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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.

If you'd rather block ads the traditional way, you'll have to get a little hands-on—Google no longer allows ad-blocking apps in the Google Play store, and Apple has never allowed ad-blocking apps on iOS. But if you're willing to root your Android device, an app such as AdAway can block ads on both apps and websites. Likewise, if you don't mind jailbreaking your iPhone, AdBlocker stops ads on websites and in games and apps.

Ban background data
This may come as a surprise, but your phone is constantly eating through data, even when it's just sitting in your pocket. That's because many apps, including email, social media, and cloud-storage apps, are always "checking in" with a remote server to see if any email messages, updates, or new files are ready for downloading (via your data plan). Thus, you can conserve data usage by limiting the transfer of background data—the data that powers notifications.

You have a few different ways to reduce background data usage on your Android or iOS device. Both Android and iOS users should avoid downloading too many apps that require constant updating, such as stock tickers, weather apps, and news updates. Android users can limit background data from the Google Play store by restricting how the store updates apps. Open the Google Play store, go to Settings > Auto-update apps, and check either Do not auto-update apps or Auto-update apps over Wi-Fi only. iOS users do not need to worry about auto-updating apps.

Android users can also restrict background data for individual apps: Go to Settings > Wireless and network > Data usage and tap the settings button to toggle Auto sync data on and off. Another way to limit background data usage is to restrict background data for connected accounts on services such as Dropbox, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and Twitter. To do so, go to Settings > Accounts and tap the account you want to limit. On this screen you'll be able to choose what to sync (or not to sync) and how often; for example, you can elect to sync your Facebook calendar, contacts, or pictures at different intervals.

iOS users can combat background data usage by turning off push mail and push notifications. To turn off push mail, or to ensure that your mail app isn't constantly checking for new messages, go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars and tap Fetch New Data. Toggle the Push switch to off, and set the Fetch schedule to Manually. This way, apps that do not support push notifications will fetch updates only when you open them.

Yes, you really can make a 2GB data plan work
You will have to sacrifice some convenience to stay within your data plan's limits, but it's definitely worth the effort. Plus, do you really need to see every "like" your latest Instagram post gets—as soon as it happens? I didn't think so. Just remember to disable all of the stealthy data hogs described above, and download everything you can—whether it's an app, an email message, or a website—over Wi-Fi. If you can do that, stretching your data plan will be a cinch.


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