really need to constantly be online checking every social media update as soon as they happens or liking every Instagram picture that probably had at least 4 filters added to it before it was uploaded, we didn’t think so. It will do you good to be able to have complete control in the consumption of your data. So just so that you will be able to stretch your next 2GB data plan to the functions that you really need it for, always opt for a Wi-Fi connection if there is one for your apps, downloads, website visits. With this amount of control, you might just start using the terms unlimited and limited interchangeably.

Are you going to travel soon? Don’t miss our List of Apps for Travelers!


Roaming charges are still most notably the biggest hassle for overseas travelers. Fortunately there is a way to get rid of any roaming charges, make and receive unlimited calls from all over the world and even use local mobile number while you are overseas. Want to know more?

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Written by Mbula Ngulube

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