On a Wi-Fi connection, you don’t think twice about how much your smartphone is downloading. But when you’re out and about, data consumption matters, especially if you’re on a limited data plan.
The biggest culprits of data hogging are social apps like Facebook, Snapchat, and others. And of course, your web browser plays a part too.
These companies have come up with lighter versions of their apps to reduce data consumption and increase speeds. Most of these are on Android though, not on iOS. But for some, you can simply toggle the settings to find their hidden data-friendly modes.
Note: Several of these apps are not available in all countries on the Play Store, or on all phones. You’ll need to manually install APKs on Android from a reliable site like APK Mirror.
Facebook Lite (Android Only)
Did you know the Facebook app asks for invasive permissions on Android? The Facebook Lite app is far more privacy-friendly, and has plenty of other things going for it.
For starters, it uses less data by default, since it won’t load videos unless you ask it to. In case you didn’t know, auto-loading videos and video ads are Facebook’s biggest battery and data drains. You can also use it on slower connections, which the regular app doesn’t work well with.
When you compare Lite to the regular Facebook app, there are some trade-offs in the experience. The images are compressed more, and you don’t get GIFs in comments or other small features of Facebook.
Messenger Lite (Android Only)
Facebook Messenger also comes with a Lite version now, and Messenger Lite is the app we’ve all been waiting for. It has most of Messenger’s important features and is far lighter on the battery and data consumption.
Messenger Lite looks and behaves like the main Messenger app. If you mainly use Messenger for text chats, then you should switch immediately. Text chats work the same, and you can attach images too. Messenger Stickers are limited though, with only the “Like” sticker available to post. However, you can see any Stickers that chat contacts post.
The big missing feature in Messenger Lite is video and audio calling (or VOIP). For both those, you’ll need the main Messenger app.
Twitter Lite (Android, iOS, Windows Phone)
The main Twitter app is adding new features every day, like muting people and conversations. Twitter also takes up a lot of data now with its video ads. If you want a lighter experience, go with the new Twitter Lite mobile site.
Twitter Lite is a faster, data friendly way for people to use Twitter to see what’s happening in the world.
— Twitter (@Twitter) April 6, 2017
Visit mobile.twitter.com from any mobile web browser to get the redesigned site. Tap your profile picture and toggle the “Data Saver Mode“. This stops images and videos from loading by default. You’ll need to tap to load them, saving precious data.
The app offers push notifications through browsers that support it, like Google Chrome. It also won’t silently update your timeline in the background all the time, unlike the regular app.
If you like the experience, turn Twitter Lite into a mobile app on your homescreen.
Skype Lite (Android Only)
Those who use Skype for cheap international video calls know how much data it drains. If that’s a concern, switch to Skype Lite.
Skype Lite’s purpose is to reduce data consumption. You can still make free video or voice calls as always with the full-fledged app. However, it uses less data than the full-fledged app for the same operations. In fact, it even works when network connectivity is low.
Apart from the video and voice compression, Skype Lite also compresses photos you send in chats. It also acts as an advanced SMS app like TrueMessenger, filtering promotional text messages.
YouTube Go (Android Only)
Apart from browsers, one of the apps that takes up tons of data is YouTube. It’s natural, given how integral YouTube is to the online experience now. To counter that, the company launched a lighter version: YouTube Go.
Use it for a few minutes and you’ll be convinced that YouTube Go is one of the best Android apps launched in 2017. The app’s settings let you dictate how many megabytes it can use, so you are in full control. You can also queue videos to download on Wi-Fi later, saving you data costs in the present. And you can set the quality of videos so that you never consume more data in streaming.
The download feature is especially wonderful since you can keep a copy of your favorite videos to watch again, saving streaming costs.
Instagram (Android, iOS)
Instagram is one of the best photo-sharing apps around, but man, it burns through your data connection. Half of this is because it preloads new photos from your timeline periodically, even if you aren’t using the app right then. It’s easy to disable this though.
In the Instagram app, go to Profile > Options > Cellular Data Use and switch to Use Less Data
There are other benefits to the “Use Less Data” option. Videos will now play only when you tap on them, not before that. And photos are of a lower quality.
These settings take effect only when you’re on mobile data. Once you’re on Wi-Fi, the app will perform like it always does.
Snapchat (Android, iOS)
Like Instagram, Snapchat also keeps loading stuff in the background. In fact, it’s among the worst apps that kill your battery. But you can change that with Snapchat’s Travel Mode.
Go to Profile > Settings > Additional Services > Manage Preferences > Travel Mode and toggle it on.
Now, every time you are on mobile data, you will need to tap on any snap or story to load it. Not only does this reduce data consumption, it also gives you much more control over what you see when.
Spotify, Apple Music, and Streaming Music Services
There are many excellent music streaming services available now. But they might be consuming more data than you want.
It doesn’t matter if you use Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music, Tidal, or anything else. In the app’s settings, you can dictate the audio quality, which directly affects how many MB each track takes.
We have a full guide to change audio quality on any music app, but for example’s sake, here’s how to do it on Spotify.
Open the Spotify app and go to Library > Settings > Stream Quality and choose “Normal”. The audio quality will be lower than usual, but it will also be more data-efficient.
Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Streaming Video Services
Like the music streaming services, video streaming apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime also let you set the quality. When streaming on mobile data, it’s ideal not to set it to “Auto”. Specify the quality you want, don’t trust the app.
Open the Netflix app and go to Menu > App Settings > Cellular Data Usage and toggle off “Set Automatically”. Select “Low” for every GB to give four hours of video, and “Medium” for two hours of video.
Amazon Prime, Hulu, and most other video streaming services have similar options available in their app’s settings.
Chrome, Opera, and Other Browsers
Most modern mobile browsers also offer a data-saver option. These settings automatically compress images and videos into file formats that consume less internet.
For example, in Google Chrome, go to Settings > Data Saver and toggle it on.
You can also install the Opera Max app to apply this to any browser or app that uses internet. Opera Max will compress any data before it downloads to your phone. But be warned that you might see slower speeds on some apps.
Download — Opera Max for Android (Free)
What’s Your Data Plan?
Data plans vary by carrier, city, and even country. And since MakeUseOf proudly boasts of an international readership, let’s compare what plans we have.
What data plan are you using and how much do you pay for it?