How to Outsmart Your Data Plan

By Coy Christmas, Business 2 Community

You’ve likely read plenty of articles talking about how hyperconnected everyone is today, and how it has never been easier and faster to communicate with people, send emails, look up movie showtimes and recipes, fact-check something you heard on TV – and they’re all right. We’re living in a golden age of connectivity and information, all of which is literally lying in the palms of our hands, if not in our pockets.

But all of that connectivity has a price, too. Even putting aside the expense of buying a phone or tablet, you can’t exactly make use of that connectedness without a solid data plan in place. And unless you were lucky enough to get grandfathered into an unlimited data option before carriers like Verizon began cracking down on what are now more stringently defined data caps, then odds are you have a monthly spending limit on just how connected you can be.

But a cap on your data plan doesn’t have to mean a cap on how long and how often you can get online. There are a few easy-to-follow strategies for getting around those data limits and outsmarting your plan:

Use Wi-Fi whenever and wherever possible

If you’re browsing on your phone at home, make sure you’re connected to your Wi-Fi to avoid unnecessarily using up data. You’re already paying for that connection as part of your internet bill anyway, so why not get your money’s worth for it instead of paying additional in data overages?

Of course, we’re not always at home when we need to use the internet. Luckily, the connected age has made wireless hotspots extremely common, particularly if you live in a city. And while not all of these hotspots may be free or configured for public use, many of them are. Starbucks, for instance, with a store on practically every corner, offers up free Wi-Fi. The provider for your home internet (e.g. Comcast) may also have mobile Wi-Fi hotspots available for use, free of any additional charge.

Avoid using data-heavy apps when offline

Smartphone apps have made commuting easier than ever. Whether you’re streaming music through Spotify, watching videos on YouTube or Netflix, listening to podcasts, video chatting over Skye or playing games, you’ll never go bored on a bus or train again. But those apps all have a steep data price to pay, and before you know it, you could end up running significantly over your monthly cap.

As a rule of thumb, when using any of these or other media-centric apps, make sure you’re on Wi-Fi. If you’re operating off your data plan, stick to lighter activities like web browsing or email, which consume far less data. You can also manually toggle the “switch off cellular data” option for each individual app, in order to better control what is and isn’t using up data while you’re offline.

Close out background apps

Just because you’re not actively using an app doesn’t mean it’s not still running – and at the same time, using data. Unless an app has been closed out completely, it continues to run in the background, draining your data allotment in the process. Push notifications are another data-hogging culprit, and leaving them on means using up data whenever one pops up on your phone’s lock screen.

The solution: close out apps completely when you’re done with them, instead of just shuffling to a different one to use. Additionally, make sure to switch off push notifications for apps when you’re not connected to Wi-Fi. Not only does closing unused apps save data, it has the double benefit of saving on your phone’s battery life too.

Switch off Wi-Fi Assist

If you’re an iPhone user, one of the new features to come out with iOS 9 is Wi-Fi Assist, which, as the name implies, helps your phone optimize its internet connection speeds by switching from Wi-Fi to cellular data whenever wireless coverage in the area is poor. Sounds great, right?

Except for the part where it switches to your data without alerting you first. Consequently, you could end up in a situation where you had set your phone to use Wi-Fi and – without realizing it – lost wireless coverage and were subsequently pushed onto your data plan instead. You could be web browsing, streaming or downloading for hours before learning it was all being charged to your phone bill!

For a more comprehensive check on when you’re using data vs. Wi-Fi, turn off the Wi-Fi Assist feature and manage your data or wireless connections manually.

Discover and Use “Offline Modes” in Your Mobile Apps

Perhaps as a response to the struggle between using Wi-Fi and data, offline app models are quickly gaining momentum: Spotify and Apple Music both offer offline streaming, Evernote promises offline productivity with automatic synching and cloud-based Google apps include offline features so users can still check their email, calendars, maps and other services while offline.

Mobile apps are evolving more and more in an offline direction to help their users live in a digital world without always having to worry about whether their using Wi-Fi or cellular data in order to join in.

Striking a Balance

Being connected shouldn’t have to be a constant drain on your bank account – and the good news is that it doesn’t. Despite what some phone carriers may try to convince you of otherwise, you don’t necessarily have to upgrade to a bigger data plan – with a bigger bill to go with it – just to accommodate your wireless lifestyle. With these tricks, you can have your cake and it eat too, keeping your plan (and your phone budget) as-is all while browsing, tweeting, streaming, sharing and downloading to your heart’s content.

This article was originally published by Business 2 Community

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