9 Ways To Cut Your Smartphone Data Bill

As the average web page/image/file on the internet has grown, most folks' monthly allowance for mobile bandwidth has gotten smaller. Today, it's extremely easy to use a gigabyte of data in a month. The quantity will just keep rising -- and with it, the potential for massive monthly bills.

So what are the best ways to put the brakes on the neediest data hogs? Here are the nine most effective changes you can make to get the most out of your data allowance.

Connect to Wi-Fi Whenever Possible

Duh. This is obvious. But for the sake of posterity, being connected to Wi-Fi as much as you can is the quickest way to remedy your data consumption problem. If the places you frequent most -- home, work, friends' places, bus stops, train stations, bars, cafes -- have open connections, you should hop on those. They're the places you'll inevitably pull your phone out at and finding those networks is something you should be conscious of at all times.

Ignore the Idiot Box

Also a mildly obvious idea, but streaming video is the number one culprit when it comes to encroaching on your monthly data allotment. A five-minute YouTube video sucks up 5-10 megabytes. TV shows and movies obviously take up even more. Simply put, don't do it unless you're on Wi-Fi. And if you must, don't make a habit of it.

Listen Locally

Yes, the average music file can be smaller than the average video file of the same length. But you probably listen to music while you're out of the house much more frequently than you watch videos, so it can be more of a data suck if you're not careful. If you stream something like Spotify on your drive to work every day, an hour of music will eat up 50-70 megabytes of data (and that's not even at the best audio quality). Here's the solution: unlike streaming video, you can cache music to your phone if you pay for a streaming music service. Save a few albums to your phone before you leave the house, and listen to those while you're out. Plus, then, you don't have to deal with the hassle of dead zones and music cutting out.

Be Antisocial

Many of us have been trained to be constantly checking our social networks. Every so often, we run through our Facebook, our Twitter, our Instagram, our Tumblr, etc, etc. What seems like a fairly lightweight activity can actually consume 5-10 megabytes of data each time you check into one of those services (especially if you're clicking links and photos). Do that a few times a day over 3G for a month, and you could be wasting a couple of gigs of data on this alone. Instead of going full bore with these when you're not on Wi-Fi, maybe pick one or two essential social networks that you have to check frequently.

Read It Later

When you come across a link that isn't essential reading right that second, bookmark it or favourite it for later (that could be a few megabytes saved right there). Same goes for photos, though these are somewhat unavoidable on Facebook and Tumblr. This nearly halved the amount of data I was using with each run through a social network.

Lose the Extra Page Weight

If you frequently fire up your web browser on the go, consider keeping an app like Opera Mini handy. To keep file sizes low, Opera Mini will render and compress pages on its servers before sending it over to your phone. Whereas a fully rendered page in Safari will consume 2-3 megabytes, the average Opera Mini page only weighs in at 200-300 kilobytes.

Sharing Is Not Caring

It's great to be able to share your photos on those social networks you spend all your time checking, but does every goddam thing you eat need to be uploaded in real time? Instead of furiously rushing to get your duckfaced mug up on your wall, just wait until you get home (or at least onto a Wi-Fi network), before you start uploading media. The average Instagram/Twitter upload consumes around 200kb of data. Sending a photo to a friend over iMessage can use up 0.5-1.5 megabytes. Videos can use up tens of megabytes. If you can help it, snap now, and upload later.

Trust Your Natural Sense of Direction

Turn-by-turn navigation can use an average of 5MB of data for every hour it's operational. Most of us don't need turn-by-turn navigation for our daily routines, but some of us (especially in a city like Sydney), are addicted to it for everything else. If you're really desperate to cut down on data usage, relying on an emailed or printed list of directions could save you a 100 megabytes of data in a month -- not insane, but helpful nonetheless.

Pull Your Email, Don't Push

This is really for the most desperate of people. Email probably won't suck up thaaaaaaat much data for people, and for those of you who do receive lots and lots of email, you probably can't afford to ignore it. But still, you can opt to fetch your email manually instead of having it automatically pushed to your phone, which can save a couple hundred kilobytes here and there. If it's the end of the month and you're on the brink of going over your limit, the few megabytes you potentially save here could make the difference.



    Another obvious one is to use mobile versions of websites where practical. I've set my phone's browser to do that by default.

    Here's my solution: sign up with Vodafone and move to Melbourne. You'll have zero chance of getting through your data allowance when the company can't provide you with any useful 3G coverage.

      sounds just like Vodafone Canberra, or at least when I was there.

    if you are using an iphone, stop using imessage. Depending on your carrier and plan, one imessage message may actually cost you a fair bit as you may be charged in 100kb or even 1mb blocks when transmitting, which adds up quickly and makes you go over your limit in a short period of time. It was costing my girlfriend a fortune with Optus. Most plans these days have SMS including for cheap or free on large plans so it just didn't make sense to use imessage.

    The new version of dolphins now allows you to turn off images. This saves me from data hungry gifs that people like to post and has the benefit of the page loading quicker.

    Google maps allows you to cache local maps so you can navigate with data turned off. Particularly useful when overseas. Cache maps over wireless before you leave the hotel.

    Has anyone mentioned ONAVO EXTEND ? It's free app and saves a lot of data if you want it to. A basic need for roamers.


      Yep, I was going to suggest this too. It's automatic, systematic, hydro... actually, it's got nothing to do with water. It works well with a number of applications. You can even dial down the quality level of all images you see in your browser. Note: It can slow down your browsing experience slightly though, but it's not too noticeable. It'll even show you how much data it's saved you.

      I haven't used it for a few months now as I have more data than I can use; but I'd recommend it to see if it can help you - only because it works, and it's free.

    On my Telstra mobile I can use whereis for turn-by-turn and MOG for 320kbps mp3 streaming and both don't count towards my data limit. Not sure about the other carriers and what they offer but would be worth seeing if there are certain apps and services that you get that don't toll.

    Or best of all borrow your friends phone...saves heaps of data :P alternatively just get a normal phone without the smarts, bring back the candy stick!

    And weather apps that update ever half hour.

    I have a Dell Streak on Optus and even with teathering occasionally I still can't get over my cap... do you guys only have 200meg plans or something silly?

    Most plans offer free social these days, which includes pictures on Facebook.

    Also, Optus has unlimited youtube as an extra you can add in MyAccount for $6 per month.

    Check your plan - if the video you watch regularly is youtube and the social media you check constantly is facebook/twitter then you really shouldn't be having these issues with big data usage.

    Further to g-man's suggestion - check the refresh interval on all apps and check your settings generally no matter what smartphone platform you are using.

    "Whereas a fully rendered page in Safari will consume 2-3 megabyte..." - that seems huge, I really can't see that being the average. On my crappy connection I'd be waiting half an hour for each page, and I'm certainly not. For example, this page we're on (before my comment) was 1.3mb, with 1.2mb of that being images. You're saying the average is somewhere around double the size of this page?

    Navigation on my Nokia is free.

    Bilbo While the first statement may well be true, ad henimom statements are not welcome here. I used 6.66GB of data in Australia, but I did so using local Telstra and Vodafone sim cards, and that cost me about $200. I used a lot of data there because I was working, and taking maximum advantage of tools like Dropbox which constantly send updates to files, and I subscribe to iTunes TV shows like the Daily Show (250Mb a pop). I also don't let lousy plans get in the way of using internet properly, as it is in other places. If you think this is nuts, then just wait a few years and we can all have a good laugh. International data use rose at a cumulative average of 56% each year to Australasia over the last 10 years (TeleGeography numbers). Given time we will all all be gobbling a lot more data. L

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