How to minimise your 3G data use
If you’ve got a smartphone, the chances are you’re on a tariff that has a certain amount of data included. Usually, this is 500MB a month. Sometimes it’s more, and sometimes it’s less.
Going over your data cap can be costly, as extra downloads that you haven’t paid for in advance often come at a premium. So how do you make sure you stay within your limits?
The good news is that so long as you aren’t downloading movies over your 3G connection, 500MB a month is plenty to do everything you might want to in terms of browsing the web, reading emails or even streaming music.
Anything that requires a lot of data, like downloading or updating new apps or upgrading your operating system, can be done over wifi at home.
The tricky bit is managing what your phone is doing when you’re not looking.
1. Be aware of your limits
The important thing is to know what tariff you’re on. If you can’t remember, check on your next bill or in your account settings on your mobile provider’s website. If you’re on pre-pay, make sure you know how much data you purchased when you last topped up.
2. Monitor your use
There are plenty of apps, such as Onavo Count, that will monitor the amount of data you’ve downloaded since your last bill/top up, but most phones have a built-in feature that does the same thing.
For Android phones, it’s in Settings>Data usage – nice and easy to find. You can set a date range from your last bill to see what you’ve used.
On an iPhone it’s a bit more complex go to Settings>General>Usage>Mobile Usage. You’ll have to manually reset this counter every month.
3. Use wifi whenever you can
When you’re at home, your phone should automatically connect to your wifi network every time you’re in range. You should only need to set this up once by going into the wireless settings of your phone and entering your router’s password. The catch is that if you’ve turned wifi off to save battery life when you’re out and about, you’ll need to remember to turn it on again when you get back.
Also, some Android phones will automatically enter a power saving mode if the battery drops below 50%, and turn off wifi by themselves. Get into the habit of checking regularly to make sure it’s switched on.
Remember that some contracts will allow you to use certain wifi hotspots for free. If you’re in a cafe with wifi access, for example, use it.
4. Turn off automatic updating
This is one for Android phones, which have a setting to allow apps to download updates in the background. Tap Settings while in the Play store and you’ll find an option to disable automatic updating or set to to ‘wifi only’.
5. Turn off sync
If you find you’re regularly using more than your allowance, you may be running a lot of services like Facebook, Twitter, email and certain news reading apps, which download new content in the background too. That’s great if you want alerts all the time, but does mean they’re constantly hitting your network.
Often, these will have a setting within the app to restrict downloads to wifi or set them to only update when you tell them to. There are also global settings that will affect all apps in Android’s Settings>Accounts and Sync menu.
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