You use your smartphone to send texts, watch videos and write emails, but how much data are you actually using? Your smartphone and tablet activity can be limitless, but it turns out that you probably don’t actually need unlimited data. With Wi-Fi connectivity on most devices and usage monitoring tools, you can choose when to use your data allowance and know exactly how much data you’re using each month.

Remember when smartphone plans were all about call minutes and text messages, and the data was unlimited? These days, it’s the exact opposite. The carriers have realized that what we really need is data, so there has been a shift to unlimited minutes and texts, with data usage capped on the pretext of 'managing network traffic'.

Data-heavy apps like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are finding greater usage, and more people are streaming content from services such as YouTube and Netflix. Data has become an integral part of our daily lives. With 4G internet, which is way faster than the 3G speeds we were accustomed to, you use up your data much faster, meaning you will have to buy more data to replenish what you've burned through more often than you're used to.

It’s hard to know how much each activity is eating up your data allowance because actual file sizes and download times vary. For a 3G/4G LTE smartphone, a text-only email could be as small as 10 KB. It might take 400 KB to gain Internet access. On the 4G LTE network, audio streaming and standard definition video streaming use 60 MB per hour and 350 MB per hour, respectively.

So how do you get to cut down on mobile data usage without affecting your internet experience? With the right apps and a change of habits. Here are a few:

  1. Consider connecting to Wi-Fi where available in order to do all of your heavy downloading and streaming. This saves your data for when you need to get online later, and keeps you from using up your monthly data allowance.

  2. Turn off your Mobile Data when you are not using it, like when you are driving or sleeping. This will help to avoid excessive data usage.

  3. Manage your notifications: You probably get a lot of notifications and other alerts on your phone or tablet, which can also consume data. Some can be necessary. Others—like being notified that there’s a new level available in Candy Crush Saga—maybe not so much. Be sure to disable email and push notifications, automatic app updates and your device’s GPS when you don’t need them.

  4. Shut off your apps: Closing apps when you’re done using them can also reduce data usage. Many open apps, especially location services, will continue sending and receiving data even when your phone or tablet is locked. That not only wastes data but can also drain your battery.

  5. Reduce Video Data: Enjoy videos while controlling your data usage by; in YouTube Settings select Play HD on Wi-Fi only or Limit Mobile Data Usage, in Facebook Settings select Auto-play and Use Wi-Fi only, and on Netflix watch feature length movies when on wi-fi only.

  6. Disable autoplay videos on Facebook: Facebook recently added a feature that automatically plays videos in your newsfeed, regardless of if you wanted it to or not. These videos have been known to consume more data and you’ll probably want it off.

  7. Save data across apps with Opera Max: Opera Max compresses data by up to 50% across most of the apps on your phone, and it gives you the option you to restrict particular apps from using your mobile data, limiting them to Wi-Fi only. It also stops apps from using data in the background.

  8. Limit background data: Background data is one of the biggest drains on your data allotment, and you might not even realize it’s happening. Major culprits are email apps working to sync new messages as you receive them, or your phone automatically downloading new app updates.

  9. Avoid the desktop versions of websites; go for the mobile version instead: It’s always better to browse the mobile version of the website on a mobile device, so avoid using the desktop versions of a site if you can. Also, despite taking up a fair amount of storage on your phone, the browser cache is actually a good thing here. By preserving your cache, you won’t have to download images from frequently visited websites every time you visit them.

  10. Subscribe to streaming services with offline options: Videos are by far the biggest drain on your data, so if you stream a lot of YouTube content, you can save videos for offline viewing when you're on Wi-Fi, that way you won't have to stream them when you're on your bundles. Additionally, apps like Apple Music, Google Music, and Spotify allow you to create playlists for listening to offline, but you will need some space to store them.

Ultimately, your data experience depends on how much value you can get from your bundle. Go for a subscription that will suit your needs, be it casual scrolls through Facebook and Twitter, or heavy duty video streaming to keep yourself entertained. Keep track of which apps you're using to make sure there aren't any leeches in the background trying to steal your joy. Happy browsing!

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