November 8, 2013 | Posted in: Android, Mobile

How to restrict data usage and stay under your limit

With an Android smartphone, you can be online anywhere as long as there is coverage. This access to information and communication comes with a price tag however if you’re on a limited plan for 3G with your carriers or using ready to go style payments. However, with a little tweaking and careful selection of some of your settings on your device, you can make sure that you’re not eating your data without your knowledge.
Watching 15 minutes of streaming video a day on your phone—a couple funny YouTube videos or just half an episode of a sitcom on Hulu or Netflix—is enough to add 1.25GB of data to your monthly usage. Stream some music while working out at the gym? Listening to Pandora for a daily 30 minute workout will add 800MB of data to your bill. Snap a lot of photos and sync them to your Dropbox account or Facebook? Uploading a dozen high resolution photos a day can easily add 300-400MB to your usage.
I’m including below a selection of ways to reduce the amount of data that you need to pay for on your phone package. It’s cobbled together form a few various lists I’ve come across over the last few months.
Google Play: Update only over WiFi
A big one with Android devices would be enabling to allow updates to your apps only when you’re connected to WiFi. If you head over to your Google Play App and click on the settings, you can specify yourself when you want Google Play to download updates (OR TURN THEM OFF EVEN).  I have set this to update over WiFi so that all this can be done while my device is plugged in at home and connected to my home network.In-app settingsIn addition to limiting Google Play from updating itself when you’re out and about, you can usually also customize individual apps to do the same thing. For example, apps such as Facebook, Google+ or Dropbox might be defaulting to sync photos and files that you have on your device in the background. If you’re uploading your entire photo collection on your device, this can quickly add up and get you to your data limit in no time if it goes unchecked. (After the last update my phone was defaulting to uploading photos both to Dropbox AND Google+)  As such, much like with Google Play, it is often advised to have these set to either not auto-backup photos at all or to have it set to only do it when your device is connected to a WiFi network.
Download and Streaming: WiFi onlyAs above, the same can be applied to services that stream or download data on the go: streaming movies via Netflix, listening to music via online radio, and whatnot can also be super data intensive. And while the ability to watch a movie no matter  where you are is pretty awesome, maybe it might be for the best to connect to that WiFi network before starting on your How I Met Your Mother binge watching session. Save most streaming for when you’re on Wi-Fi, or check out for a service which lets you cache music stations.Caching and offline use:

Many apps also offer you the option to download data beforehand and cache it on your system. With Spotify, you can download playlists, songs, and full albums to listen later “offline”. Google Maps allows you to save maps in advance so that you can look at them later. To do this, search for an area that you’re interested in having the map for and then type in “Okay Maps” in the search bar. Google Maps will automatically download the map for offline use later.

Restrict Background Data:

In the settings menu, you can find out which apps you have consume the most data both in foreground (as in, when you’re using the app) and background (as in, when it not being used actively). When you click on each app, it’ll break this down in a handy pie chart and you’ll be able to customize the time period in which you want to view data consumption. You can limit background data by checking off “Limit Background Data” at the bottom of the screen when you click on a particular app.

Increase email checking intervals:

Use the settings in the email app to leave it longer between logins. It may not be much if there’s no emails to download but checking in every five minutes may not be essential. Make sure you can also set it not to download attachments automatically therefore ensuring that you only download the attachments that you need to actually read.

Google Account: Check synchronization settings

One of the great things about your having a Google account is being able to synchronize your many Google accounts across many devices and PCs. While this is a gift for many, this may also suck extra data that you’re saving on your mobile device if gone unchecked. In the settings menu of your smartphone, you can specify what exactly you want to be synced with your Google account. For example, you can pick and choose that you want your contacts to be automatically updated across devices, but perhaps, not all the movies in your Google Play Movies or the music in Play Music.

Browser: restrict data usage

Mobile surfing is a great way to pass time on the go, whether you’re waiting for a meeting or on public transit. However, a media intensive site or something not customized for mobile browsing may be pretty data intensive. Browsers such as Google Chrome and Opera offer options to compress data before transmitting it to your device, helping you reduce the amount of data you’re consuming with these browsers.

Data Use Checking:

Check your past usage: The easiest way to check past data usage is to log into the web portal of your cellular provider (or check your paper bills) and look at what your data usage is. If you’re routinely coming in way under your data cap you may wish to contact your provider and see if you can switch to a less expensive data plan. If you’re coming close to the data cap or exceeding it, you will definitely want to keep reading.

Check your recent usage: Checking your old bills is a great way to see your data usage over the previous months/years but it will always lag by a billing cycle. In order to check your current usage you want to monitor consumption from within Android.

If your phone has Android 4.0 or above you can check your usage via the OS. If your phone is not currently running Android 4.0 or above you’ll want to skip down to the next section where we talk about third-party monitoring tools.

Navigate to Settings –> Wireless & Networks –> Data Usage. You’ll see a screen that looks something like the first screen:

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Here you can set warnings and limits on mobile data use even for individual apps.

So, these are a few tips and tricks to limit the data consumption on your mobile device but by no means is it an exhaustive list. It is worth checking using the App settings what exactly each app is connecting for and how much data it uses in the background which is costing you money each month unnecessarily.

Third Party Tools:

You could also Check out MyDataManager (free). The app tracks your data usage in real time and offers you a detailed breakdown of how much data each app is hogging. This way, you can identify which apps use the most data. The best feature? Data threshold alerts. MyDataManager lets you set thresholds (like 200MB, 1GB, 2GB, and so on) and get notified whenever you pass a threshold.

Onavo Count is another : Not only is it an improvement over the built-in monitoring provided by Android 4.0+ phones it works on phones with Android versions as low as Android 2.2.

You could also install an ad-blocker, modern ads take up a surprising amount of data. Alternatively a lot of the free apps out there have a facility where you can pay a small fee (0.99) to get the upgrade which reoves the ads altogether.