Today, we’re going to be focusing on a very touchy topic in South Africa and around the world… The cost of data and usage! You might find yourself paying a lot in overage charges, or find yourself throttled at the worst time. Hopefully, in this article we’ll be able to help you set up limits and alerts to keep an eye on your data usage, along with providing some tips to maximize your data plans and curb unnecessary data usage.

So first things first, how much data do you really need?

We usually tend to overestimate the data we need, so use cold hard facts to make the decision on which data package or bundle is best for you. Check up with your service provider and review your data usage over the past few months. Once you have these details, select a plan that is higher than the amount of data you used during this period, but as close to that number as possible.

A question you might also want to ask yourself is, Does your service provider offer some type of rollover data option? If so, you might even have extra data to fall back on in an emergency should you use more data than normal in a month.

Next up is configuring your data alerts and limits

  • How to check your data usage on your iOS device:

Go to Settings > Cellular and observe the stats under Cellular Data Usage. These stats do not reset each billing period automatically, so you will need to remember to do it yourself. To reset these stats, go to Settings > Cellular and tap Reset Statistics, which is found by scrolling all the way down to the bottom of the page.

  • How to check your data usage on your Android device: *(Android 4.0 or later)

Go to Settings, and under Wireless & Networks, tap on Data usage. You’ll notice a table showing your data usage for a specific period. You can toggle Set mobile data limit and then move the black and red lines to set alerts. The black line will trigger a notification that you’re approaching your limit, while the red line represents the threshold where your Android device shuts off cellular data.

One important thing you should also consider is turning mobile data off whenever you don’t need it.

Using Wi-Fi wherever possible

While some Wi-Fi hotspots may require you to accept terms and conditions to connect, others do not, and once you connect the first time it will automatically connect when you’re in range. Start getting into the habit of checking when you’re somewhere new, and this will lead to a substantial drop in cellular data usage.

Limit background data

Even though we may take it for granted as we do not visually see where the background data is going to, it is one of the biggest drains on your data bundle. Your E-Mail always synchronizing new messages as you receive them, or your phone automatically downloading new app updates. Do you really need this? Can something wait until you’re connected to Wi-Fi?

You may want to review what’s using your mobile data and make any necessary changes.

With iOS devices:  

  • Go to Settings > Cellular

With Android devices:

  • Go to Settings > Wireless & Networks > Data usage.Always use Wi-Fi where ever you can so this could also help battery life considering these apps are not active in the background as much.

Changing up your browsing habits

The ideal decision is to browse the mobile version of the website on a mobile device, so try avoiding using the desktop versions of a site where possible. Regardless of a fair amount of storage on your phone, the browser cache is somewhat a good thing in this case. By preserving your cache, you won’t have to download images from frequently visited websites every time you visit them.

Using a browser like Opera Mini (Works for both Android and iOS) could also help a lot as it’s designed to compress data and dramatically reduce your usage when browsing.

Considering streaming services which offer offline options

As we all know by now, videos are by far the biggest drain on our data, so if you stream a lot of YouTube content, then consider YouTube Red. YouTube’s premium service which costs $10 per month. Yes, it may sound like a lot, however, in addition to the offline option you also have a music service built-in! If you are currently using other streaming subscribes, you might want to check if they offer offline content too. Apple Music, Google Music, and Spotify are some of the apps which allow you to create playlists for listening to offline, but obviously for this you will need storage space to keep them.

Compressing your data

One of the awesome solutions to compress your data is a free app called ‘Onavo’ (Works for both Android and iOS). The app is designed to compress your data and potentially extend your data plan by up to five times. The bad news is that it does not work with streaming audio or video apps, including VoIP apps, however it will significantly help with reducing the impact of images and text. It gives you the ability to view a breakdown of which apps are using your data, allowing you to create a universal cache, while assisting you to choose the balance you want between image quality and data savings.