11 Ways to Reduce Your Data Usage and Lower Your Cell Phone Bill
We love our smartphones and all we can do with them. Video chat with friends and family, browse social media, play games, listen to music, watch our favorite streaming services and so much more.
But using our phones a lot on a cellular network can really gobble up our monthly data — especially if we don’t have an unlimited data plan — and that may come with unexpected overages and bills, too.
If you’re looking to save some money by conserving your data usage, here are 11 easy tips.
Connect to WiFi whenever possible
By now, you are most likely connecting to your home’s WiFi network to use your home’s internet connection to access data on your phone — but if you’re not, turn it on right now!
Connecting to WiFi networks consistently can surely reduce the amount of cellular data you use, and this is always our first recommendation for our members. Unfortunately, we’ve seen situations where customers thought they were connected to their home WiFi network while watching Netflix, but were using cellular data instead. For reference, streaming high quality audio uses over 100MB per hour while HD quality video can use anywhere between 1GB to 3GB per hour.
To avoid mishap, make sure your WiFi settings are turned on, and you are connected to an available and safe WiFi network — at home or away.
Be wary of public WiFi networks
Speaking of safe WiFi networks, be careful of public WiFi networks, like at coffee shops, shopping areas, or airports, as you may put your personal information at risk. Many times these networks are not secure and other users may be able to see your internet traffic, including your personal information, logins and passwords.
If you are going to use a public WiFi network to reduce your cellular data usage, make sure you are connecting to secure networks and connecting to secure websites and apps. Consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) app to encrypt your internet activity (here’s our tip on how to get a VPN for your phone). And make sure not to access personal or financial information on public WiFi.
Here are some more tips from the Federal Trade Commission on how to use public WiFi networks safely.
Enable Data Saver / Low Data Mode
Data Saver (Android) and Low Data Mode (Apple) are built-in features that allow people with limited data plans to conserve data by pausing background data refresh, data syncs and more while using mobile data.
- On iPhone, go to Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Options > Data Mode > Select Low Data Mode
- On Android, go to Settings app > Tap Network and Internet And then Data Saver > Turn Data Saver on or off.
Disable background app refresh
Some of your apps will continue to gather data in the background while you’re not using your phone if you do not enable one of the features above, so here’s how to disable background app refresh manually:
- To turn this feature off for your apps on iOS, go to Settings > General > Background App Refresh. Here, you can choose whether you want this feature on or off completely, or just WiFi only. You can also toggle this on and off for individual apps.
- On Android, go to Settings > Data Usage to see which apps are using the most data. Tap on the app you’d like to restrict and disable background data.
Prevent photos and videos from backing up over cellular network
Cloud backup services, like iCloud and Google One, are great for backing up your photos and other important data, but they can really eat into your data plan if they are syncing over a cellular network. It’s a good idea to turn that setting off to conserve data.
- On an iPhone, go to Settings > Photos > Cellular Data > then toggle off Cellular Data
- On an Android, open Google Photos > Tap the Account icon > Settings > Backup & sync > Cell data usage > Select None.
Turn off Wi-Fi Assist or Smart Network Switch
WiFi Assist (iOS) and Smart Network Switch (some Android models) are built-in settings that try to boost a spotty or slow WiFi connection by using your cellular connection. But, these settings can also use a lot of data, too.
- To turn this setting on or off on your Apple device, go to Settings > Cellular or Settings > Mobile Data. Then scroll down and tap the slider for WiFi Assist.
- On your Android device, go to Settings > Connections > WiFi. Tap the three dots, select Advanced, and tap the slider for “Switch to mobile data.”
Turn off cellular data for specific apps
Some apps are data hogs, and you might not know which ones are eating up your monthly cellular data until it’s too late. Thankfully, you have some control to limit which specific apps can be used on a cellular network for both Apple and Android devices.
- On iOS, go to Settings > Cellular. Scroll down to see which apps are using cellular data and toggle them on or off. You will also be able to view which apps are using the most data and consider limiting their use only to when you’re on a WiFi network.
- For Android, the process may vary depending on the device model. Open the Settings app > Wireless & networks > Data usage > Network access > Selectively uncheck which apps you would like to prevent from using cellular data.
Limit monthly data usage (Android)
Keeping an eye on your monthly data usage will really go a long way to prevent unexpected overages.
Android makes it very easy to limit your monthly data usage with a built-in feature allowing you to set up a warning when you’re reaching your data limit — or by actually limiting your cellular data to a set amount based on your billing cycle. Here’s how to set that up (note: these instructions may vary depending on your device):
- Go to Settings > Network & internet > Data usage > Data warning & limit (or Data limit & billing cycle) to set your maximum amount of data you want to use for the month. Or, tap “App data usage cycle” to set the first day of your billing cycle.
Watch your monthly data (iOS)
Apple devices don’t include the same built-in feature to physically restrict your data usage, so you’ll need to keep an eye on your data use in your device’s settings.
- To see how much cellular data you’ve used, go to Settings > Cellular > Scroll down to Cellular data.
- Alternatively, you can log into your CREDO account periodically to keep an eye on your data usage, too!
Update apps over WiFi only
If you have your apps set to update automatically, they may be draining your data over a cellular network. You can set your device to update apps over WiFi only to save your monthly data.
- On iOS, go to Settings > App Store > scroll to “Cellular Data” and toggle “Automatic Downloads” to the off position.
- On Android, go to the Play Store and tap Menu > Settings > Auto-update apps, then select “Auto-update apps over Wi-Fi only.”
Upgrade your data plan
If you’ve tried all the tips above and you’re still using too much data, you may want to consider upgrading to a plan with a higher monthly data limit. In the end, it may be one of the best options if you need more cellular data than your current plan allows.