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8 easy ways to slash your mobile data usage on Android

Update: Opera's video compression tool added

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 eight steps to use less mobile data on Android.

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

androidpit chrome reduce data usage
Compressing Chrome pages can result in some huge data savings. / © ANDROIDPIT

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. 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 wil 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.

5. 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 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.

6. 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.

7. 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

8. 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. Furthermore, why not try one of our favorite offline Android games to use less data while you get your game on? 

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

Kris is a former AndroidPIT Editor who came to the team via a lengthy period spent traveling and relying on technology to keep him in touch with the outside world. He can usually be found juggling three phones at once and poring over G+ posts, Reddit and RSS feeds.


Write new comment:
  • Great tips! I use Karma Go for my data. No contracts and you get free data when other people sign on to your network. Its amazing. You can get $10 off your Karma
    Go here: www BestMobileWiFi com

    If your using data on a laptop, PC, or mac you can use these following tips

    1. Disable images on your browser
    2. Disable plugins
    3. Use Opera Turbo to speed up the connection and save data
    4. Don't have tabs you don't need opened
    5. Minimize video watching time if you can
    6. Minimize uploading, especially videos

  • 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.

  • 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 3 months ago Link to comment

    use opera max.

  • I use HERE Maps for navigation because you can download whole maps.

  • Good stuff. Thanks.

    Can someone explain to me the basics of how switching to a Facebook shortcut or mobile site wrap (as Tinfoil labels itself) will reduce data usage?

    I understand that the official app is oversized in its own right, but whether I'm using it or accessing the site via shortcut, isn't my newsfeed going to mean the same volume of data being sent in either case? Does the app somehow pull or use more data accessing the site other means?

    Thanks in advance for any insight.

    • I wouldn't recommend this step. The biggest data usage drain from Facebook is its default setting to Autoplay videos. From your feed in the app you can disable this by tapping the 3 lines on the right side and tap "app settings". Turn off the option to play videos automatically or change it to Wi-Fi only. This will make sure that only videos you actually watch are downloaded and use data.

      If you use chrome to view facebook, the data usage will be the same. However, it will muddy the situation. By using Facebook on chrome you won't be able to distinguish if your data is being caused by Facebook or by other sites you visit when checking data usage in the settings.

    • skyrail 1 month ago Link to comment

      Don't know how facebook app handle data. But using the facebook mobile web version should let you save 30% data considering chrome save 30% data with text compression and reducing image weight.

  • Dan Shaw 3 months ago Link to comment

    There is so much Wi-Fi around me that I really don't use data. Even with google maps and such. I have only 300 mb to share with my wife and still have plenty of data left over.

  • I follow these steps on my phone.

  • awesome trick really very helpful for Indians where mobile data are very costly and keep on increasing

  • chrome shortcuts are a great way of being economical with data.
    I got rid of my EE app, Amazon app, and a couple of other apps, which I now access via a chrome s/c, God knows how much data I wasted having these apps installed when I only use them occasionally...

  • While using Google map it is good to select ,2g only in mobile network settings mode, and see difference in data saving. Use offline in highways, in city it is better on data service because if a deviation comes ,will no t be rerouted.

  • Wow! Thank you for sharing this information with us. I never thought of these factors until I read your article.

  • 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.

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