Update by Christian Cawley on November 1st, 2016.
Mobile internet usage can be expensive — so how do you keep your bill low while out and about without compromising on data?
Mobile Internet: Rarely Unlimited
Have you ever found yourself exceeding your data allowance on your smartphone or tablet? Perhaps you thought everything was okay, but didn’t realise that you had exceeded the amount of data you were allowed under your contract until the bill arrived.
The fact is, mobile internet is very rarely unlimited. Even if you have a 50GB allowance, once you finally manage to exceed this (perhaps you’re using your smartphone as a wireless hotspot), you will be charged for any data beyond this limit.
To combat this, you need to think smart. The first step you should take is to use Android’s built-in tools to setup a limit on your mobile data. This can be done in Settings > Data usage. With data switched on, tap Set mobile data limit and then specify a warning level and a limit.
You can also Restrict background data by opening the menu and selecting the corresponding option. Although not as accurate as your carrier’s metrics, it should be enough to ensure you don’t exceed your limit.
Not enough? Then go further! There are two classes of app that will compress your data for you, both relying on remote servers and forcing you to access the web via their own networks.
Apps That Compress Your Data
Various apps are available that use compression technology and VPNs (virtual private networks) to ensure your data usage is reduced.
Faster browsing is made possible by compression technology, and it is this tech that also allows you to use less data when visiting your favourite websites. UC Browser HD also features ad blockers, the facility to watch videos as you download them and is basically the browser you should be using if you’re not using Chrome.
Download: UC Browser HD (Free)
Potentially able to make significant savings on a metered mobile internet connection, Onavo Extend runs in the background and routes all data through the developer’s own servers, utilizing compression technology to reduce how much data you use. It also optimizes images and features a widget that lets you easily check how much data you have saved.
Download: Onavo Extend (Free)
Extremely easy to setup, Vortex VPN requires that you select your preferred server and then tap the large power-style button to connect. Servers are situated in seven countries around the world including the USA, Switzerland, Australia, Ireland, Singapore, and Brazil.
Once the VPN is established, the key icon will appear in the notification area. Note that this app requires that you create a free account, where 250 MB of data use is available. Additional data can be purchased via a link in the app menu. Do note that Vortex is just one of many great VPN apps for Android.
Download: Vortex VPN (Free)
A combined data usage monitor and data compressor, Opera Max can be used to keep your mobile internet usage minimised and force data hogs to only go online when there is a Wi-Fi signal nearby. This tool will also compress your data on Wi-Fi, as well as mobile.
The app’s description estimates a massive doubling of your data plan with Opera Max enabled, and privacy is offered with single-click encryption. Like the other tools listed here, a VPN is employed to route compressed data. Compression means that data downloads quicker, and Opera Max also compresses downloaded video, often the main culprit when you go over your data allowance.
With Opera Max installed, you can also block data-hungry apps, and even prevent your data being shared with third-party app trackers.
Download: Opera Max – Data Manager (Free)
Intended for mobile internet connections on 2G, 3G or 4G, Neopard uses a VPN to monitor traffic, and actively keeps an eye on data being exchanged between your apps and their home servers. Within seconds you’ll notice a difference! Pitched at people with concerns over roaming charges, Neopard is nevertheless useful for any mobile internet user, and even gives you the chance to set your own compression rate.
Neopard also offers a useful means to determine whether you want your apps to be able to access the web without compression. All you need to do is drag your app icon into the appropriate column; there’s also the choice to block an apps’ internet access entirely.
Download: Neopard (Free)
All of these apps are worth trying out. You probably won’t find much benefit in using all of them, so give each one a day or perhaps a week of regular use to see which suits your mobile internet use, and stick with it!
Forget Mobile Internet: Use WiFi!
Don’t think you can cut down your mobile internet use any further? A good option is to disable mobile data and rely on public WiFi. While an unsuitable solution for online banking, shopping and anything else that should be done with a secure connection, you can still use it to install apps, stream audio and video, and catch up with the news.
While this solution might not be of particular use while you’re touring the countryside or remote suburban areas, it should be all you need in metropolitan zones.
My recent article covering quitting mobile internet entirely expands on this subject.
How Do You Keep Your Data Usage Low?
Whether you prefer the VPN approach or a browser that compresses your data, or if you realise you don’t actually need to use anything but public Wi-Fi, the raw fact is this: using less data will save you money.
Cutting down on your data might even let you enjoy your Android phone or tablet a bit more than usual, leaving room for more streaming videos, radio or podcasts, among other things. We even have a few more tips for reducing your data usage.
Do you use a mobile internet compression app? Perhaps you have found a solution that we’ve overlooked here. Use the comments to tell us.
Image Credit: Placeit.net