How to Cut Your Mobile Data Usage

If your mobile data usage keeps growing, there are a number of tried-and-tested techniques to drive it down before considering a new plan.

Getting the most out of your smartphone usually means burning through a heap of mobile data. If you’re not on the right plan, it could end up costing you. But before considering a new mobile data plan, it’s worthwhile looking at some of the ways you can better manage your usage.

If you’re regularly topping up your data allowance with add-ons, making a few changes could help save you some cash. For those already on an unlimited data plan, conserving data will help you avoid those dreaded reduced data speeds.

There are several steps you can take to both monitor and manage your usage. If your data demands are still too much, we’ve also taken a look at plans that cater to heavy users.

Keeping tabs: How to monitor your data usage

Regularly monitoring your usage will help keep you up to speed with how much data you have left. It can also pinpoint which apps and online activities are the biggest data guzzlers.

As a first step, it is worthwhile looking into what tools your mobile provider offers. Your provider’s app or online account can tell you how much data you have used and how much you have left. You may even be able to receive alerts when you are nearing your limit.

Additionally, both Android smartphones and iPhones (iOS) have in-built tools that can help with monitoring and managing usage. This is a great way to get a breakdown of what is guzzling all your precious mobile data. (Keep in mind that the below options and steps may vary depending on the software version you are using).

If you’re using an Android smartphone, you can check your usage by:

  • Opening the Settings app
  • Selecting Network & internet  > Data usage
  • Selecting Mobile data usage

You will then be able to check details of your data usage over specified periods, along with the data usage of individual apps.

If you’re using an iPhone, you can check your usage by:

  • Opening the Settings app
  • Selecting Cellular or Mobile Data

You will then be presented with your data usage for the current period. Scroll down for a rundown of each app’s data usage.

It is also worth mentioning that there is a range of data management apps on offer via Google Play and the App Store. These can be left to run in the background and allow you to track consumption, set data limits and usage alerts.

Cutting usage: How to configure your mobile data settings

When it comes to cutting your usage, the little things can add up. Digging into your smartphone settings can be a great way to use some of the data saving tools at your disposal. 

As a first step, use wi-fi whenever possible. If you don’t need to use your data, don’t! Turning off your mobile data when not in use will stop it from automatically connecting when you’re away from wi-fi. It will also help avoid those dreaded moments when you’re browsing at home only to realise you’ve been connected to your data, not wi-fi, all evening!

If you’re an Android user, you can set a mobile data usage warning by:

(steps may vary depending on the version of Android)

  • Opening the Settings app
  • Selecting Network & internet > Data usage
  • Selecting Mobile data usage > Settings
  • Selecting Data warning (if needed, first turn on Set data warning), and then enter a number and select Set

You will then receive a notification when your usage reaches the level you have selected. To set a limit and automatically turn off mobile data, follow the above steps, however after Mobile data usage > Settings, turn on Set data limit, then follow the steps to enter a number and select Set.

iPhones don’t have the same type of in-built settings for usage warnings. But keep in mind that (as advised above) there is a range of apps that provide this feature.

Meanwhile, both Android smartphones and iPhones incorporate features to help limit mobile data usage. One of these is by reducing background usage.

The below options and steps may vary depending on the software version you are using.

Data Saver mode for Android smartphones 

Data saver mode lets most apps and services get background data only via wi-fi, as opposed to mobile data. It can be enabled by:

  • Opening the Settings app
  • Selecting Network & internet > Data saver
  • Turning Data saver on (or off, if required)

Low Data mode for iPhones

Low data mode restricts background network use and can be enabled for mobile usage by:

  • Opening the Settings app > Cellular
  • Selecting Cellular Data Options and turning on Low Data Mode (for 5G cellular, select Data Mode, and turn on Low Data Mode; if you’re using a dual-SIM iPhone, you’ll need to specify the number before turning on Low Data Mode)

Cutting usage: Going to the source

Of course, it is important to ensure apps are closed when not in use. It’s also worth looking at all the apps clogging up your home screen and deleting ones you don’t use.

Background data usage can place a significant strain on your data allowance. For both Android smartphone and iPhone users, it is possible to limit usage by apps on a case-by-case basis. 

As advised above, Android users can use Data Saver mode to reduce background data usage. The Unrestricted Data setting also allows for you to select specific apps and services that can still use mobile data when Data Saver is on.

iPhone users can turn off mobile data access for individual apps by checking their data usage (following the steps detailed above). Then scroll down to turn off access for specific apps. You can also use the Background App Refresh feature by:

  • Opening the Settings app
  • Selecting General > Background App Refresh

You can then turn Background App Refresh off completely, or scroll down to turn it off for individual apps.

It is also worthwhile looking at the settings of the apps you use. These may potentially provide data saving features. For instance, social media apps and website browsers may have settings that allow you to stop videos from automatically playing.

This one might take a bit of digging around, but it could well pay off. Go through each of your individual apps (especially the ones you use most heavily), and enable any data saving features on offer.

Streaming: A potential data guzzler

Video and music streaming can churn through data in quick time, potentially taking a big chunk out of your allowance. However, there are workarounds to limit the cumulative impact of these services.

As with social media apps and website browsers, delve into the settings of each of the streaming services you are using to utilise any data saving features on offer.

Firstly, downloading media for later use lets you listen and watch data-free. When connected to wi-fi, download the content you want and you’ll have unlimited access to it offline. 

If you regularly stream on your commute each day, this could help to significantly reduce your usage.

Another approach is to reduce the quality of the stream. This will in turn reduce mobile data usage.

For instance, Netflix offers its users four mobile data usage settings. These can vary from around 1GB every 20mins through to 1GB every six hours. Similarly, Spotify’s Data Saver feature reduces data usage by showing fewer images and reducing the audio quality.

Time to upgrade: Data-heavy plans

If you’re still exhausting your data allowance, it could be time to go big! Many plans now come with unlimited data, but keep in mind the maximum speed data allowance.

Reduced speed data (which applies once you’ve exhausted your maximum speed allowance) is fine for basic functions, but you may experience limitations in what you can do.

The following plans are decked out for users who need a substantial data allowance:

  • Spark – Endless Mobile ($99.99 per month) comes with 100GB of maximum speed data, and then endless data (maximum of 1.2Mbps); Netflix Standard (HD) or Spotify Premium; 10GB of hotspot data; unlimited New Zealand and Australia talk and text.
  • Vodafone – Large ($80 per month) comes with 40GB of maximum speed data, and then endless data (maximum of 1.2 Mbps); hotspotting; unlimited New Zealand and Australia talk and text.
  • 2degrees – Pay Monthly Endless ($80 per month) comes with 40GB of maximum speed data, and then endless data (maximum of 1.2Mbps); free Data Hour at maximum speed every day (up to 40GB per month); hotspotting; unlimited New Zealand and Australia talk and text.
  • Skinny – Endless Data ($70, four-weekly) comes with 40GB of maximum speed data, and then endless data (maximum of 1.2Mbps); hotspotting; unlimited New Zealand and Australia talk and text.

It’s certainly worthwhile shopping around, and considering the full scope of provider offerings (including features like hotspotting, and offers such as bundle deals) in determining what mobile data plans are best suited for your data usage.


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