An Internet-connected smartphone is just the thing to help business users stay productive while on the go. But for most users, mobile data is limited. Depending on your plan, mobile carriers usually restrict your Web usage to just a few gigabytes of data each month. Unless you are connected to a Wi-Fi network, your smartphone is gobbling up data every time it refreshes an app, fetches an email, accesses a webpage or displays an image or video from the Internet. If you go over your limit, expect to pay costly overage charges.
Running out of data means you can't work when you need to. Fortunately, there are easy steps you can take to reduce your consumption and save your precious data plan for when you really need it. Use these six strategies to help you stop worrying and start working.
1. Estimate current usage
Before you take steps to limit your data usage, take some time to determine if the effort is really necessarily. In fact, most consumers overestimate how much data they use each month, prompting them to shell out for expensive extended data plans they don’t need. Android and iPhone handsets allow users to check out their past and current data usage via the settings menu. Simply select a time frame to observe how much data you use each week or month, and use that information to estimate your average usage. Most phone carriers also allow you to track your data usage via their websites.
Go ahead and check. You might use less data than you think.
2. Stick to Wi-Fi
The easiest way to conserve your mobile data is to not use it. But that doesn't mean you can't take full advantage of your smartphone's capabilities wherever a Wi-Fi signal is available. Smartphone users on a limited data plan should connect to a local network whenever possible. Your phone will not consume any data when you're on Wi-Fi, and it's easy to set your phone to automatically connect to the network at home or work. Simply access the Wi-Fi options via your smartphone's settings menu and adjust your preferences. If you're on a business trip, look for hotels or cafes that offer free Wi-Fi. That way you'll have plenty of data left to use when you're off the grid.
3. Set alerts and limits
If you find yourself nearing your data limit every month, set alerts to remind you when you need to cut back. Android and iOS devices enable you to set alerts for when you’ve consumed a certain amount of data in the current month. It's a good idea to set your phone to notify you when you're near your data limit, as well as when the limit has been reached. Meanwhile, notifications earlier in the month can help you pace your data usage. You can even set your smartphone to cut you off from the Web once you've used your allotted data, so you never have to worry about going over.
4. Reduce background data
Apps that continue to run and update in the background – even when you're not actively using them – can gobble up your data in a hurry. Carefully consider which apps you need to update in real time. Social media services such as Facebook and Twitter are designed to run in the background and push notifications to you as they arrive, so consider de-activating notifications within those apps' settings menus. That way you can save your data for the things that really matter, such as business email. Meanwhile, you can still manually refresh your social media profiles by accessing the apps directly. Automatic app updates can also consume huge amounts of data; make sure your phone is set to download updates only when connected to Wi-Fi. The setting can be toggled within the Google Play store or the iOS App Store.
5. Change your habits
Modern smartphones make it easy to stream music and video on a whim, but let's face it: when you're away from Wi-Fi, those activities are major data sinks. Browsing ad-heavy websites can also decimate your data. If you depend on your smartphone for business, consider cutting your recreational use.
If you're willing to plan ahead, you may not have to change your habits as much as you think. For example, most music-streaming services allow you to temporarily save files to your phone's internal memory. Remember to download your playlists over your home Wi-Fi network for data-free listening later on.
And if you frequently use your smartphone's GPS navigation functionality, Google Maps allows you to save maps of your city to your phone's cache so you can travel without draining data. First, view the area you want to save within the Google Maps app. Next, type "OK Maps" into the search bar and hit enter. Your map will saved for offline navigation.
6. Change your data plan
If you're always bumping up against the upper limits of your data plan despite your efforts to cut back, purchasing an extended data plan might be your best option. The average two-year smartphone agreement with a major carrier affords you 2GB of data monthly. Prices vary, but some carriers allow you to double your data for an extra $10-20 per month. Considering the high base cost of a smartphone plan, that's a significant extra expense – but for a data-hungry business user, it might just be worth it.