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. 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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, so you can compress the data when browsing on your computer, too. This could help you save on data when tethering.
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.
Android’s Data Usage screen can also help you track and reduce your mobile data usage. 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