Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.
For anyone with a limited data cellular plan, data consumption can become incredibly expensive, very quickly. Overage fees generally cost hundreds of dollars a month – and your phone secretly uses data without your knowledge, without proper configuration.
Matt provided a great starting point for paring down data consumption. This article expands on the ideas laid down by Matt. It details eleven data saving tips, apps, configuration methods and general strategies for keeping your phone bill down.
#1 Manage Mobile Data With a Widget
Switching off data and manually managing it using a widget remains the most effective means of keeping data costs low. While I find the use of widget distasteful, Android’s default operating system provides no single-tap method of accessing the phone’s data connection. Therefore a widget provides our only option of rapidly managing data connection. My recommendation is Data ON-OFF as it’s both simple and easy to use.
In Android 4.0 and later, adding a widget to your home-screen is very easy:
- Install Data ON-OFF and then go to the app drawer.
- Choose “Widgets” from the tab up top.
- Find the widgets and drag it to your home-screen. In older versions of Android, you must long press on the home-screen in order to access your widgets.
#2 Manage WiFi Using a Widget
Matt already elaborated on the necessity of using WiFi as often as possible, as it cuts down on data usage. However, it’s often useful to quickly disable WiFi, or other wireless features using a widget.
Stock Android offers a wireless management widget, which controls five of your phone’s functions: (1) WiFi, (2) Bluetooth, (3) GPS, (4) sync, (5) screen brightness.
Just go to the app drawer and select Widgets. Then choose Power control and drag it to your home-screen. When you turn off WiFi, also remember to turn off sync.
#3 Find Free WiFi
Finding it for free, however, can present something of an issue. Fortunately, MakeUseOf provides substantial information on where WiFi flows freely.
#4 Optimize Your Browser For Limited Data Usage
Simply go to Settings and then Block images.
#5 Get Pocket
Another handy app for reading articles offline is Pocket. Pocket can save a very large number of articles to your phone’s memory, for later offline consumption.
For more information on Pocket, read James’s great article.
#6 JustReader’s Offline Mode
Out of all the RSS Android apps, JustReader syncs the best with Google Reader. Additionally, it can be configured to function offline, as well. I use it to load up on content while connected to WiFi and then pull it out while away from home.
Just open the app and go to Settings. Once in settings, go to Synchronization.
Pick mode then choose offline and you’re done. From now on, whenever you connect to WiFi, a copy of your Google Reader account will save itself to your phone.
#7 Google Voice Instead Of SMS
Google Voice allows your phone to receive SMS over a data connection. Even the cheapest SMS plans charge outrageous amounts. Also, the GV app allows transcription of voicemail, which saves on talk minutes. You won’t often need to check your voicemail.
#8 Turn Automatic Sync Off On All Apps
I highly encourage turning off automatic account syncing for all of Google’s service. Although the Gmail app uses a minimal amount of data, it will help you tremendously to shut off all account syncing and doing everything manually.
#9 Don’t Use Ad-Supported Apps. PERIOD.
Ad supported apps will, aside from draining your battery and reducing performance, transmit data pertaining to banner ads, which can consume significant amounts of data.
In my experience, because some of these apps start on boot and run in the background, data usage adds up very quickly and without much warning. A paid, or totally free, app likely won’t suffer from such issues.
#10 Offline Wikis
I’ve written before on how offline wikis can help travelers in remote places. However, offline guides can also help those seeking to save money on their cellular bill. On the downside, my favorite app, Wiki Encyclopedia Offline – Free [No Longer Available] takes up 3.5 GB of data on your phone.
#11 Use a Cloud Browser
Browsers such as Opera Mobile, UC Browser, Maxthon and Puffin all render images on another server. Normally, whenever you visit a website, your browser downloads the full-sized pictures, even though these images display on a very small mobile screen. A cloud browser’s host server receives that image and resizes it to fit on your screen. This method saves both processing power and bandwidth.
While there are some privacy concerns regarding this technique, provided that you do not visit sensitive sites, you have nothing to worry about.
No one should have an unlimited data plan, except extremely heavy users.
Consider the following: The average user consumes no more than 150-250 megabytes of data, yet his contract includes unlimited data use that he never uses. The average smartphone contract ranges between $60 and $80 a month. Why continue overpaying?
One way to trim costs down is to switch to a limited data plan and then customize your phone to use less data.
Image Credits: Antenna via MorgueFile.com