Being online has never been more central to our lives. Almost 8 out of 10 people now own a smartphone and data rates are rapidly increasing. Many applications and mobile websites use data-heavy images and videos, gobbling up precious mobile data allowances. Many people need to stretch their data allowance further and further each month to stay connected.
Here’s a quick how-to to make your smartphone work smarter not harder, and help you make that data allowance go further, leaving you with plenty of data spare to watch that essential cat video!
1. Connect to Wi-Fi when you can
Potential Savings: 250MB/Month
Free Wi-Fi is readily available in many bars and restaurants when you are out and about and taking advantage of this can save huge amounts of data. Most places freely advertise their Wi-Fi password on menus or blackboards, but if they don't, just ask. If you have connected to a Wi-Fi router before then your iPhone should remember it and connect automatically when you are in range. There're some great apps to help you find where free Wi-Fi located near you like "Free Wi-Fi Map" and "Free Wi-Fi Finder".
250MB/Month savings assumes you use your local coffee shop's Wi-Fi 3 times a week for 20 minutes of social media browsing each time rather than using your mobile data.
To ensure Wi-Fi is turned on, go to: Settings > Wi-Fi.
2. Individually turn off mobile data on unnecessary applications & have them update through Wi-Fi
Potential Savings: 375MB/Month
A lot of apps use mobile data but chances are you only need mobile data running on a select few apps all the time, such as messaging apps and social media apps. A good rule of thumb is that any app where you don't need to receive notifications probably doesn't need mobile data all the time.
Updating applications can also be a huge data guzzler as most apps are tens or hundreds of MB in size. If you have multiple apps that download automatically over your mobile data it can eat away at your data very quickly.
375MB/Month savings assumes fifteen 25MB application updates run over Wi-Fi rather than over your mobile data connection.
Here's how to limit the mobile data to the select apps you need to use when your not connected to Wi-Fi:
Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data > Scroll through apps > Toggle mobile data off on unnecessary applications.
Here's How-to restrict apps to update through Wi-Fi only:
Settings > iTunes & App Stores > Use cellular data > Off
3. Turn off Wi-Fi Assist
Potential Savings: 100MB/Month
Apple’s “Wi-Fi assist” will automatically use mobile data when Wi-Fi connectivity is poor to keep you connected. While this is a nice feature intended to improve your browsing experience, it can be hard to tell if your phone is using mobile data or Wi-Fi with this feature turned on. To be safe, start with Wi-Fi assist off, if your applications are not working properly then switch Wi-Fi assist to on. Next to the on and off toggle switch you can see how much data Wi-Fi assist has consumed while on.
100MB saving will depend on your access to reliable Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi assist data consumption will increase if you frequently move onto poor quality Wi-Fi networks.
Settings > Cellular > Scroll to bottom > Wi-fi Assist > Off
4. Turn off Background App Refresh
Potential Savings: 50MB/Month
Background App Refresh (BAR) allows iOS apps to refresh their contents in the background via mobile data or Wi-Fi so when the application is launched it saves you time. This will also cost you some data. If you turn BAR completely off that will ultimately save you the most data. However, you may want to leave this option on for some apps because Apple designed BAR to work intelligently and efficiently. BAR allows apps to temporarily refresh in the background then freeze, so it uses less mobile data. BAR also tries to refresh while you are in Wi-Fi or in a spot where you usually check the apps. Individually turning off Background App Refresh on the unnecessary apps and only leaving it on for essential apps will probably be your best bet.
The amount of data saved per month will vary depending on which apps are able to refresh in the background, but we've put the figure at 50MB.
Individually Turn off Background App Refresh:
Settings > General > Background App Refresh > Background App Refresh On > Scroll through apps > Turn off on unnecessary apps
Completely Turn off Background App Refresh:
Settings > General > Background App Refresh > Off
5. Limit iCloud to Wi-Fi
Potential Savings: 420MB/Month
iCloud allows you to backup important data on Apple’s servers in case you lose your phone. It also links up your Apple accounts with other Apple devices so you can access your files and data from any device. For example, your iTunes songs will be on your iPhone, Mac, and iPad. However, this can take up and use mobile data if allowed.
Regular backups of important data are definitely recommended so rather than turning this off, we recommend that you perform backups over Wi-Fi. It is also possible to turn backups off for apps where you don't mind losing data (e.g. that Tiny Wings high score can probably go!)
420MB savings assumes that you move backups of 20 photos and 2 videos per week onto Wi-Fi, with 100MB allocated for other application related backups.
Settings > iCloud > iCloud Drive > Scroll down to 'Use Cellular Data' > Turn off
6. Configure App settings to save data
Potential Savings: 750MB/Month
Many applications will have options that can help you limit your mobile data usage significantly. On applications that you use frequently, play around in the settings to see if there's any way you can cut down on mobile data use. Some examples of data-saving settings on common applications are:
- Turn off autoplay videos on Facebook when on mobile data
- Turn off auto-download of video and audio files on WhatsApp
- Limit Youtube to download HD videos only while on Wi-Fi
Savings of 750 MB/Month assumes that you don't autoplay 5 videos per day at an average video size of 5MB.
7. Preload data
Potential Savings: 250MB/Month
It can be wise to store data before you need it. While this is not possible for social media apps, many mapping applications (such as Google Maps) allow you to download a map for an entire region over Wi-Fi to use when you are out and about. Also, streaming music services such as Spotify/iTunes/Tidal allow you to save music to your phone if you have the right subscription.
250 MB/Month assumes 50MB for offline map savings and 4 albums worth of music streaming per month.
Here's how-to setup and use offline maps. Google’s offline maps feature is especially useful to avoid costly roaming charges when travelling and navigating abroad.
8. Low power mode
Low power mode is a win-win by saving you both battery and data because mail fetch, background app refresh, automatic downloads, and some visual effects such as screen brightness are minimised or turned off. This is useful if you know you are near to hitting your data limit and want to reduce consumption for a period of time.
Settings > Battery > Low Power mode > Toggle on
9. Be smart
There's no doubt smartphones are well ... smart but don't underestimate human intelligence. Half of the battle is to be aware of how your phone is running. In general, media heavy applications that use photos, music or video tend to be the largest users of data so take particular care when using them. Additionally, be aware of apps that use more data than others. You may be surprised to find an app that can do the same thing as another one but is half the size, meaning the app download and updates will use less data.
The abundance of free Wi-Fi when you are out and about can be a key way to reduce data consumption so make sure to use Wi-Fi as much as you can when when travelling, particularly when downloading large files or applications.
10. Download KillBiller
Potential Savings: £100s per year
Even if you are saving loads of data and not going over your limit you can still be over paying for your phone bill depending on your plan. Here's a great solution on how to get the best deal on your data.
Killbiller is an award winning app that is available for iPhones and Androids that examines your mobile phone usage and tells you exactly how much you would pay on every phone plan based on your actual usage. It also allows you to manually input desired usage in case you decide to ignore the advice above and get a bigger data allowance!