Android data tips that will save you money

Computerworld | May 23, 2018

Cutting back on your Android data use can make your phone bill plummet, and it's easy to do with a few key tweaks. Ready to start saving?

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Hey, I'm JR Raphael.

These days, mobile data is money — and if you don't optimize your phone to handle it intelligently, you're throwing dollars down the drain.

But wait! It's actually really easy to scale back your mobile data usage — and you probably won't even notice the difference.

Ready to start saving?

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The first thing you'll want to do is diagnose your data usage.

Head into your system settings and look for the line labeled "Data usage"... within the Network & Internet section.

Tap it, then select "Mobile data usage" on the screen that appears.

And look at that. You can see exactly what apps burned through your mobile data over your most recent 30-day cycle — both in the foreground, when you were actively using them, and in the background... without your active involvement.

Take note of the top offenders. One by one, we're gonna fix 'em.

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For any apps with high background data use, look inside their settings for any data-saving opportunities.

Lots of social and news apps have options for turning off automatic data syncing... like you see here, with Twitter. That'll keep the app from pulling in new info when you aren't actually using it.

So what if an app is burning through background data but doesn't have a way to turn that off in its settings? That's the case with Facebook — and that's one of the reasons it's notorious for guzzling data.

No worries, though. All you've gotta do is take control at the system level:

Head into the Apps section of your system settings and tap the app's line. Tap "Data usage"... then deactivate the toggle next to "Background data." Now, the app can't use data in the background unless you're connected to Wi-Fi.

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While you're looking in your apps' settings, see if you can find options for turning off autoplaying videos. These can be a huge user of data, especially from social apps -- and they don't really do you any good.

Facebook and Twitter both have options for turning that off.

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If you're using Chrome, try activating its Data Saver mode... within the app's settings. That'll route pages through Google's servers so they're compressed when they reach you.

The Opera Mini browser has even more compression options, if you want to step things up even more.

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Music and videos aren't the only types of data you can download in advance. Google Maps can actually let you save entire cities' worth of maps, while you're connected to Wi-Fi... so you won't have to burn through your data to stream it while navigating.

Just open the Maps app and search for the city you want. Tap "More Info"... then and select "Download" from the menu that appears.

You can see and manage all your downloaded maps in the "Offline maps" section... within Maps' main menu.

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Finally, open up the Play Store and search for Datally -- D-A-T-A-L-L-Y.

It's a new Google app that can handle all the heavy lifting of mobile data management for you.

Datally gives you a single place to analyze your data usage — by app, by day, and even by hour.

It also makes it really easy to restrict background data on an app-by-app basis or even system-wide, if you're desperate.

It can find and suggest high-quality Wi-Fi networks in your area...

And it can provide a simple way to view manage an app's mobile data usage on the fly for easy adjustments.

For more mobile productivity tips, find me on Twitter — @JRRaphael — and be sure to keep up with my Android Intelligence column, only at computerworld dot com.
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