December 25, 2015 Leave a comment
I recently switched from Verizon Wireless to Google’s Project Fi. Google credits their customers for unused mobile data, so it was in my best interest to use as little data as possible. I used to use between 3GB and 4GB of data each month, but now I use less than 1GB. This dramatic reduction was made possible by following these steps:
- Turn off cellular data when you don’t need it – Some apps use mobile data even when Wi-Fi is available. Other apps sync often or use data in the background and this eats into your monthly data plan. Even with cellular data off, you’ll still be able to make calls and receive texts over the cellular network.
- Monitor your data usage and uninstall problem apps – It’s essential that you go to Settings and review your cellular data usage. Be aware which apps use the most amount of mobile data. Social media, news and weather apps are notorious for syncing often – even if you rarely use them. If you uninstall Facebook, popular new apps and apps like Yahoo Weather, you’ll be surprised how much data you save. You’ll also save battery life. You can still access Facebook via Chrome when you want to. Great news and weather sites can be viewed via browser as well. You can even bookmark them so they appear on your home screen just like an app.
- Restrict background data usage – It’s highly recommended that you go to Settings > Data usage and view the app background data for your apps. I’ve enabled ‘Restrict app background data’ on all apps and haven’t had any problems. When you do this, a warning will appear, but you can ignore it, I’ve been doing this for six months without any problems. I was surprised to find some apps I never use consumed a lot of background data. There is a global setting to restrict background data, but I recommend you do this on a per app basis, so you can enable any apps that have problems.
- Only update apps on Wi-Fi – Make sure you go to Settings in the Play Store app and go to ‘Auto-update apps’ and set it to ‘Do no auto-update apps’ or to ‘Auto-update apps over Wi-Fi only.’ I also uncheck the ‘App updates available’ box as well, so I’m not notified when updates are available.
- Avoid streaming over mobile – Streaming audio and video uses much more data than text. Download or pin your favorite songs or playlists so you can listen to them offline. Avoid streaming video from sites like YouTube or Netflix over mobile because this can consume a large amount of data. If you’re a T-Mobile customer with a binge-on plan, you can ignore this recommendation.
- Use Wi-Fi whenever it’s available – Most people have Wi-Fi at home and work so the only time you should need to use mobile data is when you are on-the-go or travelling. Free public hotspots are common and there are apps that will help you find them. Most broadband providers provide access to free Wi-Fi hotspots as well. Another related tip is to sync before you leave home in the morning. I sync my email, news app, Twitter and RSS feed apps before I leave the house. This save a lot of mobile data. You can also sync Google Maps or download maps in advance so they are available online.
- Change your sync settings – You might want to try disabling ‘Auto-sync data’ by going to Settings > Accounts > Google and touching the 3 dots in the upper right. When you’re on Wi-Fi, you can manually sync all of your Google accounts at any time by going to Settings > Accounts > Google and touching the 3 dots in the upper right and selecting ‘Sync now.’ You can also reduce data consumption by adjusting your Inbox to check for mail less often. I have mine set to ‘Never’ and I still receive notifications when new mail comes in. This change is made in the mail app and not on the Settings pages.
- Know your daily data budget – To consume less than 1GB of data a month, you need to keep your average data usage under 33MB a day. If you consume 60MB in a single day, it’s won’t be a problem as long as consume less than 32MB on other days. If you suspect an app is using too much data, download software like App Tune-up Kit and use it to select the app you want to test. It will run for one minute and measure the amount of mobile data used by the app. Most popular games use large amounts of mobile data. You should only play these apps when you are connected to Wi-Fi.
- Avoid apps with ads – Apps with ads consume more mobile data than apps without ads. If the apps you use have ad-free versions available, purchase them. This is one example where spending a few bucks will save you money in the long run.
- Use other’s data – If you have a friend or family member with unlimited data, ask if you can tether and share their data. If you’re phone doesn’t support this feature free of charge, there are apps in Google Play like FoxFi that do this.
Using mobile data consumes over twice as much power as Wi-Fi data, so you won’t just save money, you’ll also extend your battery life. I ended up reducing my monthly phone bill from over $70 to less than $30. That’s a savings of almost 60%. Check to see if your carrier offers discounts if you change your plan to one that uses less data. If they don’t consider switching to a carrier who does. The savings add up quickly. In five years, I’ll save $2400.
Keep in mind you don’t have to follow all of the above steps to benefit. By only following a few of these steps you are likely to cut your data usage in half. The more of the steps you follow, the more you’ll save. One benefit for Project Fi users of training yourself to use less data is that you can travel internationally and not change your habits at all. Google charges the same for data in the states that they charge on international roaming.
Copyright 2015 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged. All of the comments in this blog are Rick’s alone and do not reflect the views of his employer.
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