Bad news, smartphone owners: Unlimited data plans are, for the most part, a thing of the past. Even if you've managed to hang on to your unlimited data plan on AT&T or Verizon, it's likely not truly unlimited—your carrier probably throttles your data speeds if you exceed 2GB of downloaded data in a given billing period.
Telecoms want you to buy bigger data allowances, and they have the leverage to do so: We're using more data than ever these days thanks to apps, social media, Web services, and our obsessive email-checking. So what's a hard-working, socially connected, tech-savvy person such as yourself to do with a limited data plan? Follow these tips to cut back on your data habit, track and monitor your usage, and extend your data plan—so you never have to pay overage charges again.
Okay, you're ready. You're so ready to start saving data and money. But first things first—before you can start reducing your data usage, you need to know how much data you actually use. The only way to do that is to monitor and track your usage so that you learn exactly what your phone is doing—even when you're not using it (thanks, background data).
You have a few ways to track your data usage on an Android or iOS device. The simplest method is to look up the information on the device itself, namely your smartphone or tablet. Android users can check their data consumption by digging into the settings menu: Navigate to Settings > Wireless and network and tap Data usage. Here, you'll find an interactive graph that displays how much data you've used over the past month. You can also check previous months' data usage, and you can view a list of apps that use data and see how much they consume.
The process for iOS users is a bit more complicated, and the results are a lot less useful. Go to Settings > General > Usage and tap Cellular usage at the bottom of the screen. Here, under Cellular Network Data, you can see how much you've consumed—but only since the last time you reset the tracker. If you don't reset the tracker at the beginning of each new billing cycle, this statistic is useless. For example, the last time I reset my iPhone's tracker was in June 2010, when I purchased the handset. So my iPhone displays how much data I've used since then, which is a fun bit of trivia that's not terribly helpful for tracking my monthly data usage.
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