I’ve a smartphone that works just fine, and my data plan is great for doing plenty of cool things, but some of my data seems to miraculously fade away. If this scenario sounds familiar to you, I’m certain you’d like to know how you could make your device consume a little less data.

It’s definitely not your provider’s fault, and it hasn’t anything to do with the brand of the phone either. However, most smartphones nowadays can easily use up a large amount of data while you won’t even notice it. It can sometimes be due to certain apps that consume more than the others, or it can have something to do with your settings.

data plans

Since no one wants to go over their monthly data limit, it’s important to know what the right settings are in order to save some of the data. Today’s article will go through 10 of the most important steps to take. Most of them work for iOS and Android, but some also apply to Windows phones or BlackBerry. Feel free to share your own tips and ideas to make this article even more useful.

Identify activities that consume a lot of data


There are certain activities that tend to consume much more data that the others. For example, streaming videos and movies or downloading large files from the internet can eat up quite a lot of your data. It’s best to identify what activities do this in the case of your phone, since they can differ from one to the other. You can usually find this detail under Settings -> Data Usage tab in Android or Settings -> General -> Usage -> Cellular Usage on your iPhone. Alternatively, you can use apps like this.

Once you know for sure which ones have this effect, try to limit them or not use your 3G plan for doing this. You can wait until you have access to Wi-Fi at an internet café, at home or school, as well as many other public areas. This way, you won’t be using your own data for streaming or downloading.

Turn off the “Push” setting

There is an option within your iPhone or Android phone’s settings menu that lets you “push” all notifications. This way, you will always know whenever you got a new email or something new happened on one of your social media accounts.

If you don’t necessarily need to get this kind of notifications, we suggest turning this option off. To do this, you only need to go to the Settings folder, click on Notifications in case of iPhone or go to the Device section for Android. This is where you can choose any app (e.g.: Facebook app, Twitter app, Email app) and turn the notifications off. Not the best solution for sure, but at least consider switching off push notifications of unwanted apps.

Don’t create a personal hotspot

personal hotspoit

It is indeed very tempting to create a personal hotspot using your smartphone. However, what many of you may not know is that doing this, you will allow multiple other devices to eat up some of your data via wireless. Therefore, other mobiles phones, tablets or even laptops could use your hotspot to surf the web, and then consume the data you might need at a later time.

This can be easily avoided by simply not clicking on that button that lets you create a hotspot. Similarly, when you connect your device to the laptop for charging (especially in the case of an iPhone), don’t turn the data on, as this will consume a large amount very quickly. It might be tempting to do so while you’re travelling and don’t have internet on your PC. We’d like to recommend using 3G data sticks or waiting until you reach a place with public Wi-Fi.

Find alternatives for your apps

There are a few applications that eat up more data than the other ones. It is simple to check which of them are more damaging by tracking the data usage in your settings menu. Once you know which ones are causing the problem, you can try to find alternatives for them – other similar apps that use less data.

In the case of maps applications, for example, you can go for Apple Maps instead of Google Maps. If you want to go more in-depth, you can decide what you mainly use an application for – if you only use Facebook for messaging, why not switch to WhatsApp?

Change the Wi-Fi settings

If you tend to keep your 3G or 4G turned on at all times, then you should make sure that certain services or applications are using the Wi-Fi and not the 3G for working. While our main suggestion here would be to simply switch the 3G off when not using it, and then turn it back on when you need to get in touch with someone, there are other options, of course.

One of the best things to do is modify your Wi-Fi settings in such a way that the mobile data is only used when it should be. For example, on your iPhone this is done by going to Settings, and then clicking on General, and then going for Mobile Data. Scrolling down a bit, you will see “Use Mobile Data for” – simply turn it off in the case of services that shouldn’t be using your data. Similarly, Android phones have a Wireless and Networks section within Settings, where you can go to Mobile Networks and disable the “Use Packet Data” option.

Be careful with so-called “free” apps

It is true that nobody wants to waste a lot of money on buying applications when there are free options out there. However, you may probably know that nothing that seems to be free is actually entirely costless. While you won’t pay any money directly to the developer, you will lose some of your data faster.

Especially when there is a premium version of the same application, a free one will usually include a lot more ads. This is how you will be wasting data without even realizing. This could all be saved by simply purchasing the premium app if it’s not very expensive – something under $5 shouldn’t be a big deal. You may also want to check if you really need these apps, and in case you realize they’re not all that important, remove them.

Manually close your applications


Except for using a lot of data, this also consumes your battery. You may have noticed that even though you aren’t using a certain application or service at the moment, this one is still open in the background. This causes your phone to work harder in order to keep all the open apps running, and it also uses some of the 3G data.

Therefore, use the Home key on the iPhone and press it twice to see all of your open apps. You can then simply click on the x to close them or pull them towards the upper part of the screen to get rid of those one by one. You can do the same in a similar way on other types of smartphones.

Track the data usage

As mentioned before, being able to track how much data you’ve been using is the key to making things easier. This will allow you to see when you’re using more data, and which apps are making this happen. You will then know which ones you need to uninstall or when you should be looking for alternatives.

There are plenty of apps for doing this, or you can simply use the online account for iPhones. Android devices made it a little easier, by creating a spot for this in the settings menu. Go to Wireless and Networks, and then look for Data Usage.

Avoid updating apps on 3G/4G

app update

You can sometimes update an application using your Wi-Fi at home or work. Similarly, you can connect it to a personal hotspot or do the updating on your computer if you’re using iOS. This way, you can later synchronize all changes using the USB cable you have or via Bluetooth.

The same as you should generally avoid streaming or downloading things over your own 3G/4G, you should also stay away from making updates. By updating an app, you will be downloading a wide amount of new settings and files that make this one work properly, so this will probably eat up quite a lot of data.

Use instant messaging when possible

As we said before, it’s best to identify those apps that let you do what you want without wasting too much data. Most of us use their smartphones to communicate. It’s true that it’s tempting to check who liked your picture and who commented on your post on Facebook, who retweeted you or who wrote a reference on your Linkedin profile. However, these things are not highly important.

You have to admit that you can easily live without having the LinkedIn app installed on your phone, and you can certainly wait until you get to a computer before checking Facebook. For this reason, we recommend using messaging platforms for talking to your friends, colleagues, business contacts and so on. Such programs are WhatsApp, the iMessage for iPhone, the BlackBerry Messenger and few others.


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Alex holds an engineering degree in Telecommunications and has been covering technology as a writer since 2009. Customization is his middle name and he doesn’t like to own stock model gadgets. When he’s away from the keyboard, simpler things like hiking, mountain climbing and having a cold drink make his day.