This morning I once again received an e-mail from my cellular carrier warning me that my data usage was reaching the limits of my plan. Well, technically the warning was for my son’s phone. Over spring break he was stuck in North Dakota working with his father without computer access to Facebook or YouTube, so apparently he has been using his phone for the last week to access these sites.
Usually these harbingers arrive because of my Verizon 4G Mi-Fi device, which provides me with cellular access to the Internet in the remote area in which I live. Because doing my job entails a great deal of Web surfing, I often breach my 10GB limit.
Once I actually do, I have to ante up more dollars to keep the thing live or suffer only going online when I'm at the coffee shop where there’s Wi-Fi.
It’s incredibly easy to eat up your data allowance, particularly if you’re using a 4G device, which gobbles it up much faster than if you were on 3G. And even if you are grandfathered into an unlimited data plan, carriers can slow down your data transfer speeds if you use too much.
If, like me, you need to carefully watch your data usage there are several things you can do.
If you don’t understand what kinds of activities use up the most data, there’s a good chance you’re going to pay for your ignorance. The good news is the major cellular carriers provide calculators that can help you figure it out. Check out the ones provided by Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile.
Install an App
Sure, you can wait for your carrier to give you a warning when you’re 75% maxed-out, but how about having a real-time tally from the first day of your billing cycle? There are a ton of apps you can download to do this for you. Just go to your app store, search for “data usage” and pick one that has hundreds of thousands of downloads and is rated above 4 stars. Alternately, your device might already have a native app installed that will track your data consumption. For example, Verizon provides an app called My Verizon Mobile and AT&T has myAT&T. Both work great, as long as you remember to check them.
Using Onavo can extend the life of your data plan by up to 5 times. The free service for Apple and Android devices requires you to change your phone settings to route data through Onavo’s servers, allowing the company to do things such as shrink image files or use a cache of Twitter profile pictures instead of retrieving them each time you visit the site.
Shut Down Apps Running in the Background
Ever since Apple introduced multitasking, many of the apps installed on your iOS device may be actively communicating and downloading data in the background. Translation: You’re slurping data and you don’t even know it. To stop this from happening, manually shut down any multitasking apps by double tapping the home button, pressing and holding one of the app icons and then tapping the delete button. For Android phones, you can install Easy Task Killer (free in Google Play).