How to save mobile data

Some top tips to help you stay within your data limits.
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How to save mobile data

Data. When you’re out and about, Snapchatting and WhatsApping all over the shop, it’s your best mate.

But when your bill comes at the end of the month and you’ve gone massively over your limit, it can suddenly become your worst enemy.

If you’re fed up of always going over your data limit, here’s a bit of sage wisdom for you…

Saving mobile data

It’s actually much easier than it sounds, but you will need to be strict with yourself.

The first thing to know is which apps are using the most data. Then you can stop using these apps so much (or just make sure they’re closed) during those tighter months.

Pay special attention to apps like these:

  • Snapchat, Instagram and other social media apps can use a lot of data, especially if you are posting and watching videos.
  • WhatsApp and other instant messaging apps are prime culprits because photos and videos are automatically downloaded. To stop this happening on WhatsApp, go to Settings > Chats and turn off “Media visibility”.
  • Streaming apps like YouTube, Spotify and Netflix can sap up mobile data like it’s nobody’s business. Some streaming apps let you restrict to Wi-Fi only – fiddle around in the app settings to save yourself from temptation.

Girl checking her phone on a run

To check your total data usage:

  • On Android, go to Settings > Network & Internet > Data Usage. You should see a bar letting you know how close you are to your data limit. You can also click App data usage to see a break-down of the data used by each app.
  • On iOS, go to Settings > Mobile > Mobile Data Usage. ‘Current Period’ will show you how much data you have used, but you will need to manually reset this each month.

Once you know how much data you’ve been using, you can stop yourself going over your limits. The best place to start is by restricting background data.

How to restrict background data

Doing this will make sure you’re not using unexpected mobile data while your phone is idle.

To restrict background data:

  • On Android, you can restrict background data for individual apps. Go to Settings > Networks & Internet > Data usage > App Data Usage to see how much data you are using in each app. Click on an app, then untick Background data to limit data to only when you’re using it.
  • On iOS, you can restrict all background data. Go to Settings > General > Background App Refresh and set the slider to off. To restrict individual apps, go to Settings > General > Restrictions and tap Enable Restrictions. You will be asked to set up a 4-number PIN, and you can then use the switch next to each app to restrict its data usage.

Restricting background data will stop data being sapped without you knowing, but it won’t stop you going over your limit when you’re using your phone normally. That’s why you should make sure you have enough data on your plan.

How much data do I need?

To answer this question, you should do some quick maths to work out exactly how much data you need.

girl taking a selfie with her phone

To do this, work out how much data you usually use, how often you use data and whether you are regularly going over your limit.

For instance, make a note of how often (rarely/sometimes/regularly) you do these things:

  • Scroll through social media
  • Send and receive content on messaging apps
  • Make calls or video calls using an app
  • Send and receive emails
  • Download new apps or use online apps
  • Stream video or music
  • Browse the internet

You should also think about your lifestyle. The big question is, how often do you need data?

  • Do you have Wi-Fi at home?
  • Do you have Wi-Fi at work?
  • Do you have Wi-Fi on your train or bus to work?
  • Do you regularly use data while you’re out and about, e.g. for maps or music?
  • Do you ever use your phone as a hotspot?

boy using phone with his friends

Using these questions – and of course, paying attention to your data usage – you can work out how much you probably need.

  • If you need a small amount of data – you can probably survive with up to 5GB per month
  • If you need a medium amount of data – 8GB is enough for about 1–2 hours of data use per day
  • If you need a lot of data – 12GB should cover your web browsing and streaming for a month
  • If you need an exceptionally large amount of data – for instance, if you work remotely, consider getting up to 20GB, or even more, per month

How do I set my data usage limit?

If you’ve turned off background data and you’ve chosen a plan that suits you but you’re still going over your limit, there’s one more thing you can do.

Guy checking a graph on his phone

Set up a warning, or a limit, to make sure you never overspend. This is the nuclear option, so beware! Once you’ve hit your limit, your phone will stop using data entirely, which means:

  • You won’t be able to send and receive messages or calls on apps
  • You won’t be able to access the internet
  • You won’t be able to access social media

… unless, of course, you have Wi-Fi.

If you still want to set up a warning:

  • On Android, go to Settings > Network & Internet > Data usage > Mobile data usage > Settings and tap Data warning. Enter a number to set when you want to receive a warning and press Set.
  • Unfortunately iOS does not offer alerts, but there are apps you can use instead, such as DataMan.

Or, to make your phone automatically switch off data when you hit your cap:

  • On Android, go to Settings > Network & Internet > Data usage > Mobile data usage > Settings and turn on Set data limit. You’ll see an on-screen message. Press Ok, then Data limit and enter the number of Gb you want to set your limit at. Then press Set.
  • Unfortunately there’s no way to do this on iPhone but you can at least stop your iPhone using mobile data when there is no Wi-Fi available. To do this, go to Settings > Mobile Data and turn off Wi-Fi Assist.

Looking to change your data allowance? Check out some of our SIM Only deals

What are your thoughts? Join the conversation here…

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