9 ways to reduce your mobile data usage and save money
Over the last year, we’ve been using the Internet more than ever before. In fact, at-home data usage surged during the pandemic as many people transitioned to remote work and learning and spent more time streaming entertainment from home.
Now as life starts returning to normal — and we’re home less often — we could see large spikes in our cellular data usage since our mobile devices will no longer be tethered to our home WiFi networks.
All this cellular data usage may come with unexpected overages and bills, too. Here are some easy-to-follow tips to help you find ways to conserve your data and save some money at the same time.
Connect to WiFi whenever possible
Over the last year, you most likely were connected to your home WiFi network when using your mobile device, which reduced the amount of cellular data you used. Unfortunately, we’ve seen situations where customers thought they were connected to their home WiFi network while watching Netflix, but unfortunately, they were using cellular data and eating up monthly usage. For reference, streaming HD quality video can use anywhere between 1GB to 3GB per hour.
As you venture into the world, you will have opportunities to connect to other WiFi networks to help reduce your cellular data consumption. Here are some quick tips:
- To connect to a WiFi, make sure your WiFi settings are turned on, and you are connected to an available WiFi network. Here’s how to connect to WiFi for iOS and Android.
- If you’re working in an office or other workplace, check with your employer to see if you can connect your device to your employer’s network securely over WiFi during the work day.
- When visiting friends and family, ask to connect to their WiFi network if possible.
Be wary of public WiFi networks
As always, 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.
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 Wi-Fi Assist.
- On your Android device, go to Settings > Connections > Wi-Fi. 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 your Apple device, go to Settings > Cellular or Settings > Mobile Data. 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 devices, 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 or Settings > Mobile Data. (On an iPad, it may be Settings > Cellular Data)
- You can also reset your data usage for the “Current Period” here every month so you know how much you’re using each billing cycle.
- 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.”
Disable app data in the background
Some of your apps will continue to gather data in the background while you’re not using your phone. This is a great feature for, say, a news app to give you the freshest information the next time you load the app, but not every app needs this feature.
- 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.
Upgrade your data plan
If all else fails, you have the option to upgrade 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.