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5 ways to stay below your data cap on Android and iOS

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal | Sept. 6, 2013
Limited data plan?No problem—we have some simple tricks that can help you cut back on data usage.

Cut back on data-heavy apps
Not all apps are created equal. In fact, some apps, such as streaming music and video players, can eat through your data plan in a week. You probably know that it's best to keep Netflix mobile marathons to a minimum, but it's other data-sucking apps that you really need to worry about. Social networking apps (which are constantly updating in the background), games (which push ads and notifications to you), and cloud-storage apps such as Dropbox or Google Drive (which constantly download files to stay synced) can drain data without your knowledge.

Onavo app
Onavo Count keeps tabs on how much data your apps are gobbling up.

You need a tattletale app, one that reports on how much data each app on your phone is using. I recommend downloading a third-party app such as Onavo Count, which is available for both Android and iOS. The free Onavo Count shows you how much data your apps are using, but it doesn't stop there—you can generate weekly and monthly data usage reports, as well as an app guide that shows a list of the 20 most popular apps and how much data they use on average.

Onavo Count also has a "You vs. Everyone" analysis feature, which tells you how much data each of your apps is using in comparison with other people's apps. This function is helpful because it can alert you to excessive data usage; for example, if your Dropbox app is using way more data than other people's Dropbox apps are, you should probably tweak your sync settings and rein in your mobile Dropbox use to reduce data consumption.

Another way to cut back on data-heavy apps is to use "lightweight" apps for everyday tasks, such as Web browsing. For example, Opera Mini (Android and iOS) is a lightweight browser that compresses websites before sending them to your device. If you don't mind text-only browsing, TextOnly (Android) and Text Browser (iOS) are extremely lightweight browsers—they show only the readable text on a webpage. You'll save data, since you won't have to worry about downloading large graphics, photos, or ads.

Block ads
Mobile ads aren't just annoying—they're also data hogs. Each ad you see in an app, in a game, or on a webpage must download from an external server, which means you're using data. Frustrating, isn't it? Thankfully, you have a few different ways to banish ads from your mobile device.

Typically the simplest way to eliminate ads from an app or game is to purchase the "Pro" or full version of said app or game. Doing so usually involves only a nominal charge, and it allows you to support the app developer while conserving your data. Another easy way to block ads in apps and games is to use the app or game sans Internet (if possible). Simply switch your phone to Airplane Mode and launch the app—if it can work without an Internet connection, you'll be able to enjoy it ad-free (since your phone can't reach the servers to download the ads in the background without a connection).


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