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Once a month, your mobile bill lands. How much are you paying for calls and mobile Internet? Is your iPhone really worth that type of outlay? Do you use your Android tablet enough to justify paying over $50 a month?

Mobile networks have had it too easy from consumers over the past few years, but as Wi-Fi coverage increases, there is a decreasing need to bother with mobile Internet and ridiculously ornate call packages.

That money is better off in your pocket, not the bank accounts of cell phone carrier shareholders.

Smartphone Bills: Healthy vs. Obscene

As I write this I’m coming to the end of a two year contract for a Nokia Lumia 920 with British mobile network EE. This contract sets me back at least £50 a month (around $90) on a package that includes unlimited text messages, 1000 free minutes of call time and 5 GB of mobile Internet (including 4G) a month. Most of this goes unused.

This means that for a £400 handset I will have spent over £1200 ($2000) when the contract comes to an end.

In the USA, you might pay $600 for an iPhone and repay that along with the call, SMS and mobile data charges on a monthly basis on a contract deal. While US smartphone contracts are apparently cheaper than those in the UK they’re still more expensive than they need to be.

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If I was using all of those minutes of call time, sending infinite SMS messages and using my phone as a mobile office on a daily basis, this would have been an excellent deal.

muo-mobileinternet-bill

Sadly, it’s terrible.

It’s an obscene amount of money to waste. A vast chunk of £800 has been spent on features that I haven’t used, or come nowhere near meeting the limits on.

Since notification of my contract ending popped up in Outlook (because the networks don’t tell you; naturally they want you to keep paying them, so setting a reminder is a good idea) I’ve been researching some alternatives. “Pay As You Go” – no-contract deals where you pay for what you need in advance – are looking particularly attractive for the first time in years.

Some of these deals are as little as £15. Dropping mobile Internet would cut that to as little as £5, around $9 a month. That would be a far healthier bill by anyone’s standards.

But of course, no one is going to do that, are they? After all, we all need mobile Internet and 4G, right?

You Don’t Actually Need Mobile Internet

That smartphone or tablet you have on a contract with a massive monthly outlay doesn’t actually need mobile Internet to access the Internet.

It has Wi-Fi.

You know this already; you use Wi-Fi at home, or on the train, in the library, your local coffee house and at work. In fact, you use wireless networking – often free or complementary to patrons – in a vast selection of locations that you visit regularly. Of course, this will mean avoiding tasks that would normally occur over a secure connection as using public Wi-Fi for banking and shopping is unsafe 3 Dangers Of Logging On To Public Wi-Fi 3 Dangers Of Logging On To Public Wi-Fi You've heard that you shouldn't open PayPal, your bank account and possibly even your email while using public WiFi. But what are the actual risks? Read More .

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Even if you genuinely need mobile Internet occasionally, then the no-contract approach is perfect as it enables you to upgrade your requirements for a month and then revert to how you had things previously.

So why pay so much for 3G or 4G?

Recent statistics demonstrate that the forecasted global mobile data traffic for 2018 will be 15.9 exabytes per month. Mobile data is set to expand considerably from its current level of 2.6 exabytes. During January 2014 Amazon received almost 53 million visits to its sites in the USA alone from mobile devices. Using mobile Internet is clearly extremely important for successful online businesses, but this isn’t about them: it’s about you.

Get Offline When You Don’t Need To be Online!

How many of us genuinely have to be connected to the cyber sphere 24/7? The need to be online is an addiction for some, and like most addictions it is one that can prove expensive. But here’s the thing: it doesn’t actually matter if you miss a social networking update by an hour or two. In fact, you could probably go a few days or even a week and find that the world hasn’t stopped turning and the sky is still where it was the last time you looked up. Your online social network will probably still be there too.

muo-mobileInternet-off

Similarly, emails don’t need to be answered immediately. For the self-employed and terminally busy it is extremely unproductive to drop everything to deal with emails as they pop into your inbox. Read and reply to them all just once or twice a day in a pair of 15-20 minute sessions and you’ll save yourself a load of time and maintain the focus on the main tasks.

Many of us are using the Internet to the detriment of genuine social interactions, awareness of our environments and even – in many ways ironically – productivity.

Even if you don’t use the Internet that much, you’ve got to agree that the high cost of running a phone is something you’d like to change.

Apps That Can Also Cut Your Phone Bill

Now, if you’re feeling a magnetic pull towards throwing money at your cell phone carrier, don’t worry. Your reaction is quite common, but if you’re experiencing a spark of realisation yet aren’t quite ready to part company with the mobile Internet that you only use for 4 minutes a day between the subway and your office, there are various tools you can use to keep your smartphone bill low.

For instance, you can employ Skype for phone calls over wireless networks on all mobile platforms, along with various other VOIP services such as Tango Tango - A Budding Skype Alternative For Android, iOS & Windows Tango - A Budding Skype Alternative For Android, iOS & Windows The world of Voice over IP is expanding fast, and we’re getting more and more options for calling our friends without paying cellphone providers. The strongest, and most known contender in this area is obviously... Read More .

muo-wp7-skype

Meanwhile, SMS is really becoming a thing of the past, limited to sending charitable donations and entering competitions. With Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and BBM on virtually every mobile platform, you really don’t need SMS.

If you’re worried about managing your smartphone data use, meanwhile, iOS, Android and Windows Phone each have native tools that can be used to specify a maximum limit. This should ensure that you don’t get charged a ridiculous amount for going a few MB over the data cap.

You should also make the effort to disable mobile Internet whenever you’re not using it. Having your limit reached while you’re nowhere near your phone can be avoided, either by manually disabling or using a scheduling tool like Trigger. Many apps also have the option to only sync while the phone or tablet is connected to Wi-Fi: use these functions!

Use Your Smartphone Wisely & Save Money

The game is changing. If you’re paying for using mobile Internet, you really don’t need to be anymore; certainly not in metropolitan areas and travel hubs How to Get Free Wi-Fi Almost Anywhere How to Get Free Wi-Fi Almost Anywhere Public wireless networks are becoming more and more popular as a means of attracting people to a particular business or service, and this is just one of the many ways in which free (or almost... Read More .

Sure, you might need access to the cloud to enjoy your MP3 collection, or you might want to browse photos. For the former, however, you should really have your tunes on your phone (especially if you’re a city commuter) and for the latter, well, you could just make sure you have your favourite photos saved to your device. Want to share them with a friend? Here’s an idea: do it later!

If you’re coming to the end of a contract, downgrade your tariff. Locked in? Contact your carrier anyway and tell them that your circumstances have changed.

Just like you should never buy a phone from your carrier Never Buy a Phone From Your Carrier! Buy Unlocked Phones and Save Hundreds Never Buy a Phone From Your Carrier! Buy Unlocked Phones and Save Hundreds Never buy a smartphone from a carrier—ever. Most consumers don't know that they can purchase their phones from retailers and pay less than if they did from the carrier. The key word that you're looking... Read More , the time has come to stop handing them a virtual blank cheque every month. Forget mobile Internet: use public Wi-Fi, save money, and use it wisely!

Image Credit: Woman calling while calculating bills in kitchen via Shutterstock, Two young people watching a smartphone in a cafe via Shutterstock

  1. Cai
    October 14, 2016 at 7:55 am

    I'm not sure why everyone keeps saying SMS is dying. For a good majority of people it's srill the quickest way to get ahold of them. Not everyone uses the same IM client, and I refuse to sign up for a million services just so I guarantee I'm able to reach someone—as I will also need to make long lists in my head to remember not only who uses what, but who also DOESN'T. I pay up to $30/month of Project Fi; it gives me the ability to talk and text, and really I only pay for data when I need. Fi credits me if I don't use my $10 for data, or in the rare case I need to use extra data, I'll Pay it for with my next bill. Have occasional access to 4g srill allows me to do my banking security when in public. And most "free wifi hotspots" usually belong to the major cable companies, which I don't subscribe to (instead, a small rural one bc it was cheaper). While I could pay even much less with Republic Wireless and pay $15/month for only talk and text, as they are really a VOIP with their own sim card, it's not the most reliable, I get more pop ups about the cellular vs wifi connection than I care for, and since their phones no longer need to be special made, as more people jump on for their "cheap" rates, I feel like they'll end up like the old AMPed Movile—they folded bc they charged too little, most people weren't paying their bills.

    • Christian Cawley
      October 14, 2016 at 7:33 pm

      It's true that it depends on what messenger client is in use, and the type of network provider, but for a sizeable chunk of people, SMS is limited to competition entries.

      But good point :)

  2. Victor
    October 16, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    Where I live, I mean. Didn't we used to be able to edit comments?

  3. Victor
    October 16, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    Wifi on a train? Seems to be a very techy place! Sadly, though, the public wifi coverage is limited to convenience stores/coffee shops/ISP wireless access points. The coverage isn't too good, especially when trying to do some work on the go.

  4. Andrew
    October 15, 2014 at 9:14 am

    You need to get real about self employed people and timely response to emails. In the USA a lot of customers use email almost like messenger . You have to have your phone set up to notify you when an email comes in and quickly respond to it.customers want instant service and you have to supply it

  5. Jessica
    October 14, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    While it is true that being conscious of how much mobile internet you use will shed money from your monthly bill, having a lower monthly plan also helps significantly. GIV Mobile is a no-contract cell phone service that has “Unlimited Everything” plans starting at just $29/month and a wide variety of smart phones to choose from. GIV Mobile also donates 8% of every customer’s monthly bill to up to three charities of his or her choice including the American Cancer Society, the United States Fund for UNICEF, and The Nature Conservancy.

  6. Queen
    October 11, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    Thanks for great tips I will try on my Cell

  7. Matthew
    October 10, 2014 at 12:13 am

    I'm on PAYG (UK) - was with virginmobile, but when their day rate crept up from 30p to 50p and then £1, switched to 3 for their 1p/MB rate, so a quick lookup of something now costs me 1p instead of £1

    For browsing mobile, I would also highly recommend the data saving Opera browser over whatever it's own lamentable effort is - and mine's only a Java phone, but they still do Opera Mini for it

  8. James
    October 9, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    Sorry but disagree my £29.99/month Samsung S5 with 500 mins unlimited texts and Internet is a steal and cheapest solution for me as I travel all over the UK and Wifi available is at best of limited quality and unsecured

  9. Gabor
    October 9, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    You just telling, to not to use mobile internet, then use apps to save some money which are need the mobile internet. One or other, but both is not going to work well.
    I think better choice, if you go for a pay as you go card, with a carrier who also offering monthly packages. You just buy always packages for a month, following your actual need. For example giffgaff is one of them, but vectone, lebara has similar offers, giffgaff also has unlimited internet very cheaply, and selling phones with no contract, no vendor lock.
    I have stopped my last contract more then 2 years ago, after more than 10 years contracted with different carriers, and it was one of the best decisions in my life.

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