7 Settings To Conserve Your Smartphone Data Plan

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This weekend I spent an ungodly amount of time researching data plans and navigating a sea of small print wireless carrier providers bury on their websites, all in the hopes of finding the best balance between cost and allotted data/voice services without a contract. As anyone who pays through the nose already knows, it's the data plans that get you...

We're using a prepaid account at the moment, and that means after a certain amount of data consumed, our wireless provider throttles connection speeds down to something akin to sipping cold molasses through a straw. In this supposed age of "unlimited", the definition carries nuances and small printed exceptions galore. Except for top tier/highest cost plans, data usage can and will come into play at one time or another for users. Here are 7 settings to use separately or all together to prevent being issued the throttled data warning:

1. TURN OFF SIRI OR GOOGLE NOW
These baked-in services offered by Android and iOS are extremely useful at certain times, instantly offering geographically relevant and personalized scheduled information at the touch of a button or voice activation. But they can also be invisible data hogs, since they're always accessing where you are and what you're doing to serve up all that magical info. Unless you're traveling, consider keeping these services "off" and save them for moments when you really need their help.

To turn off the ability for Siri to use your location, go to Settings > Location Services and set the switch for Siri to Off.

To turn Google Now on or off from within the Google Search app:

Swipe up from the bottom of any screen, or touch Google on a Home screen. Touch Menu  > Settings. You may need to lower the keyboard to see the Menu icon.

2. TURN OFF AUTO UPDATES
Yes, you want to make sure all your apps to date, especially those you most often use and rely upon. Nobody wants to miss out on the latest features, fixes, and updates. But auto updating while on a wireless network connection can result in megabytes of unplanned data consumption. Save the app updates for home on your wi-fi network.

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3. SWITCH TO WI-FI WHILE AT HOME OR NEAR OPEN HOTSPOTS
Speaking of wi-fi, when you're at home or within the proximity of a usable open hotspot, switch your phone off of cellular data and rely on an internet connection for browsing, texting, and emailing. Need to make a phone call? Android and iOS users can use Google Voice compatible apps like Talkatone (above), GrooVeIP, and Phone for Google Voice and GTalk to make calls over wi-fi (a feature not yet available from either the iOS or Android app itself).

4. TURN OFF AUTO UPLOADS FOR PHOTOS
Have you seen the recent Apple iPhone commercial, elegantly portraying the myriad of moments captured on a smartphone? Minus the atmospheric music, many of us really do share our life's moments throughout the day, big and small, through our photos. But automatically uploading photos is a fast way to hitting the data limit brick wall, so after uploading a handful of uploads to Facebook or Instagram, wait till you get home to your wi-fi to upload.

5. LIMIT PUSH NOTIFICATIONS
Push notification can be a necessary burden for work related communication, but usually unnecessary during personal hours. Especially if you grant every app loaded on your phone approval to push info your way throughout the day. Turn everything but the most necessary notifications to "off" and you'll save a modest amount of data throughout the month...and probably more than a little bit of your sanity.

6. USE MOBILE WEBSITES WHEN AVAILABLE
More sites are offering mobile screen optimized editions with all the extraneous image-fat trimmed (and also optimized for smaller screens). For example, I like to check scores on ESPN.com, but don't need large banner ads and images downloaded when all I want is a peek at the headlines and scores. The mobile edition of sites load faster and use a fraction of the data required for the full desktop edition. For favorites, bookmark their mobile site URL.

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7. TURN ON USAGE ALERTS
Even the most diligent practicing all the tips above will find instances where data limits become a concern. It's all too easy in this day and age of social networking, emailing, texting, and browsing online to eat up a big chunk of your allotted data in just a few hours, especially when traveling or away from the home/office. Apps like DataMan Next for iOS or PhoneUsage for Android can help inform and remind you when you're nearing the limits of your agreed terms.


(Images: Gregory Han; as linked above)