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Use less data on your Android device

Authored by: Sterling Keys — Dec 4, 2013

Not everybody has the luxury of having an unlimited data plan. Unfortunately, most everything is moving to a cloud or streaming based service: Facebook, music services, Netflix, and tons of others. If you’re not careful or connected to a continual WiFi network, you could easily find yourself being throttled and paying huge fees for going over your limit. Here are a few tips on how you can use less data and stop your device from being so data hungry.

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Limit auto-updates from Google Play

I love this feature. I love not having to manage every single app update that hits my device and have Google Play do it for me. Unfortunately, this could mean that a ton of data is being used while I’m out and about if an update hits Google Play while I’m not connected to WiFi. Thankfully, you can change this from within Google Play to limit where and when Google Play updates your app.

When inside Google Play, go to Menu > Settings > Auto-Update Apps. From there, you can choose whether the apps get updated at any time, only when you’re connected to WiFi, or never at all.  By limiting it to WiFi or not to auto update at all, you can easily manage this data hungry process. Just keep in mind if you turn of auto updates all together, you’ll have to remember to visit Google Play and manually update your apps from time to time.

 Change in-app data settings

Some apps like to automatically update themselves to provide an up to date experience for the user. In this example, Google+ will backup all the photos that you take on your device to the cloud so that you can access them at any time. If you’ve not careful, this can easily add up especially when taking higher resolution photos or even videos.

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Keeping an eye on apps that have features like this and customizing their in-app settings can help you reduce their data footprint. For Google+, simply head into Settings > Auto-Backup and you can pick and choose when and if you backup your multimedia to Google+.

Restrict background Data

Some apps consume data even when they’re not active. Like above, this could be due to auto updating happening, updating app information based on GPS data, among other things. As long as you’re running Android Ice Cream Sandwich or higher, you can limit the amount of background data each app is consuming.

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If you head to Settings > Data Usage, you’ll be greeted with a list of apps and a breakdown of how much data they’ve been using. If you select a certain app, it’ll give you a breakdown of what amount of data is consumed when the app is active, or Foreground, or when it’s inactive, Background.

If you’ve got an app that is data hungry while running in the background, simply scroll down and select Restrict background data.

Preload your files

Sure, you can rely heavily on the cloud and stream all your music, videos, maps, and everything else. But if you’ve got some time to prepare, you can easily make sure you have access to all the files that you need prior to heading out into the land of no WiFi, all it takes is a little foresight.

Getting files on your device before you're on the road will save data costs down the line. / © AndroidPIT

For example, you can follow our article on how to download maps from Google Maps and use them when you’re offline. Or you can make sure to download that movie from Play Movies or book from Play Books, by downloading it to your device.

Reduce your syncing

If you do really not really need your accounts synced at the moment, you can easily make sure your device doesn’t automatically do it for you. Whether you’re heading out for the night and don’t want the your phone continually syncing with your accounts or heading for a weekend getaway to that relaxation spa and don’t necessarily just want to turn off your phone all together, here’s a quick fix.

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Simply head on over to Settings > Data Usage > Menu > uncheck Auto-sync data.

What are your tips and tricks for reducing your data consumption on your Android device? Share them below in the comments!

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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  • Anders Bagger Dec 16, 2013 Link to comment

    Using less data and restricting and disabling sync' and whatever, really saves battery life too. My phone got even better and somewhat more smooth. And gives me "room" for LTE/4G connectivity.

  • stephen Barker Dec 4, 2013 Link to comment

    Use Opera Mini, and obtain server side data compression, i.e. a lot less data to your phone or tablet.