As phones have become smarter, their need to rely on the established mobile network for calls and texts has been reduced. This has been accompanied by an increasing reliance on data. Mobile companies have responded to this by keeping an increasingly tight rein on the amount of data you are permitted to consume, and charging a premium for the privilege. The increasing size of applications, and their ever-growing thirst for data, mean that unless you have an unlimited data usage plan you can easily find yourself incurring expensive charges. In this post I look at a few different ways of reducing data usage on Android phones.
It is not just the obvious music and video streaming apps that eat up your data allowance; other apps can be using data all the time without you realising. Checking which apps are the most data-hungry is the first step to reducing data usage.
Check Which Apps are Using the Most Data
Android will allow you to check your current month’s usage. Navigate to:
Settings > Data Usage
The chart at the top of the screen shows data usage that month, and scrolling down will show you the apps that have used the most data, organised by MB used. You can also check data usage by logging into your providers’ website. Note that this is solely cellular data, and doesn’t include Wifi.
If you click on each app, you will see how much data it is using in the foreground – when you are using it – and in the background, when you are not engaging with it.
There are measures that we can take to reduce the data usage of particular apps, but first we will look at general measures.
Change Settings to Restrict Data Usage
Many applications are working in the background, routinely updating themselves to keep your content fresh – e.g. Gmail refreshing your emails automatically. This can be very convenient; but will increase background data usage.
Navigate to settings, click the 3-dot menu button at the top and choose ‘restrict data usage’. This will prevent apps from using data in the background.
Restrict Auto Updates to Wifi
This will prevent applications updating automatically over the data network. Open the Google Play Store app, click on menu settings, tap auto update apps, and change to only over Wifi.
Turn off Data Entirely
Sometimes the simplest method is the best. Doing this will mean all of your internet is restricted to only Wifi. Navigate to settings, press data usage and then flick the mobile data switch from on to off.
Adjust Google Chrome
Web browsing can be very data hungry. Sites full of videos, images and advertisements can eat up your allowance, but google chrome can actually be optimised.
Turning on data compression in chrome can speed up browsing and save you up to 50% in data; a significant reduction. Just open up chrome, tap on the 3-dot menu in the top corner and pick settings, then push data saver.
Download Maps in Advance
Google maps has the ability to cache areas of map ahead of time. Simply open the google map app on wifi, navigate to your chosen destination, tape the 3-dot menu and then select download. The area will then be retained for offline use.
Alternatively, you could use an offline maps application like maps.me, which allows you to download whole countries over wifi before you travel.
Download Music in Advance
If you use Spotify or Apple Music, the premium services allow you to sync playlists to your phone so you can listen offline. Do this in advance over Wi-fi.
Adjust Google Drive
If you like to work on your files on the cloud on the go without data, Google Drive allows this. Just go into the settings and check make available offline.
Remove Useless Apps
Ensure that the only apps on your phone are those that you use regularly, unused apps may still be using data in the background. Apps that come with the android operating system can also be disabled.
Use a Data Restricting App
If you don’t find Android satisfactory in this respect, you can download another app to monitor and limit data usage. Popular ones include Onavo Count, Onavo Extend, and Opera Max.