How to cut down on your data usage

data usageI’m a lot better at financial management than managing my cellphone data, but the reality is that data is money and for most of us, our smartphones are like a dripping tap, using data we are not even aware of. I received some useful tips on managing data from Karin Fourie, Cell C Executive Head: Communications, and spent about an hour resetting, configuring and investigating.

How to check how much data you’re using

Most handsets allow customers to check which applications are using data and how much they are using. On an Android device, customers can select Settings and then Data Usage to see exactly which applications are using data. I discovered that my iPhone is not so user friendly and you have to actually click on Reset Statistics each month in order to calculate your monthly data usage.

You can download third-party data monitors to keep data usage in check. I went to the useful iGeeksBlog.com which recommended five apps for tracking iPhone data: DataMan Next, DataWiz, Onavo Extend, Data Monitor, and My Data Manager.

I haven’t downloaded these yet as I want to see how I get on just using my iPhone statistics settings.

Apps running in the background gobble up data

If you leave your browser open and the page is refreshing, that will keep using data even if you are using other applications. Fourie told me that other applications, such as Instagram, also have an impact. For example, many people allow Instagram to automatically play videos; even if you scroll past a video, it will continue to play in the background and consume data. Fourie recommends that you turn off automatic play on videos for all applications, including Facebook.

Once I checked my phone’s data statistics I was horrified to discover how much data the Weather App consumes, even though I hardly use it! Again this is because it is continuously refreshing. You can change the Background App Refresh option so that apps don’t automatically refresh – I did this for every single app. For apps I don’t use often I also changed the settings so that it could not work on cellular data. If I need the app, I can change the settings again.

Also delete any apps that you don’t use. What really bugs me with the iPhone is that there are some apps I never use that I can’t delete, like Stocks. This can go through a lot of data so make sure it is at least not accessing your cellular data.

Find wi-fi for your updates

My phone is forever wanting to update either the actual software or some app. This uses up some serious data. Fourie recommends that you do these updates via wi-fi at home or your office. If you don’t have access to free or cheap wi-fi, find yourself a hotspot that offers free data and do your updates there.

Cell C suggests that updates on mobile handsets should be set to only automatically update once on a wi-fi network. This will prevent apps from automatically updating over mobile data.

Remove unwanted apps

It’s important to remove unwanted apps on the device from time to time. Fourie says some free apps can unfortunately push software updates or advertising via the app, which consumes data. Reading the review of an app before downloading will provide you with useful tips about the app.

Do not roam

Data roaming is extremely expensive and can run into tens of thousands of rands if you access the internet and emails over several days, as international providers charge very high rates for data roaming. Fourie recommends that if you are travelling abroad, you should rather purchase a local sim card in the country you are visiting, to keep costs down and avoid bill shock. Also most international airports, hotels and public places have wi-fi access points, which you can use to access the Internet, send e-mails or check Facebook.

Fourie says Cell C Customer Care will assist customers to learn how to minimise data usage on their handsets and they also send out an SMS warning if your data bundle is running low.

This article first appeared in City Press.

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