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Ways to limit data cap usage on iOS and Android

This is an age of always-connected devices that use dwindling data plan allotments for more and more reasons.


Lets say you started off the new year with a great new phone or tablet and its attached to your mobile data plan. Sounds like the start to a very good year, if you have an unlimited data plan. You will now have lightning fast access to movies, music, and videos that stream, your email and cloud storage, and a host of instant access apps that can keep you up to data and connected with the social world anywhere and at all times. Now, about that data plan?

If you are like the rest of us, unlimited data plans disappeared a few years ago along with the mobile dream of streaming anything you want, anywhere you want. True mobility comes at a cost and your mobile provider will be looking for a pretty penny when you exceed your allotment.

The safest way to navigate the mobile world adequately with the handcuffs of the today's data usage plans is to actively control how what you allow to access your data and how you use it. In order to help alleviate the pain of figuring the most effective ways to extend your data plan, we have listed the most effective steps available to combat your personal usage.

Monitor Usage

The first step on the path to controlling your data usage is learning where and how you are using your data. The best way to accomplish this is to track your usage using an app that will track how data is used by your device even when you aren't using it.

The simplest way to gather this data is to access the stored information on your specific device. For Android users, you can check your data usage by accessing the menu Settings, then Wireless and network, and select Data usage. For iOS 7 users, tap your Setting app, then select Cellular and you will find your usage there.

Unfortunately, the data usage information on you specific device may not be the best indication of actual usage and will not provide detailed breakdowns of usage specifics. For the best results, consult your mobile provider for apps or account information specific to your data usage. As an example, Verizon offers the My Verizon Mobile app, which provides data usage tracking.

Restrict App Access

One of the biggest threats to your limited data allotment comes from installed apps. Many apps are voracious when it comes to data usage and can eat a chunk out of your total data in no time. To combat this issue, limit which aps have access to your cellular data service.

For iOS users, this is a simple process. To access the limiting feature in iOS 7, tap the Settings app, select Cellular, and look for the heading Use Cellular Network Data For. All you have to do to limit app access is to tap toggle the switch by the listed app's name. By flipping the toggle, you will limit the app to only updating or accessing data through Wi-Fi.

Unfortunately, Android users no longer have the ability to limit access to apps outside of uninstalling. For a very brief moment recently, Android users were given the ability to limit if an app had access to certain phone features without denying the installation all-together. That ability was taken away, leaving Android users with no way to combat a popular app's usage beyond deletion.

Use Wi-Fi When Possible

When your mobile device is connected to a Wi-Fi access point, the apps and services on your device will use that connecting instead of your cellular data plan. This will allow you to use all the services that your device was meant to utilize without the stress of limited data access. The only downside is that mobile Wi-Fi usage may drain your battery more quickly that pure cellular service.

Be smart about where and how your connect to Wi-Fi. If you have a secure home or work connecting, your usage should be more safe than if you are using the free Wi-Fi at a burger joint or the corner coffee shop. If you must connect to a public Wi-Fi access point, take suitable precautions and ask yourself if streaming one more cat video is worth the security risk.

Don't Stream On Cellular Service

Streaming services, the best feature of a mobile device, is also its worst attribute when you look at data usage. The usage numbers are surprising and are pretty even across the board depending upon the type of streaming service you are using.

According to the Verizon Data Calculator, streaming one hour of music to your mobile device will accumulate 1.76 GB of data usage in a single month. For most users, that is almost the entire monthly allotment of data access for their plan. Two hours a day for an entire month will handcuff a normal account with almost 1.5 GB of data usage overage fees.

Streaming adds up fast, so be sure to limit how and when you stream to limit the damage it can do to your data plan.

Limit Automatic App Updates

One of the great features of both Android and iOS mobile devices is the app automatic update feature. With the amount of apps available and the numbers that most people accumulate for their mobiles device, keeping them all up-to-data can be a nightmare. However, the flip side to this great feature is that the automatic update has to be configured to not use your cellular data or else you could have a large chunk of your data plan disappear automatically.

For Android device users, find and tap your Google Play app, select More Settings (the three dots in the upper right corner), select Settings in the new menu. From here you will tap Auto-update apps and make the selection Auto-update over Wi-Fi only.

In the case of iOS users, tap the Settings app, choose iTunes & App Store, and then scroll down to where you can confirm that the toggle for Use Cellular Data is in the off position. This will limit your iOS device to app updates only over established Wi-Fi connections.

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