As Internet connectivity evolves, the pricing schemes also evolve. Gone are the days of unlimited, albeit slow Internet packages. Nowadays, the carriers are racing to provide faster speeds, but at a price – bandwidth caps or limitations. So, while subscribers are treated to blazing-fast speeds for mobile Internet connectivity, they’re also constrained by the limitations.
For example, T-Mobile is said to deliver an average of 12.26 MBPS in 4G LTE mobile connectivity, the fastest in the US as of February 2016. However, its base plan at $50 per month only has an allotment of 2GB. If a subscriber wants to enjoy unlimited blazing fast 4G LTE speeds beyond 2GB of downloads and uploads, they’ll have to fork over an extra $45, bringing the total plan price at $95. If the phone is a top-tier flagship model, there might be additional charges as well.
Not everyone needs unlimited data to use when they’re out and about. Seriously, how many times do you really have to check Facebook or email while you’re out of the house or out of your WiFi-covered workplace? You can always wait and go online when you’re back home, at work, or when you’re having coffee in a WiFi-connected café.
But what if you’re waiting for a very important email to come in? What if, you needed to wait for that email for a whole day? Then, you better tweak your phone to ensure that you don’t “bleed” data as you await that all-important email.
While there are similarities and differences in Apple and Android-based devices, there are 4 key principles to saving data while you’re on 3G /4G or Cellular Data mode.
1. Tweak the System.
Step 1. Turn Off WiFi Assist.
WiFi Assist has been controversial in that it has put Apple in hot water. Californian couple William Scott Phillips and Suzanne Schmidt-Phillips filed a class-action lawsuit against Apple for failing to warn consumers that “WiFi Assist” will switch the phone on to 3G/4G data when WiFi signal is poor.
So, to avoid letting your phone eat up your bandwidth allotment needlessly, turn off the feature as illustrated. Your apps will only get to fetch their Internet-powered data when you’re on WiFi.
Step 2. Toggle Off Apps That Eat Up Too Much Data Or Toggle All Of Your Apps Altogether.
Remember the situation illustrated before? When you need to wait for mail so you have to stay online on 3G/4G, but you need to conserve as much data as you can?
Well, now’s the time to ensure that only your most-needed apps will use up your bandwidth.
Go to Settings > Cellular on your iPhone, then look through the list of your apps. Toggle off everything on the list, except for the apps that you need, such as Mail, Gmail, your cloud-synced Calendar of choice, your project management app of choice, or if you only needed Mail, then just content yourself with the Spartan use of data and apps.
As suggested earlier, there are hundreds of ways you can amuse yourself without going online. Sometimes, living on the bare necessities can be a little exciting. In the day and age of extreme connectivity, being a little disconnected could become a refreshing experience. Your data use and your bank account will thank you later.
Step 3. Turn Off Cellular Data, Especially Data Roaming, When Not In Use.
While this step sounds like a given, some people think it’s a “need” to be “always on,” but at a cost.
Unless you’re on an unlimited bucket, which may prove expensive for most carriers, it’s best to keep your cellular data, especially the Data Roaming option, on an “as-needed basis.”
Thankfully, for Android, no feature similar to the WiFi Assist on iOS has been cooked up yet. And with how the WiFi Assist earned the ire of users across the US, it’s just as well. Hopefully, the Android team will avoid implementing such a “bright” idea on Android.
To tweak your settings on the Android, go to Settings > Wireless & Networks > Data Usage > [Choose an app] > Check “Restrict Background Data.”
When you go on 3G/4G, the app will stop pulling data from the Internet and using up your plan’s allotment without your knowledge.
You may restrict all the apps save for the ones you really need, such as Mail, Gmail, your Calendar, and your project management app of choice. Some games sap data in the background, so be sure to check for them too.
2. Use a Data-Saving Browser.
Go to the Opera Icon/Settings > Savings Mode > Make sure that the “EXTREME” data savings icon is activated/green.
On the iOS, this feature is known as “Opera Turbo,” a name they gave the feature years ago. If you note, it has different terminology on the Android version, though they retained the name for iOS and the desktop Opera.
Check the Image Settings and see if you want them turned off while you’re on 3G, or you may use whichever image quality you prefer.
If you want to use Facebook on your Opera Mini browser, go to the Opera Icon > Settings > Facebook Notifications > Check the option next to “Facebook Notifications. This feature may be limited to the Android version of Opera Mini, however.
Opera Mini recently added a “Video Boost” feature, which shows up on the Android only when Data Savings is on “High” and not “Extreme.” This feature lets videos load faster and with less data usage than the usual.
3. Chuck Your Facebook Apps
On Android, users have the option to use the data-saving Facebook Lite instead of the main Facebook App. On my device, the Facebook app has already used 31.35 MB while the Messenger app has used 9.66 MB. Facebook Lite, on the other hand, has used up only 9.66 MB.
On this particular device, Facebook Lite has been used for about 2 months longer than the other Facebook apps. So if you don’t really need all the other features of the full Facebook app, you’d be able to save more data if you use Facebook Lite on the go.
On the iOS, the best alternative is “Friendly Social,” which lets you use multiple Facebook, Messenger, and even Instagram accounts on one app. It saps up less data than the official Facebook app, so that’s good news, indeed.
The app has an ad-free version, which costs a very fair $2.99. Users have raved about “Friendly Social,” so it’s worth a try as a Facebook app alternative.
Else, you could always use Facebook via Safari or Chrome.
4. Use System-Wide Data Compression Apps.
Opera has Opera Max for Android devices while Onavo is available both for iOS and Android.
Onavo has three apps for the iPhone:
- Extend. Saves data use on your iPhone, systemically. This app has earned rave reviews from PCMag and Wired.
- Count. If you want to know how your phone’s apps have been using data for the past 30 days, Count will help you determine where data use has gone. It’s integrated with Onavo Extend.
- Protect. Onavo Protect will save the user from a phishing attempt and other malicious pages and portals. While this doesn’t do anything related to saving data, it’s just good to know that this app is available for the iPhone.
Onavo has both Extend and Onavo available for the Android.
Onavo’s Count and Extend help the user determine and then optimize the data usage on their iPhone and Android, much like Opera Max.
Opera Max, on the other hand, is a one-stop solution for the Android. It has both usage tables and data, as well as data usage functions and controls per app. But check between Onavo’s two-app solution and Opera Max to see which app or set of apps is more intuitive for you to use with your Android.
Given these tips and tricks to limiting data usage on your phone, you’re most likely in no danger of incurring a $2,000 bill no thanks to apps unwittingly sapping data in the background.
With careful monitoring and leveraging functions and apps we suggested here, we’re certain you can easily live on a $50 base plan for mobile Internet surfing worth 2 GB max.
So tweak up and save up!