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15 Ways to Prevent Your Smartphone From Wasting Data

Fine-tune your cellular skills to save time and money.

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Do you burn through your smartphone data in the first week of the billing month? Are you constantly paying overage charges for additional data? We've got some tips to help prevent your smartphone from unnecessarily wasting data. This will save you money every billing cycle and ensure that you have the data you need to get you through the month.

See Also on Kiplinger: Pay for Your Smartphone, Save on Your Plan

Unlimited data plans would be the ideal solution for many of us, but most phone companies just don't offer those types of plans anymore, unless you're willing to start a family plan. Even if your phone carrier does offer such a plan, they are usually very expensive. Instead, try some of the tips below to see if they can help you get the data you need, without going over your allowance.

1. Make Sure Your Wi-Fi Is On

Usually, the biggest problem is that a person has turned off their Wi-Fi and has just forgotten about it. Before we begin talking about ways to save data, make sure your Wi-Fi is turned on in the first place. Once your Wi-Fi is turned on, you should try leaving it on at all times, if possible.

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2. Turn Off Cellular Data

Cellular data is used when there is no Wi-Fi connection. This will allow you to use the Internet wirelessly, but will eat into your monthly data allotment. Consider turning off your cellular data whenever you aren't using your phone.

3. Find Data-Hungry Apps and Services

While turning off cellular data is the best way to prevent unexpected data usage, it is usually a last resort for most people. That's because when cellular data is turned off, you can't use your personal hotspot or send and receive MMS text messages.

Instead, you may want to disable cellular data only for certain apps and services. On an iOS device, visit Settings > Cellular to determine which apps are using the most data, so you can turn off cellular data for those specific apps.

4. Turn Off Automatic Downloads

Your data may also be used for automatic downloads or for services like iBooks and Safari's reading list. On an iOS device, you can turn this off with Settings > iTunes & App Store > Use Cellular Data for automatic downloads, Settings > Safari > Use Cellular Data for Safari's reading list, and Settings > iBooks > Use Cellular Data for iBooks.

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5. Turn Off Wi-Fi Assist

Consider turning off your Wi-Fi assist whenever you aren't using your phone. Wi-Fi Assist automatically uses cellular data when the Wi-Fi connectivity is poor, which could be using up your data when you aren't expecting it.

6. Turn Off Background App Refresh

Your apps are automatically refreshing their content in the background. By turning off the refresh, you can preserve battery life and data. On an iOS device, you can do this under Settings > General > Background App Refresh.

7. Turn Off iCloud Drive

iCloud Drive can automatically upload backups of your apps, which can use up data when you're least expecting it. Consider turning off your iCloud drive altogether.

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8. Turn Off iCloud Photos

When your iCloud photo library is turned on, your phone will automatically upload and store your entire photo library and iCloud. This can quickly eat away at your data, so consider turning it off.

9. Turn Off Data Roaming

To restrict all data to Wi-Fi, including email, web browsing, and push notifications while you're traveling, turn off data roaming. You can do this on an iOS device with Settings > Cellular > Data Roaming.

See Also on Kiplinger: 8 Ways to Save on Smartphone Costs While Traveling

10. Use Low-Power Mode

If your phone offers a low power mode, it is best to leave this on whenever possible. This mode temporarily reduces power consumption until you have fully recharged your phone. When it is on, your phone won't refresh apps, fetch mail, or automatically download updates, which can save your battery and data.

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11. Turn Off High-Quality Music Streaming

If you are listening to music without a Wi-Fi connection, you may be using up your data. With higher-quality music, more data is needed to stream it. You can shut off cellular data for your music altogether through Settings > Music > Use Cellular Data. This will only allow you to listen to music when Wi-Fi is available. You can also simply disable high-quality music.

12. Use Lower-Quality Video Streaming

When you're watching a YouTube video and don't have access to Wi-Fi, consider viewing the video at a lower resolution. Click on the three dots on the video and select a lower resolution, like 144p.

13. Listen to Spotify Offline

If you prefer to use Spotify, consider setting your favorite playlists to "Available Offline." This will allow you to play your favorite songs without streaming.

14. Adjust Your App Settings

If you frequent social media apps, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, consider adjusting the settings on these apps. For instance, on all three social media apps, you can set it to auto-play videos only when you're connected to Wi-Fi (or not at all). Usually, these apps are set to auto-play videos using both Wi-Fi and data, which can use up your data to download the video, even if you weren't planning on playing it. On each of your social media pages, visit Settings to make the adjustments.

15. Call Your Cellular Provider

When all else fails, you can simply call your cellular provider for advice. There may be an error, which is no fault of yours. Otherwise, your provider can usually track down where most of your data was used, so you have an idea of which apps or services are draining your data. Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon also offer a rough estimate of your data usage online.

See Also on Kiplinger: How to Cut Smartphone Costs

How to Turn Off Apps and Services

If you aren't sure how to turn off cellular data, iCloud, or background app refresh, look under Settings. They are usually all under the General or iCloud sections. However, every phone is different, so if you are having trouble, ask your phone service provider or phone manufacturer for help.

This article is from Andrea Cannon of Wise Bread, an award-winning personal finance and credit card comparison website.

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This article is from Wise Bread, not the Kiplinger editorial staff.