Mobile data usage has skyrocketed in recent years, as apps have become more data hungry and are constantly updated with new versions every few weeks. In the early days of mobile, web-browsing was mostly in text-form. But that has changed with video streaming services and improved ad-implementation on mobile websites gaining widespread popularity, especially on social media platforms. It has become increasingly difficult to limit the amount of data needed to browse the internet on a mobile device.
This is a considerable problem when more than 75 percent of Americans are on a limited data plan, and major carriers are dropping users with high data usages — such as Verizon with its rural customers. Data can quickly become spread far too thin when sharing a cell service plan across multiple devices, which is the case for many smartphone users. Given that 60 percent of Americans rely on mobile devices as their major source of news and information, it’s imperative that users make every last megabyte of data count.
Users should focus on adapting their smartphone habits in order to capitalize on the data they already have access to rather than seek out larger, more costly data plans. What follows are some strategies mobile users can leverage to help reduce their data usage and avoid data surcharges.
Limit data usage through phone and carrier settings
The most effective way to ensure that data usage doesn’t exceed the data plan is to set a limit on the amount of data the phone will utilize in a given period. This system lets the phone alert users whenever data usage approaches a certain amount, and gives them accountability to control their data usage more effectively.
Before setting a limit, we recommend that users first figure out how much data they are actually using each month. This can be done by logging onto the carrier’s website and reviewing the average data usage for their devices, which is typically broken down by month. This will give users an idea of what their current typical monthly data usage looks like, so they can make more educated decisions on how to limit themselves.
Carriers like Verizon offer their own solution to empower users to limit their data this way, but there are also some great third-party applications that are very effective for monitoring and limiting data usage.
Restrict background application tasks
One thing most users don’t consider is that even when their phones are in rest mode, there are dozens of applications running background tasks that are constantly draining their data. Email apps regularly run to keep the inbox updated, Facebook is always working to let users know who commented on the latest post, Google Maps is constantly pinging location information from the phone’s GPS, etc. All of this activity is consuming data while the phone isn’t even being used.
Users should review their data settings to evaluate which apps are using data behind the scenes, and make changes to restrict activities that are unnecessary. Ultimately, they need to figure what applications can stall activity until the phones is connected to Wi-Fi, and which applications are important enough to require the urgency of “always updating.”
Only allow apps to update over Wi-Fi
As mentioned above, restricting applications to only activate while the phone is connected to Wi-Fi can be a huge data-saver. Not only does connecting to Wi-Fi more regularly save precious data while streaming, browsing and posting to social media, but this is especially helpful when it comes to updating or downloading apps.
App developers often push updates, which can sometimes come through at very inconvenient times — from a data perspective. These updates take an incredible amount of data to complete each time, and automatically start without the user’s permission (and sometimes knowledge) unless set otherwise. Users should adjust their smartphone settings to only update when prompted, or automatically update only when the device is connected to Wi-Fi.
Users are often surprised at how much this small change cuts back on their monthly data usage.
Utilize data compression
Perhaps the simplest solution is for users to use a mobile browser that automatically lessens data utilization. New research conducted via the industry standard Glasswire tool shows that the best data compression is conducted by the mobile browser Puffin, which enables users to get more articles from their news outlet of choice than Firefox, Opera or native browsers. When using Puffin to search the web, users can read up to 666 more articles per GB on The New York Times website compared to Firefox.
This translates to data savings in more areas than just news. Take Facebook for instance — a user can scroll through 14,238 more posts per GB of data with Puffin, as opposed to Opera. And on Pinterest, Puffin empowers users to browse an additional 6,301 pins per GB, as opposed to UC Browser. In a society where social media plays such a key role in interpersonal communication, any methods for making these platforms more accessible should be capitalized upon.
So how does Puffin do it? By leveraging the power of the cloud, Puffin offers impressively quick browsing by outsourcing all of the website processing to data centers. This enables the phone to simply be a display of the content running on remote servers — not only saving users valuable data, but making their mobile browsing experience up to five times faster. And don’t forget that saving data means saving money down the road.
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