Managing your phone's data usage doesn't need to involve locking your phone in a vault or going into airplane mode, though if you're in a jam it can be fun to imagine you are on a plane and the flight attendant is winking at you for being so data-responsible.
Between making simple changes in your settings and downloading a few life-saving (and free!) apps, you can reduce the amount of data you use, and save yourself (or your parents) a lot of money at the end of the month.
1. Use Chrome for web browsing
If your smartphone of choice is an iPhone, you should download another browser besides Safari -- we suggest Chrome -- for your mobile web surfing. Chrome doesn't simply have Google's reputation backing it, it also lets you alter your settings to compress web pages for mobile browsing. Just tap the three dots in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, scroll down to Settings > Bandwidth, and turn on Data Saver.
Another option is to use a browser specifically designed with data-saving in mind, such as Opera Mini.
2. Turn off Facebook's auto-play videos
All those videos of babies and puppies and babies riding puppies that auto-play in your Facebook feed? They eat up a lot of data. In Android, turn off auto-play by opening Facebook, going to Settings, and switching "Videos auto-play" to Off or Wi-Fi Only. In iOS, go to Settings, select Facebook, Settings, then switch Auto-play to On or Off under Video.
3. Use an offline GPS app
If you're the type who can't find your own house without the help of GPS, you likely know all about the woes of excessive data use, or your name is Jason Bourne. Over enough time, those apps make a serious dent. Navmii, free for both Android and iOS, lets you download maps so you can navigate offline. Because between speed traps and slow passing lane drivers, road trips are stressful enough already.
4. Do your Internet reading offline with Pocket
Pocket is an app that lets you save Internet articles you find while browsing on your phone or from desktop, and read them later, even if you're offline. It's great for catching up on reading during your commute even if your commute is in a car, since Pocket has recently added a text-to-voice feature that will read articles to you out loud, in the voice of James Earl Jones. Okay, not actually James Earl Jones, but it's still pretty nice!
5. Save offline maps on Google Maps
In iOS, or Android, sign into your account in Google Maps, search for an area you want a map of, tap on the name of the location at the bottom of the screen, then tap the three menu dots in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, and select "Save offline map." You'll then be able to download and view this map offline by going to the menu, selecting "Your places," then "Offline maps," then "View and manage."
6. Check email on data, but wait for Wi-Fi to download attachments
No matter how important that PDF may be, we all know it's going to look like crap on your phone anyway.
7. Listen to Spotify playlists offline
You can't always wait to find a connection when you need to hear "Call Me Maybe," but streaming music is a big data drain. Thankfully, Spotify premium lets users download and listen to selected playlists offline. Spotify gives good instruction for how to listen offline.
8. Restrict which apps can use data
By default, any app you download will be set to use your data, but you can change that so that you only spend precious data on the important stuff, like Doodle Jump or Cookie Clickers. In iOS, you can select which apps use data by going to Settings > Cellular, then scrolling down to the list of apps, where you can turn data on or off. For Android, go to Settings > Data usage, scroll down to see your apps' data usage, and tap on any given app to select "Restrict app background data."
9. Play with the settings of each app
If you want to limit how certain apps use data -- say, making sure you're not getting an automatic update while offline -- select specific apps and search through their options to see which features you can restrict to Wi-Fi.
10. Wait for Wi-Fi when you Netflix
This should go without saying, but streaming video is extremely data-costly, so Netflix, YouTube, and other video streamers are best saved for Wi-Fi. Make sure you list Netflix as one of the apps that doesn't use data.
Joe Oliveto is a staff writer for Supercompressor, and really needs to start following his own advice. Follow him on Twitter.
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