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How to restrict data usage and stay under your limit

Authored by: Sterling Keys — Oct 31, 2013

With a smartphone, you can be online anywhere as long as there is coverage. This freedom of access to information and communication also comes with a price tag if you’re not on an unlimited plan for 3G or LTE with your carriers. However, with a little foresight and tweaking some of your settings on your device, you can make sure that you’re not automatically draining your data limit without your knowledge.

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© AndroidPIT

Google Play: Update only over WiFi

A big one with Android devices would be enabling, when you can, to allow updates to your apps only when you’re connected to WiFi. If you head over to your Google Play App and click on the settings, you can specify yourself when you want Google Play to download updates, if at all. By default, I always set this to update over WiFi so that all this can be done while my device is plugged in at home and connected to my home network.

Google Play settings can be changed to accomodate data limits. / © AndroidPIT

In-app settings

In addition to limiting Google Play from updating itself when you’re out and about, you can usually also customize individual apps to do the same thing. For example, apps such as Google+ or Dropbox might be default sync photos and files that you have on your device in the background. If you’re uploading your entire photo collection on your device, this can quickly add up and get you to your data limit in no time if it goes unchecked. As such, much like with Google Play, it is often advised to have these set to either not auto-backup these things at all or to have it set to only do it when your device is connected to a WiFi network.

You can limit apps and what they consume, such as GMAIL. / © AndroidPIT

Download and Streaming: WiFi only

As above, the same can be applied to services that stream or download data on the go: streaming movies via Netflix, listening to music via online radio, and whatnot can also be super data intensive. And while the ability to watch a movie no matter  where you are is pretty awesome, maybe it might be for the best to connect to that WiFi network before starting on your How I Met Your Mother binge watching session.

Caching and offline use

Many apps also offer you the option to download data beforehand and cache it on your system. With Spotify, you can download playlists, songs, and full albums to listen later “offline”. As well, Google Maps allows you to save maps in advance so that you can look at them later. To do this, search for an area that you’re interested in having the map for and then type in “Okay Maps” in the search bar. Google Maps will automatically download the map for offline use later.

Google Maps allows you to "cache" maps for offline uselater. / © AndroidPIT

Restrict Background Data

In the settings menu, you can find out which apps you have consume the most data both in foreground (as in, when you’re using the app) and background (as in, when it not being used actively). When you click on each app, it’ll break this down in a handy pie chart and you’ll be able to customize the time period in which you want to view data consumption. You can limit background data by checking off “Limit Background Data” at the bottom of the screen when you click on a particular app.

You're able to view and limit the amount of background data each app consumes.  ©

Google Account: Check synchronization settings

One of the great things about your having a Google account is being able to synchronize your many Google accounts across many devices and PCs. While this is a boon for many, this may also suck extra data that you’re saving on your mobile device if gone unchecked. In the settings menu of your smartphone, you can specify what exactly you want to be synced with your Google account. For example, you can pick and choose that you want your contacts to be automatically updated across devices, but perhaps, not all the movies in your Google Play Movies.

Pick and choose what you want synced from your Google accounts. / © AndroidPIT

Browser: restrict data usage

Mobile surfing is a great way to pass time on the go, whether you’re waiting for a meeting or on public transit. However, a media intensive site or something not customized for mobile browsing may be pretty data intensive. Browsers such as Google Chrome and Opera offer options to compress data before transmitting it to your device, helping you reduce the amount of data you’re consuming with these browsers.


So, these are a few tips and tricks to limit the data consumption on your mobile device but by no means is it an exhaustive list. So, AndroidPIT readers, please feel free to share your methods and tips on how you stay under your data limit each month. 

From all the way over on Vancouver Island, Sterling Keys started off his smartphone adventure with an HTC S710 equipped with Windows Mobile and knew there had to be something better. Over the next few years, and countless different operating systems, he has finally found his home on Android.

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