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You can reduce your mobile data usage without doing anything differently on your Android device. Just install and enable an app that functions as a compressing proxy. An intermediary will sit between you and the Internet, squishing your data down so it uses as little space as possible before travelling over your cellular carrier’s mobile data network.

How it Works

These solutions all work by routing your data through a third-party server. For example, let’s say you’re browsing to makeuseof.com in your web browser. You’ll normally connect directly to our web servers and they’d send you the data that makes up our front page. However, when you use one of these compressing proxies, you’d connect to the third-party server instead. That server would connect to makeuseof.com for you, download the data, compress it to make it smaller, and then send it to you.

Some of these solutions also work in other apps and for more than just web pages. Whenever an app connects to a server and downloads data, the traffic will be routed through a third-party server that compresses the data for you. This saves on data where it really counts — the “last mile” between your phone and your cellular carrier, who probably doesn’t provide you with unlimited data Is Your Carrier Slowing Down Your Unlimited Data Connection? How To Avoid Data Throttling Is Your Carrier Slowing Down Your Unlimited Data Connection? How To Avoid Data Throttling If you are on an unlimited plan that's throttled once you exceed certain limits or you have a data cap, as most people do, this article offers advice on how to ease the pain. Read More . None of these services do anything to encrypted traffic, so your online banking and encrypted email connection will be private — but you won’t get the benefit of compression for those connections, either.

There’s a bit of a downside here. Things may take a bit longer to download — the data doesn’t come directly to you, but takes a roundabout route through a third-party server that has to compress it first. However, if you have a slow cellular data connection, it may actually be faster to download the compressed data!

Opera Max

Opera Max encrypts data for all apps on your device when you’re connected to a mobile data network. Install the app and it will take over, routing all apps’ traffic through Opera’s servers so it can be compressed to save your data allowance. Unlike other services that do this, Opera Max can also compress videos in addition to photos, web pages, and other types of data. This application also provides you with an overview of the apps using data and allows you to block them from using that precious data.

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This service is free, and is the best solution for compressing your Android phone’s data usage. To “recharge” Opera Max, you’re asked to occasionally watch an advertisement — that’s the price of a free service.

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Onavo Extend

Onavo Extend is another mobile data-compressing solution that works with all the apps on your phone. It’s been around for longer than Opera Max, but it’s now been superseded. Unlike Opera Max, Onavo Extend doesn’t compress videos. Unless you never watch videos on your mobile data conneciton, you’ll likely save more data with Opera Max.

You’ve probably never heard of Onavo, but you have heard of their parent company — Facebook. Facebook bought Onavo in 2013.

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Chrome‘s Reduce Data Usage Feature

Google has their own data compression solution. Unfortunately, it’s not a system-wide solution that works for all Android apps at the moment. Instead, it’s a feature built into the Google Chrome app itself. This feature only works in Chrome, so you’ll only get the benefits of data compression when browsing with Chrome.

If you’d just like to use less mobile data when browsing the web and you don’t want a system-wide solution, Chrome is a fine alternative. Open the Chrome app on your device, tap the menu button, and tap Settings. Navigate to Bandwidth management > Reduce data usage and enable the Reduce data usage feature.

chrome-reduce-data-usage

Opera‘s Off-Road Mode / Opera Mini

Both the full Opera browser and Opera Mini apps also have this feature. This is what came before Opera Max. If you don’t care about compressing everything system-wide, you can always just use an Opera browser. It works similarly to Chrome, compressing data only when browsing the web only with Opera. The Opera browser for Windows, Mac, and Linux also includes Off-Road Mode Opera 15 Is A Faster, Simpler Chrome, And Here Are 3 Great Reasons To Try It Opera 15 Is A Faster, Simpler Chrome, And Here Are 3 Great Reasons To Try It It may seem ridiculous now, but when I was younger, I forked over a great wad of cash for Opera, a revolutionary web browser from Norway. I took it home, excited at finally being able... Read More , so you can compress the data when browsing on your computer, too. This could help you save on data when tethering How to Get a Tethered Android Connection On Any Carrier, Anytime How to Get a Tethered Android Connection On Any Carrier, Anytime There are ways to tether on any Android phone, even if your carrier has disabled tethering. The first method we'll be covering here doesn't require root (though rooted users have more options). Read More .

To enable this feature in Opera, tap the O button and enable the Off-Road mode toggle. This feature is always used in Opera Mini, which is a more lightweight web browser for slower devices. To view your data saved in Opera Mini, tap the menu button and navigate to Help > Data Usage.

opera-off-road-mode

Android’s Data Usage screen Why You Don't Need Third Party Apps To Manage Background Data Use In Android Jelly Bean Why You Don't Need Third Party Apps To Manage Background Data Use In Android Jelly Bean If you’re like most people, you don’t have unlimited data and you don’t want to go over your data cap. Phones with Android Jelly Bean contain powerful tools for tracking your mobile data usage, setting... Read More can also help you track and reduce your mobile data usage Saving Mobile Data: 5 Clever Ways To Reduce Data Usage Saving Mobile Data: 5 Clever Ways To Reduce Data Usage If you’re on a limited mobile data plan, you may find opening your bill to be harrowing experience. Is there an overage charge? How much? And why was there so much data used? While the... Read More . Open the Settings app and tap Data Usage to access it. From here, you can see reports about how much data each app used, see how much data your device used in a time period, and restrict specific apps from using background data. You can also disable mobile data entirely from here.

Which of these is your favorite data compression solution? Any other tips for reducing data usage on Android? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credit: Johan Larsson on Flickr

  1. joy
    March 22, 2016 at 5:57 am

    mobile operators doing cheating for data consumption.

  2. Devin Chandrapala
    April 8, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Why can't Opera Max run on Wifi? i mean, i've got a really limited wifi connection and i try to save as much as I can. For web browsing I use a browser called Puffin. It uses the same tech as Opera Turbo (Passing everything through a compression server) But i want a way to save data that i use through apps. For example Social Networks, IM's, VOIP's, Games that ask for internet connection and all.

    So is there a way to run Opera Max on Wifi?

  3. Melisa Lissa
    March 9, 2015 at 7:04 am

    Rooted Android? A firewall like AFWall+ and an add blocker like AdAway saves you tons of data. Depending on whihc apps you use and whihc sites you surf, ads and analytics can gobble up more data than the useful content does.

  4. Brett Russell
    February 3, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    Send all my data to Onova/Opera so they can use it as they see fit, I dont think so. We run a MobilePOS solution, and if we see the data coming from these services, we decline it and ask the clients to remove the apps. Its just too big a security and privacy issue for us (or anyone in our opinion).

    Do your research first and know what you are getting into before you do this.

  5. Janet Blessing
    January 15, 2015 at 9:44 am

    maybe i will try out opera mini

  6. Janet Blessing
    January 15, 2015 at 9:43 am

    @ pilot,so true. samsung phone browser can sap your data outrageously. i switched to firefox, it consumes data but on the average. the issue i have with it is that, i cant comment on some of my favorite blogs. so i tried uc browser, it solve the issue of comment by data consumption is extremely outrageous. I dont even know what to do.

  7. sugandan
    December 6, 2014 at 6:20 am

    google the most

  8. Pilot
    November 30, 2014 at 12:24 am

    I been using Opera mini for long time, recently switched to an android device. Tried four browsers till now.
    Default samsung browser, almost useless to me.
    FF doesn't care about data usage for now, I heard they are working on there compression system.
    Chrome compressing little bit, would be better if it could reduce data usage more.
    Next Opera mini compress a lot and save most of the usage. Best one I have used, while I'm on road connected to 2/3G

  9. AB
    October 1, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    Check out the latest version of Opera Max! Now even better! http://opr.as/i0y

  10. Ashesh Shrestha
    September 19, 2014 at 11:08 am

    Thanks! Reducing data usage on google chrome is so useful most of the times!

  11. George
    September 11, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    Yep the Opera max is really data saving VPN

    To make sure you get maximum out of the data plan Opera mini 7.6 for android is now available here is the link to scoop http://www.crawlerguys.com/download-opera-mini-7-6-android-with-wi-fi-queue-support/

  12. J.R. Gracen
    July 26, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    I use the Llama app to automatically turn wifi on when I arrive at home or work, and turn wifi off when I leave. Makes sure I don't use cell data by forgetting to turn wifi on, and helps me not drain my battery by turning wifi off when it is not needed.

  13. Arnav B
    July 8, 2014 at 11:59 am

    Thats so useful regarding how to reduce mobile internet data usage !! http://mobileupdates.org/

  14. Moo
    July 3, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    I've never seen an ad on Opera Max even though it has asked me to recharge a bunch of times. I'm in Toronto, Canada. Don't know if that makes a difference. Maybe no local business is interested?

  15. Jennifer
    July 2, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    I used Opera Max for about a month, but I can't tell you if it saved me any data because it messed with my Wi-Fi connection at both home and work. Took me forever to figure out why I couldn't connect anymore (it was the VPN). If I could figure out how to make it work with my phone, I'd be very happy...

  16. Ron
    July 2, 2014 at 12:23 am

    Would opera max work best (or would any of them work?) for trying to compress my data while using my cell as a hotspot? Also, which device would I install it on? I use my cell as the "hotspot" and use my tablet to connect to my Hotspot (cell).. So do I put the "compressor on my cell or tablet? Sorry for this" stupid" question.

  17. Nahla D
    July 1, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    When I am on limited mobile data and I browse, I always use the UC Browser Mini version. It's actually and faster better than my stock Opera browser.

  18. android underground
    July 1, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    Rooted your Android? Don't forget to use an ad blocker and a firewall to stop phone-home behavior. That can save you a fortune when roaming.

  19. Eking
    July 1, 2014 at 8:14 am

    I think Opera really has the upper hand when it comes to data compression. Opera Mini claims to have up to 90 % data saving, meanwhile I have about an 80% saving rate with the Opera Mobile browser's "Turbo Mode" enabled.

  20. Rudi Pittman
    July 1, 2014 at 2:24 am

    Onavo also doesn't work if you have a device tethered to your phone which is when you most want data compressed.

  21. Corey
    June 30, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    I have to say, I don't think I would be comfortable using Onavo, especially with the purchase by Facebook. If you're not the buyer, you're the product.

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