How To Reduce Mobile Data Usage of Your Smartphone

You’re probably using more mobile data than you need to. If you’re overpaying for an unlimited plan, by all means use as much as you possibly can. If you’ve realized that there’s a smarter way to do mobile though, then read on.

If you’re not interested in using your smartphone less, don’t sweat it! Often, all it takes is switching on a setting or scheduling a download to cut your monthly mobile data usage by half.

Our first six simple tips to save on mobile data post garnered a ton of helpful reader tips and feedback. So, we’re doing the redux!

Following is a list of popular Android apps that include options to reduce the amount of data sent across a mobile network. We also include a section on Google’s universal toggle for disabling mobile data, so if you’re only interested in one data saving tip today, make it this one!

Reduce Mobile Data Usage

1. Compress Chrome pages

Assuming you use Chrome for all your web traffic, this tip alone can save you 30-35 percent of your mobile browser data consumption. Compressing Chrome pages, now know as Data Saver in the settings, compresses web pages before loading them in your browser.

Using Data Saver does slow things down a tiny bit, but you quickly get used to it and a moment's delay is worth it when your data lasts so much longer. Just launch Chrome, tap the three dots in the top right hand corner, go down to Settings and then to Data Saver. Keep an eye on the graph every now and then to see your data savings grow.

2. Control the background data usage of your applications.

Many people are often surprised about apps consuming data even when they’re not actively being used. This is known as “background data usage”: it’s when applications download data in the background – often silently and automatically without input.

Background data is a useful feature for keeping information up-to-date without you manually needing to press a button (e.g. a weather application will always have the latest forecast and your phone book will always have the latest contacts).

Although background data is normally a useful feature, it can sometimes be unwanted (e.g. when rarely-used apps update themselves in the background and use up your precious allowance of data). For this reason, it can be highly worthwhile to disable background data for certain applications. On iPhone, you can do this through Settings > General > Background App Refresh. On Android, you can find the background data option by tapping an application in the Data Usage monitor.

3. Switch to a Lightweight Browser

While the default browser in Android gets better with each release, it still leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to minimizing data usage. Fortunately there are several alternatives that feature data compression and optimization to help reduce usage.

Chrome Beta: The newest optimized browser is actually a Google offering. The most recent offering of Chrome Beta features  a new experimental proxy service run by Google that promises to radically increase mobile browsing speeds while decreasing data loads. In order to turn on access to this new proxy system, you will need to enter the address chrome://flags in the address bar of Chrome Beta and enable the entry for Experimental Data Compression Proxy. The release and the feature are brand new so we haven’t had long to play with them, but so far the project looks promising. Expect the proxy feature and optimization to appear in the regular release of Chrome in the near future.

Opera Mini: Google may have finally got around to jumping on the optimized-mobile-browser band wagon but Opera has been working on it for years. Opera Mini is a lightning fast mobile browser powered by Opera’s optimization proxies. The fast user interface, fast browsing experience, and page optimization have made Opera Mini one of the most downloaded Android browsers around.

TextOnly: If you’re a hardcore reductionist, TextOnly is where it’s at. TextOnly offers you three approaches to the website browsing. You can browse the site’s RSS feed in browser, you can browse the page stripped down to just the text for a Gopher-like web browsing experience, or you can browse the page in its mobile-optimized format.  TextOnly isn’t exactly the most popular browser in the Play Store but don’t let that throw you off — it delivers on its promise of ultra-minimal data use.

4. Online gaming

Don't worry, Trivia Crack addicts, turn-based games like this and Words With Friends aren't heavy data-users. However, real-time action games like Asphalt 8 and Modern Combat 5: Blackout are a different story, with some estimates pegging their data use at 1MB per minute of play.

5. Use WiFi At Home

Almost every smartphone or tablet that’s capable of cellular data also includes a Wi-Fi radio. You can use this to connect to a home wireless network just as you would connect a laptop or desktop PC, and once connected, cellular data won’t be used.

Both Android and iOS users can connect to a wireless network by opening the Settings menu, switching Wi-Fi on and then tapping the Wi-Fi entry to open a list of available networks. Just enter your home network’s security key and you’re done.

Users on iOS can further refine usage by going to Settings -> General -> Cellular. Scroll to the bottom of that menu and you’ll see the option to turn cellular data on or off for various services. Turning them all off will reduce data usage.


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