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Smartphones & gadgets

5 steps to cutting your data usage in half

Unlimited data plans have been the popular trend of late. However, not everyone has been able to take advantage of them. There is a good chance that you still have a strict limit on the amount of data you can use every four weeks, and going over that limit is something that you don’t want to do.

Going over your allowed data threshold can mean that you have your data speeds throttled, face big fees and even have your data cut off until the billing cycle ends. We love our data and it’s no secret.

On average, an American smartphone user eats up about 1.8 gigabytes of non-Wi-Fi data every month. This could be from surfing the internet, checking emails, playing games, listening to music and a number of other things that we do on our phones every day.

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who have a newer phone with more advanced capabilities, you are even more likely to burn through your data plan.

Lucky for you, there are a few steps you can take to cut your data usage dramatically and save you from going over your monthly limit.

1. Adjust your update settings

The process of updating your favorite applications doesn’t just eat away at your battery – it also wolfs down your data. Updating apps over cellular can suck up you data plan faster than you would imagine.

But did you know that you can set your Android gear to update your applications only when you’re connected to a Wi-Fi internet connection?

To change your Android to update on Wi-Fi only, you need to head over to the Google Play Store. Once you have the Play Store home screen open go to the Menu>>Settings>>Auto-update apps. Select “Auto-update apps over Wi-Fi only.”

Here’s the step-by-step visual on how to adjust your update settings as explained above:

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Now your phone will only update your applications when you’re connected to a strong Wi-Fi signal, making sure not to use a drop of your monthly data allowance.

2. Cut down on browsing data

If you’re like me, you are always on the internet. Checking on the score of the game, researching questionable statements and statistics I hear throughout the day, and looking up recipes for dinner.

All that time on the web can really eat up chunks of your monthly data plan. I don’t plan on letting up on my web time and I doubt you do either. The good news is we don’t have to! There’s an easy way around this issue.

It’s called data compression and enabling it on your web browser will help you conserve a good amount of your monthly data. There are a few search engines that allow you to compress your data, but the biggest one is (surprise!) Google.

First, you need to go to the Google Play Store on your Android gadget and download the Chrome mobile application.

Once you have the Chrome app on your Android smartphone or tablet, you need to open it and go to the Menu icon (three dots in the top right corner next to Home icon). Tap Settings>>Data Saver and toggle the Data Saver switch On.

If you’re still unsure about the process, just follow the diagram below.

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Now your web browsing is compressed as long as you use Chrome. That means you’ll be browsing more efficiently (cutting down on browsing data use by up to 35 percent) and getting the most out of your Android gear’s monthly contract.

Important: When you compress your data, the Google app will still collect information about your online actions. The compression process will also change the format of some webpages to help things load faster. Don’t be thrown off if websites look a little different.

3. Throw some music on your phone

Music streaming apps like Spotify and Pandora are great for finding the latest hits and listening to the tunes you love the most, but they are horrible for your monthly cellphone bill. These streaming programs can easily gobble up your monthly data allowance after just a few hours of jamming out.

Nowadays, smartphones are built to hold hundreds of audio files without taking up all of your storage space (depending on the make and model), so why not take advantage of this to help cut down on your data consumption?

To put music on your Android, I recommend the Music application that’s already preloaded on the gadget.

Connect your Android to your computer using a USB cable. Use Windows Explorer (for PC) to copy your music files to the Music folder on your device. For copying music from Mac to Android, the process is a little more complicated but I’m here to walk you through the whole thing.

  • To start, plug your Android into your Mac laptop or desktop. Open your Mac’s Finder utility and click the Devices sidebar column. You’ll see your phone’s name under your Mac’s hard disk name. Click on your phone’s folder.
  • Open the phone’s Music or Media subfolder (If your phone doesn’t have one, click File>>New Folder and name it “Music”).
  • Minimize the Finder window and open a brand new Finder window.
  • Navigate to the folder on your computer that holds the music files you want to transfer to your Android. Highlight the music files you want and tap and hold “Command + C” to copy them. Open the Finder window that shows the Android Music folder. Push “Command + V” at the same time to paste the music files to your Android’s Music folder. Close the Finder window.
  • To disconnect your Android from a Mac computer, click the Android hard drive icon that appears on your desktop and drag it to the trash to eject the drive safely.
  • Open your Android music app and it should detect the new files.

Now you can unplug your Android and start jamming to your favorite tunes.

4. Offline is an option

If you want to continue listening to your trusty streaming services, there are ways to do so without using any data. There are options to listen to your music offline, and it takes seconds to do.

With Spotify, for example, all you need to do is go to the playlist or album you want to listen to. Then you have to follow the artist or playlist curator and download the files so you can listen to them when you’re not connected to Wi-Fi.

You will then see an option to make the playlist available offline under the Shuffle Play buttons. Toggle the Available Offline switch from the left to the right to begin downloading the playlist’s tracks.

Important: Make sure to do only when you’re connected to Wi-Fi or you could eat up a large portion of your data trying to do this.

The steps to downloading a Spotify playlist or album looks like this:

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Now you’ll be able to listen to your favorite tunes, tracks and playlists without wasting precious data.

5. Get rid of background data

Your apps never sleep. They are constantly at work syncing your emails, updating your weather widgets, chat messages, likes and shares.

Although this keeps you in the loop at all times, it actually takes up a good portion of your monthly data plan. The good news is that there’s a super easy way to stop this background data from continuing.

To turn off your background data, you need to go to your Android’s main Settings>>Data usage>>Menu and select Restrict background data. Once you turn off the background data on your Android gear, you’ll see the amount of data you use drop off immediately.

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Even though your phone won’t run your application in the background, you’ll still be able to open your favorite apps and get the updates and notifications just the same. You can also see the amount of data you use on a day-to-day basis on the chart under the options.

This is a good way to monitor your data use and pinpoint potential issues before they become data-sucking hogs.

Ditch the Facebook app

One of the biggest culprits of data hogging is the app we probably all use the most: Facebook. Even though we use Facebook for keeping in touch with family and loved ones and staying up to date about what’s going on in the world, we fail to realize the amount of data the app uses.

Not only does the popular social media application eat up data, but it also sucks the battery life from your Android gear.

A good way to cut down on Facebook data is to get rid of the classic Facebook application and replace it with an application like Fast. Fast is a great application that brings you the most important functions of the social media site but with much less battery and bandwidth use.

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To erase the data-sucking, battery-devouring Facebook app, go to your main Settings page. Select the Application manager and scroll down through the downloaded apps list until you see Facebook. Click Uninstall.

You will be prompted to confirm the deletion of the app and all of its contents. Click OK and you’re good to go!

Now you’ll be able to use your Android gadget freely without worrying about your monthly data limit. Go back to browsing, surfing, streaming, slideshows, videos and everything else you love about your smartphone or tablet.

More tips you can’t miss:

How to unlock Android’s secret menu

How to save your text messages

How to get Android Auto in your car (and why you want to!)

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