RACHEL ROTHMAN

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5 Steps to Outsmart Your Data Plan

Check the footnote associated with the asterisk next to your "unlimited" data plan – because chances are your high-speed connection may be throttled after a certain threshold of data is incurred. Use these tips to master your data usage:

1. Connect to WiFi Whenever Possible

Download content in advance when you're on WiFi. Store your fave Spotify or Slackr songs to your device before you're off WiFi for offline listening. There are third party apps and services that let you do similarly for getting recording of content saved to your device in advance.

2. Optimize Your Settings

Besides for being on WiFi whenever possible, there are other steps to take:

Turn off push notifications for things not absolutely necessary (social media, navigation apps, etc.).

Disable background refresh for apps you don't need up to date all the time (on iPhone go to Settings > General > Background App Refresh).

Adjust your settings so certain apps can only run when on WiFi (on iPhone go to Settings > Cellular > Use Cellular Data For) to make sure you won't be using your 3G/4G service for anything you know will eat up your data.

Be mindful of "free" apps. The ads on them may eat up more data than their paid counterparts.

Make sure to close apps because they may be running in the background even after you think you are done with them (on iPhone double tap the home button and then swipe the app cards up, on Android press the back button when exiting apps instead of pressing the home button).

3. Watch Out For Data Mongers

Avoid these if at all possible when you're not on WiFi: YouTube uploads (can be up to 200MB/minute), FaceTime chats (up to 3MB/minute), advanced gaming (you're fine with Dots or Words with Friends, but some can go up to 1MB/minute), Spotify or other music streamers (upwards of 2.5 MB/minute), and video streaming services like Netflix or YouTube (upwards of 50MB/minute).

4. Reduce the Quality on Heavy Data Drainers

Under your settings you can reduce the quality or limit the data on items you know will draw a lot of data. For instance, in YouTube you can select Play HD on WiFi only (or limit mobile data usage). In Facebook you can turn off auto enhance and auto sync.

5. Track Your Data Usage

Knowing how much you're using is key to improving your habits. On Android devices you can do it under Settings > Wireless and Networks > Data Usage (you even have the option of capping yourself off by setting a limit). A similar option for usage is available on the iPhone. Carriers also offer options, like on Verizon you can text #DATA to get a detailed text of your data usage. Here are some general guides to get you started:

  • Spotify: 1 track = 5MB
  • YouTube: 4 min = 300MB
  • Email: 100 emails = 2.5 MB
  • Facebook: 15 minutes (no video) = 5MB
  • Google Maps: 10 minutes = 6MB
  • Netflix: 1 hour = 1GB

For more tech tips and tricks, follow me @GHGadgetGirl or shoot me a question!

Photo Credit: Apple