How to Prevent Any App From Using Mobile Data on Android
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Many cell carriers offer unlimited data plans. But these plans are often expensive, and aren’t available everywhere in the world. That means most of us still have to keep tabs on how much data we use each month.

Some apps suck up data regularly, even when they’re not actively in use. Fortunately, Android provides a way to prevent any app from using data in the background, and third-party apps can take this to the next level.

Android’s Built-In Option to Restrict Background Data

Head to Settings > Network & internet > Data Usage to manage your cellular data usage. Here you can see how much data you’ve used and limit how much you consume in the future.

Halfway down the page, you’ll find the option to disable mobile data entirely. This is usually only necessary under specific circumstances, like when you’ve used more than your data plan allows.

To prevent that from happening in the first place, select Data warning & limit.

Say your plan limits you to 5GB a month. You can set the limit to 5GB, and your mobile data will automatically shut off when you hit that threshold. This page also lets you set up a warning when you get close to the maximum.

This setting will prevent you from suffering overage charges. But you can do even better by stopping yourself from even getting close to that point.

Select App data usage to see how much data each app has used recently. Look for the heavy users, which are the ones you may need to limit network access for. You may be surprised how much data it takes to stream YouTube How Much Data Does YouTube Use? How Much Data Does YouTube Use? Wondering how much data YouTube uses? In this article we calculate the numbers and show you how to reduce your YouTube data usage. Read More videos, for instance.

We’ve covered apps that let you limit how much data they use These 15 Popular Android Apps May Be Leaking Your Mobile Data These 15 Popular Android Apps May Be Leaking Your Mobile Data Apps like Instagram, YouTube, Netflix, Facebook, and more may be leaking mobile data without your knowledge. Toggle these settings to save data and money! Read More . But if an app’s internal settings don’t let you disable cellular access, you can tap the Background data toggle here to cut them off for sure. Or tap the Unrestricted data usage toggle to guarantee network access even while limiting other apps.

Going through each of your apps can take time, and you may not catch every offender. A safer option is enabling the Data Saver option. When turned on, this will prevent some apps from sending or receiving data in the background.

Apps in active use will still consume data, but they may require you to tap images to load them or employ other ways to restrict data usage.

The Third-Party Option to Turn Off Data on Android

Next, we can turn to outside solutions with a third-party app. NetGuard is one open source option that not only prevents apps from using cellular data, but stops them from connecting over Wi-Fi too.

This has several benefits. Cutting apps off from the internet prevents them from tracking your usage and reporting home. It also reduces bandwidth, saves battery life, and blocks ads.

NetGuard bills itself as a firewall, allowing you to decide which apps connect to the internet and which don’t. To block traffic, the app uses a local VPN. Since it doesn’t ask for permission to access the internet, you know the app isn’t funneling all your information off to some distant source.

Just like any other VPN, running the app will display a key icon in the notification bar.

How to Restrict App Data Usage With NetGuard

NetGuard displays all your apps in alphabetical order. Next to each one are toggles for Wi-Fi and mobile data. Disable access on either or both connection type as you prefer.

For more specific controls and exceptions, tap the dropdown arrow next to each app. Options include the ability to limit a data-consuming app only when you’re roaming. Alternatively, you can permit an app to use data while others are blocked.

NetGuard gives you the option to block Wi-Fi or mobile data for all apps by default. You can also automatically allow internet access when the screen is on. For simplicity the app doesn’t display pre-installed apps by default, but you can set it to show those as well.

You can limit data usage on specific mobile network connections, if need be. Or you can allow unlimited usage on 3G, but limit LTE. There are settings for Wi-Fi as well, in case you’re dealing with a metered connection.

NetGuard’s options aren’t limited to blocking mobile data. You can monitor when apps attempt to access the internet. This can give you insight into exactly what your phone’s apps are up to.

Enabling these settings can protect you from surprises when you unknowingly install a game that requires an internet connection. That said, some won’t even run without constant internet access, so you may have to return to NetGuard and grant a few of your favorites access to Wi-Fi or mobile data.

As an alternative, remember that you can download games that don’t need a network connection.

Download: NetGuard for Android on Google Play | F-Droid (Free, premium version available)

Take Control of Mobile Data on Android

Once when I was setting up apps on a new phone, I started downloading offline maps and left the house shortly after. When I looked at my phone a bit later, I was shocked to see I had already blown through my monthly data allotment!

Learn from my mistake and don’t let this happen to you. If the apps above don’t do enough, we’ve covered other great tips to reduce your mobile data usage 8 Useful Tips to Reduce Mobile Data Usage and Save Money 8 Useful Tips to Reduce Mobile Data Usage and Save Money Want to get the most out of your mobile data plan? These apps and tricks can help you squeeze out every last megabyte. Read More .

Image Credit: Ash Kyd/Flickr

Explore more about: Android Tips, Data Usage, Mobile Plan, Save Money.

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  1. Deva
    January 30, 2019 at 8:41 am

    i want source code of this application. can I get it?

  2. Larry
    December 22, 2018 at 4:12 pm

    I'm happy with Google's app named Datally which is similar.

  3. Furry
    November 19, 2018 at 11:04 pm

    Hello. I have one or two problems. First is that I have a moto x4 and I cannot find the data limits and restrictions. Also restricting background data does NOT restrict all data.

  4. Pissed
    November 19, 2018 at 11:01 pm

    Yeah. You NEED to change your video. That person just sat there for five minutes, and took 30 seconds to click on things.

  5. thi ha
    August 8, 2018 at 2:37 am

    Netguard is the one i was looking for. Thanks! You are awesome!!!!

  6. Héctor V
    May 7, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    Yeah... right now in 2018 the option to restrict background data in Android devices is NOT working anymore. I have that option enabled on Youtube and I still can watch videos using my mobile data. This is also true for other apps. This wasnt like that 2 years ago or so. I remember in 2016 when I tried to watch a video Youtube it just didnt load anything and I knew I was using the mobile data instead of the wifi. Then they remove that feature at some point. I suppose they want us to spend more money.

  7. Drowsy user
    May 1, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    I fell asleep while downloading a large video didn't notice that my phone was on data. Just used the whole month data in two hours, Darn luck. Well things happen for a reason and so then I ended up here. Thanks for the recommendations, nice blog btw, for sure i'll use the App.

  8. Harol Pachon
    June 5, 2017 at 9:59 pm

    Thank you so much! finally no more "whole week untill data reset because a i watched a whole video with my dat" great post!

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      June 6, 2017 at 12:57 am

      Glad to help!

  9. Harol Pachon
    June 5, 2017 at 9:58 pm

    Thank you so much! finally no more "whole week until data reset" great post.

  10. Joe
    April 18, 2017 at 10:36 pm

    Thanks for this! I thought I had to do some technical things to achieve this!

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      April 20, 2017 at 7:22 pm

      Glad to be of service!

  11. Andrew T
    November 29, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    I'm a stickler for good customer service. I had a look at NetGuard, and noticed all the replies by the author to those reviewers who left a less than favorable review. The guy is a jerk! Argumentative cry-baby who can't take a little criticism. Okay, so he wants to show ads and charge for features because he put so much work into making the app. Complaining to reviewers who object will only turn others away and check out alternative apps (and there are plenty).

  12. Ashraf
    November 18, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    I had tried these methods, and other methods too, but my lollipop still automatically connects to internet..
    I had disabled and removed all apps... (including google play services)... But the problem is not solved...
    I don't want to format the phone because I have an app that can't be re-installed... Can only be re-purchased.
    Even corrupting APNs' settings (setting a non-required password, setting a wrong port number,etc..) didn't work either...

  13. K T
    August 23, 2016 at 11:05 am

    Hi..the advise is on point but I only unmarked the auto update on the Google Play Store app at settings,data usage,Google play store,app settings then voala..

    But I'm going to install Netguard to block unwanted ads. Thanks

  14. Ojo
    July 30, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    Opera Max

  15. Francisco
    July 30, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    And how about a real option where I can block data usage per app and still be able to use a VPN for security reasons? Oh, and that does not require the phone to be rooted.
    Answer: there is none. This is one of the features where Android falls short from iOS.

  16. Eric
    July 29, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    I'm using afwall+ it block app using mobile, wifi and vpn based iptables just like on my linux.

  17. Dr.saleh
    July 4, 2016 at 10:24 am

    My Dear,
    You did a Great job,
    Thanks,Hundreds time,
    Dr.saleh.

  18. Darryl
    May 30, 2016 at 8:04 pm

    The app that is most likely to put a dent in your data plan is Youtube, and you can toggle a setting to cause it to only use WiFi. Also, set the Play Store to only run automatic updates on WiFi.

    • goof
      July 12, 2016 at 3:37 pm

      WRONG. if you look closely, youtube's wifi-only setting blocks "HD video". Lesser video goes streaming through. Learned the hard way.

      • Edward
        January 31, 2017 at 7:25 pm

        So true, I learned the hard way about YouTube too. I'd be watching a video not knowing my wifi had failed. Next thing I know I get an exceeding data limit warning. Use to get me like that all the time until I read this article and installed Netguard. Now YouTube only works when I'm connected to WiFi and is prevented from streaming if my WiFi fails and switches to mobile data. Protects me from using up all my data accidentally or unexpectedly.

  19. Nobody
    March 28, 2016 at 8:00 pm

    Netguard can only work by enabling another data connection, a VPN. This is not what this app is supposed for.

  20. Joe
    January 4, 2016 at 3:39 am

    Thanks, exactly what I was looking for. NetGuard is great :)