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How to reduce mobile data usage ?

While unlimited mobile data is on the horizon, most companies impose some type of limits on high-speed 4G LTE, and managing mobile data will help you improve your overall experience with tiered plans. There are better solutions than turning off your data at the end of the month, or limiting your usage to avoid the data cap just because of a few bandwidth hungry apps that use it up in the background.

App designers increasingly try to compete for your attention by downloading content from the cloud in the background, notifying you of something "new" happening in their corresponding app. Many social media and streaming apps are heavy data users by default, some typical examples include Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Spotify, and YouTube.

Below are a few simple steps to manage and reduce unnecessary background mobile data usage on your Android device.

Configure data hungry apps
Many popular connected apps include settings that allow you to configure how much data is actually used in the background. While the settings are often obscured and set without any restrictions, it is always a good habit to go through them after installing a new app to ensure you know what it is doing. Let's look through a couple of popular bandwidth-saving examples:

Snapchat > tap top-right gear menu > Additional Services > Manage > check "Travel Mode" - this setting reduces mobile data usage by disabling automatic downloads of stories while on mobile networks. You won't miss anything, they are still available at all times, and it will still download them automatically when connected to a Wi-Fi network.

YouTube > tap top-right settings menu > check "Limit mobile data usage" - this settings changes the app behavior to only stream HD video over Wi-Fi.

Video streaming in general consumes a lot of data by definition. It is often a good idea to set your video streaming apps to low/medium quality (when on mobile networks), as HD video requires a lot of bandwidth, and it doesn't look much better on small screens.


Restrict background data of individual apps
To see a list of apps and their corresponding data usage in Android, navigate to "Settings > Data usage > scroll down to see a list of the apps, sorted by their mobile data usage. Consider the top apps, tap on them to see their corresponding "Foreground" and "Background" data usage stats. The "Foreground" data refers to usage while an app is actively used, and "Background" refers to usage while app is not viewed on screen.

Check "Restrict Background data" for apps that use a lot of background data when not active.

Note: This Android setting overrides any conflicting in-app data settings.


Restrict background data globally
In Android, you can also restrict background data globally. This setting is enforced by the OS, and overrides individual apps settings, and wont let them access the mobile network unless they are running in the foreground. Note that they will still be able to use background data when connected to a WiFi network, the setting only restricts mobile data for inactive apps.

To restrict mobile background data globally, navigate to Settings > Data Usage > tap top-right menu > check "Restrict background data".


Fine-tune sync settings
Navigate to Settings > Accounts > Google > select your account. Uncheck unnecessary services that you don't use regularly. There are some obvious unnecessary bandwidth hogs, like syncing photos and videos. Apps will still work, and sync when they are open.


Use offline content
It is sometimes useful to use offline content with apps that you use often and give you the option. A good example is GPS navigation with Google Maps - it can be configured to download your city and store it locally on your phone, instead of using mobile data. To configure it:

Google Maps > Menu button (left of search) > Offline areas > Custom area. Just drag rectangle(s) and select areas you use most often > Click "settings" top-right gear > Download preferences > "Over Wi-Fi only" (default).

While on that app, also check this setting: Google Maps > Menu button (left of search) > Settings > disable "Start maps in satellite view", as it uses more data.


TL;DR;
- Restrict Background data - Settings > Data Usage > tap top-right menu > check "Restrict background data".
- Reduce video streaming quality
- Use offline content
- Restrict syncing of large files (images/video)


Notes:
Be careful with video streaming, it will always use far more data than music.


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