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11 easy ways to dramatically reduce your mobile data usage on Android

Update: Three new tips added

Authored by: Scott Adam Gordon — 2 months ago

Unlimited data plans are so expensive that most of us have to live in fear of exceeding our monthly smartphone data allowance. But what if I told you that you could cut your mobile data usage in half in less than a minute? We now have three new tips to help you do that. Here are 11 simple ways to use less mobile data on Android.

AndroidPIT Data Usage 1
Avoid using too much data with these top tips. / © ANDROIDPIT

Note: Individual data savings will vary, but these 11 steps cut my data usage in half. You can adapt these tips for the apps you use the most or your particular usage habits.

1. Compress Chrome pages

If you use Chrome for all your web traffic, this tip alone can save you 30-35 percent of your mobile browser data consumption. The Data Saver option compresses web pages before loading them in your browser.

Using Data Saver does slow things down a tiny bit, but you quickly get used to it and a moment's delay is worth it when your data lasts so much longer. Just launch Chrome, tap the three dots in the top right-hand corner, go down to Settings and then to Data Saver. Keep an eye on the graph to see your data savings grow.

AndroidPIT Chrome browser data saver enable
Three taps to a third less data consumption in Chrome. / © ANDROIDPIT

2. Use Opera's video compression

The Opera for Android browser now has a very useful video compression option, which can save you a load of data if you're frequently watching videos on the go. To use it, simply download the Opera browser, go to Settings > Data savings and tick the box that says Video compression. 

This setting not only saves you data, but also means that videos are more likely to load faster.

opera video compression
Save data and buffering time with Opera's video compression tool. / © ANDROIDPIT

3. Ditch the Facebook app

It's pretty well known among Android aficionados that the Facebook app is one of the biggest consumers of data, not to mention its high resource use and battery drain. So why not replace it with something less demanding?

facebook lite 2
Even Facebook Lite uses lots of mobile data. So why not try a web app or Chrome shortcut? / © ANDROIDPIT

There are lots of alternate Facebook apps but many of those are just as hungry as the official version. Even Facebook Lite, which claims to reduce data consumption by 50 percent, still chews through hundreds of MB in a month.

So why not try Tinfoil for Facebook, which is simply a web app that displays the Facebook website (you can still get push notifications by using IFTTT and Pushbullet). Or you could simply create a Chrome shortcut in your web browser. Just open Facebook in Chrome, open the overflow menu and select Add to Home Screen.

AndroidPIT Tinfoil for Facebook Chrome shortcut
Using Tinfoil or a Chrome shortcut to Facebook will save heaps of data. / © ANDROIDPIT

4. Make use of offline apps and games

Some apps and games require constant internet access to function: this can be simply a security measure or because they constantly need to retrieve data. There are some apps and games that don't require internet access at all after the initial download. Check out the links below for the best in both categories. 

5. Restrict background data

The easiest way to save data is to tell your apps (or the Android system itself) to restrict background data. Background data is all that internet traffic that goes on when you're not actually using an app: email syncing, feeds updating, weather widgets and so on.

AndroidPIT restrict background app data
Restricting background data and syncing of accounts will help save data. / © ANDROIDPIT

You can also tell the Android system to restrict background data in Settings > Data usage > Restrict Background Data or for individual apps in Settings > Apps (depending on which version of Android you have). You can also change your sync settings for Google services in Settings > Accounts > Google > select the account and then un-check the services you don't want to sync automatically.

6. Disable auto-updating apps

Another huge drain of your data allowance comes from the occasional bout of Google Play app updating. If you have the Play Store set to auto-update apps, even over a data connection, this could be chewing its way through your allowance every month without you even knowing.

AndroidPIT do not auto update apps
Don't let apps auto-update using your data connection. / © ANDROIDPIT

To check, go to the Play Store and swipe out the left-hand navigation drawer. Tap Settings and at the top, you'll see Auto-Update Apps. Tap this and make sure you either have it set to 'Do not auto-update apps' or 'Auto-update apps over Wi-Fi only'. To manage individual apps, go to My Apps, select an app and then tap the overflow menu to check, or un-check Auto-Update.

7. Put some music on your phone

Streaming services like YouTube, Spotify, Vine and other video and music sites are huge data killers. If there's a tune or album you're constantly listening to at the gym or on the way to work, you'll use much less data by loading it onto your phone and listening to it offline, than endlessly streaming it from the web.

AndroidPIT Galaxy S6 Edge storage solutions Leef Access
Even without a microSD card slot, you can still use a microSD adapter. / © ANDROIDPIT

If your phone doesn't have a microSD card or enough space in its internal memory for you to save music, you can use a microSD adapter. Alternatively, you can save music for offline listening. It won't require as much space on your phone and it's easy to get rid of or replace later. If you can curb your streaming cravings, even just a little, you'll see a huge reduction in data consumption.

8. Identify and limit/remove high consuming apps

In Settings > Data usage you can get a look at the apps which are consuming the most data both in the foreground and the background. This can be really useful for knowing which apps you should restrict.

Take Gmail, for example. On my phone, it has downloaded 451 MB of emails in the background. If I felt I didn't use the app enough to justify that much data use, I could remove the app, limit how often it syncs or prevent it from downloading attachments, all of which would reduce data consumption. 

androidpit data saving tips
Does the Gmail app warrant 451 MB of data consumption in a month? / © ANDROIDPIT

9. Navigate offline

Google Maps can use up quite a bit of your mobile data if you're not careful, but thankfully it is possible to use Google Maps offline. Follow our guide and see how much data you could save. 

10. Use Google Docs offline

Google Maps isn't the only Google app you can use offline. If you want to make edits to important documents without it using up your mobile data, you can. Find out how to use Google Docs offline at the link.

11. Don't upload, download or send pictures or videos

A single minute of high definition footage captured on a modern smartphone can take up as much as 200 MB of data. Single photos can easily exceed 40 MB. Don't even think about uploading these to Facebook, or downloading pictures and videos from friends, unless your mobile data plan can handle it. 

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Stop downloading videos of Harrison Ford and you'll seriously reduce your data usage. / © ANDROIDPIT

How do you manage your mobile data usage? Any other great tips to share? Let us know in the comments. 

Originally from the UK, Scott graduated in Popular Music Studies at Newcastle University and attributes most of his success there to his beloved Samsung Galaxy S2. A dedicated Android fan, Scott has never owned an Apple device, of any kind, and doesn't see this changing anytime soon.

40 comments

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  • I use NoRoot Firewall (goo.gl/M1ygla) to decide per app if it can use wifi and/or mobile data, which really helps. Most of my apps don't need to use internet if I'm on my way (actually just a hand full), so by blocking all other apps on mobile data, you can save a lot of data. And everytime you install an app, all internet will be blocked untill you give permission (you will be reminded through a push notification). It's annoying at first to do this everytime, but you get used to it and you save data.

  • Really great article. But you have to try Opera Max too, great app for saving your data

  • Thanks for all your tips! You mentioned we shouldn't upload photos to FB, but didn't offer another solution. I use my phone for my business which requires taking many photos. I share them from my Samsung Galaxy Note 4 to FB where I then download them to my computer so I can edit them and write my blog posts... How should I be doing it?

  • I use WF much of time and Opera Max which compres pictures and video and save a lot of storage.

  • You can also get used to using Wi-Fi whenever and wherever it’s available.
    Source: this article I Fix Screens website

  • On Android 4.x are many apps with data transmision scheduler. Disable transmision when device is not use.

  • I'm also using OperaMax and this month it saves 16 Gb on wifi and 462 Mb. It is realy exelent!

  • Donel 1 month ago Link to comment

    I tone down my surfing experience. I use Opera Mini which is very lightweight and saves a lot of data. Most websites work fine and if text overlapping doesn't bother you (happens on large pages), you're fine to go with it.

  • Good share, pretty useful!

  • opera max is the best appp to control dada....even u can disable data for apps.....opera max can do these all tricks for u.....

  • I'm using lot of this recomenditions, and they are really helpful.

  • I do most of the tips here and have noticed that my data consumption has gone down. Now if I can only get my son to do his part.

  • Useful article, definitely going to try some of these apps! will see if they work and let you know

  • I live in a small town of 1000 in Arkansas. We have virtually no wifi. I have a 30gig data plan from AT&T that was more than adequate until four months ago. Suddenly I was going from data rollover to data drainage within a week to ten days of a new cycle! My habits have not changed; I have not downloaded any new apps. I have always been a big YouTube user but why the data drainage now? It seemed to coincide with the AT&T/DirecTV merge but surely that's just a coincidence... right? I will, in the meantime, give these suggestions in the article a try. Thanks for any feedback.

    • Interesting. The same thing is happening to me right now. To be fair, I just got a new phone and installed the fb app which I had not used on my previous phone. I never even come close to using all of my 500mb data on my plan but this month I've used 457mb in 10 days! I went through all the tips-shut off auto play videos, made sure apps update WiFi only, etc. then even dumped the fb app all together. I bought a 100mb data pack (first time ever) and though I things should be OK from here. Imagine my surprise when I used 25.2mb checking fb on the run briefly 1 time. So I bought a second data pack 😠 and now I am monitoring data per use. I've used over 616mb in 11 days. I'm hoping all the steps I've taken will stop the data bleed.

    • R Gomez 2 months ago Link to comment

      Same exact thing happened to me! I have called ATT several times and tried everything to figure out why the sudden spike. I barely use my phone. I feel like they are trying to get me to change to a higher data plan, especially since my plan (2 GB) is no longer offered. ATT was never known to be an ethical company. I'm not really sure why I continue to deal with them. Maybe it is time to move on.

  • I'm using Samsung Galaxy s5 and using T-Mobile free 1GB of 4G data service which is not enough. If I hit the 1GB limit I get throttled back to 3G. Thanks Kris Carlon for this article, I've changed my settings for better data management.

  • The MobAlert app in the google play store beeps when you're disconnected from wifi. I always forget to turn it back on! :\

  • Asad Ali 6 months ago Link to comment

    use opera max.

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