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How to reduce mobile data usage by half (in five easy steps)

Authored by: Kris Carlon — 3 months ago

With unlimited data plans disappearing faster than the rainforests and data consumption on the rise, cherishing every MB is becoming standard practice. So what if I told you that you could cut your mobile data usage in half in less than a minute? It's easier than you might think. Just follow these five steps to use less mobile data.

Note: Of course individual data savings will vary, but using these five steps literally cut my data usage in half. Feel free to adapt these tips for the specific apps you use the most or your particular usage habits.

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Compressing Chrome pages can have some huge data savings. / © ANDROIDPIT

1. Compress Chrome pages

Assuming you use Chrome for all your web traffic, this tip alone can save you 30-35 percent of your mobile browser data consumption. Compressing Chrome pages, now know as Data Saver in the settings, 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 every now and then to see your data savings grow.

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

2. Ditch the Facebook app

It's pretty well known amongst Android aficionados that Facebook is one of the worst contributors not only to data consumption, but also to resource usage and battery drain. That thing is just always chewing up the stuff you want more of on your phone. So why not replace it with something less demanding?

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

There's lots of alternative 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 of data 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 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

3. 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: things like email syncing, feeds updating, weather widgets and more.

AndroidPIT restrict background app data
Restricting background data and syncing of accounts is good for 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 syncing automatically.

4. Disable auto-updating apps

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

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Don't let apps auto-update on 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 only over Wi-Fi. To manage individual apps, go to My Apps, select an app and then tap the overflow menu to check or un-check Auto-Update.

5. 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're much better off just 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 you don't have a microSD card on your phone or are otherwise unable to free up too much space, you can always save music for offline listening too. It won't be as large as if you copied the album to your phone and it's easy to get rid of or replace. Trust me, if you can curb your streaming cravings, even a little, you'll see a huge reduction in data consumption.

How do you manage your mobile data usage? Any other great tips to share?

Kris Carlon comes to the AndroidPIT Editorial Team via a lengthy period spent traveling and relying on technology to keep him in touch with the outside world. He joined the Android community while resurfacing in civilization back in 2010 and has never looked back, using technology to replace his actual presence in other people's lives ever since. He can usually be found juggling three phones at once and poring over G+ posts, Reddit and RSS feeds.


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  • Mikel L. Forcada 2 months ago Link to comment

    I often travel from one European Union country to another. Data roaming rates are still too expensive (€0.25/MB). Here are some things I have done to reduce data usage and still be able to do a few things on an Android 4.0.3 HTC Desire C.

    What I did (quite laborious):
    * Install just the applications I need
    * Turn off 3G: Settings→Mobile Network→Network mode→GSM only
    * Avoid most synchronization: Settings→Accounts and Sync → remove syncing app by app (for Whatsapp I left "sync contacts" on: I still have to check if it makes a difference (probably for the first time a contact comes in?)
    * Background connections seem to take most of the bandwidth: Settings→More→Usage→Set data usage limit (to 10 MB, for instance); then go to most applications, and "restrict background data" (I didn't do this for Whatsapp or Telegram, just in case).

    Doing this, on an Edge connection (E), the phone, when idle in a 2-hour test, consumed about 15 kB/h, which means that it would consume about 0.36 MB/day. This, at about 0.25€/MB in the EU, is just a few cents a day which is bearable; of course, it will go up when one uses it.

    For those of you with Android 5.0 phones, it may work like this:
    * Turn off 3G/4G: Syncing: Settings→More→Mobile Networks→Preferred Network type→2G
    * Avoid most synchronization: Settings→[Personal]→Accounts and then deactivate synchronization application by application (tedious).
    * Settings→Usage→Set Mobile Data Limit (to some reasonable value), to be able to do the next step.
    * Settings→Usage then go application by application and Restrict App Background Data

    Some of these changes have to be done application by application which is time consuming. It would be nice if an application could do this in a single go.

  • Curio CT 3 months ago Link to comment

    hmmm these battery / data saving 'solutions' all involve fairly serious compromises on normal usage, much easier to get mobile charging solutions and a data package that allows you to use whatever you need pretty much the simplest answer

  • G H W 3 months ago Link to comment

    I found this item to use...Adapter for Apple 30 Pin Dock Female to Micro USB Male Data Sync and Charge Connector Converter for Samsung Galaxy Note 4 IV Galaxy S5 Note 3 2 S4 S3 Galaxy Tab 4 3 HTC One LG Optimus Sony Xperia OEM
    It seems it will NOT work for AUDIO transfer, what now?
    I have a Samsung Galaxy Note 3

  • David Marshall 3 months ago Link to comment

    Thanks I just read this and did all of the settings to my phone.

  • Melissa 3 months ago Link to comment

    it helps a bunch... ty

  • G H W 3 months ago Link to comment

    I hope to use this info... If I have trouble I'll post back... Thanks for this article.

  • Nathan Hercules Smith 3 months ago Link to comment

    Super helpful thanks

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