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Cell Phone Plans: How Much Data Do You Really Need?

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Cara Pace
April 6, 2021

Data has become our best friend in the past decade and a half or so. We use data on our smartphones for Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Netflix, and all applications. 

The unfortunate truth? Cell phone companies know how much we rely on data, and they know how to profit from it. In this article, we break down how to determine how much data you really need, tips to cut back on data usage and a special tool that can help you choose the best phone data plan

Determining how much data you really need

Sometimes, cell phone data usage and features can sound like a foreign language. Luckily, you can take three easy steps to figure out how much data you use monthly. 

Step 1: Track your data

The first thing you should do is track your data usage. You don't need to keep this in a notebook or anything. Your phone simply does it for you. 

  • To check iPhone data usage, go to the "settings" app. Tap "cellular." Scroll down until you hit the "cellular data" title. This will show you how much data you are using in the current period. It also displays the amount of data each application uses.

  • To check Android data usage, go to the "settings" app. Tap "connections," then click "data usage." On Android phones, you can set limits on your data usage and get alerts for when you are about to exceed the limit. 

It's important to take this step because you should be aware of how much data you typically use before you begin looking for ways to cut down or find a new data plan. As John Steinbeck once wrote, "To find where you are going, you must know where you are." This profound statement applies nicely to finding the right data plan, too!

Check out how much data you use every period for about three months or so. Once you are aware of roughly how much data you use each month, you can select a plan that actually serves you the exact amount of data you need. No more paying extra for unused data.

Step 2: Learn how to adjust your usage 

Believe it or not, small changes to your apps' behavior and your behavior while engaging with applications can cut down on data each month. You can turn off certain apps in the settings menu, so they don't hog all of your data. Simply turn them back on when you'd like to use them. 

Another culprit of unwanted data usage is facebook. Facebook is automatically set to play videos as you scroll. This eats up extra data. Go to Facebook's app settings and select the "autoplay" button. Then choose from two options; "never autoplay videos" or only autoplay them when connected to wifi. 

Connect to Wi-Fi as often as possible. When you are connected to Wi-Fi, you are not using precious data. Freely download and stream content as much as you please when you are connected to Wi-Fi. 

Using these tricks will allow you to cut down on your usage without limiting yourself. Minor changes can go a long way!

Step 3: Understand how much data each of your apps use 

Usually, when you're vegging out on YouTube, TikTok, or Instagram videos, you're not really concerned with how much data you're using. YouTube rabbit holes are very real. But you should probably be more in tune with your video consumption if you're looking to cut back. 

Take YouTube, for example. The app uses approximately 562.5 mb of data per hour when streaming standard definition videos. The better quality of the video, the more data it uses. Being aware of these simple facts will help you to reduce data usage. 

Educating yourself on this subject can stretch your data far. Make sure to connect to Wi-Fi next time you'd like to watch a TikTok video. Or you can choose to read a book instead. The most logical way to cut back on data usage is to cut back on your screen time in general. 

3 tips to cut back on data usage for iPhones

Tip #1: Limit your background data usage 

To limit your background data usage, you’ll want to turn off the feature on your phone. Go to the "settings" application. Then click "general." From there, select "background app refresh." Three options appear; "off," "Wi-Fi," and "Wi-Fi & cellular data." You can turn it off completely or select "Wi-Fi" if you'd like it on while you are connected to the internet. In doing so, you will cut back on unneeded data usage and also improve your device's battery life. 

"Background app refresh" refreshes application content when you aren't even using the app. For example, instagram will keep refreshing its timeline even when you aren't scrolling. Switching this feature off or to Wi-Fi mode will save you data and coin. 

Tip #2: Make sure automatic downloads are turned off 

There are times when your phone is using your data for things you aren't even aware of. Cut that out! In this instance, you can save data by ensuring that automatic downloads from the app store are turned off. 

If this feature is turned on, things that you have downloaded to any ios device will automatically download to your smartphone. Go to "settings". Click "app store". Toggle off the "use cellular data" switch. It's that easy!

Tip #3: Turn off Wi-Fi assist 

This feature is programmed to automatically use cellular data if your Wi-Fi connection happens to be poor. Just go to "settings," then click "cellular," and then scroll down to find the "Wi-Fi assist" option. Toggle it off. 

3 tips to cut back on data usage for Androids 

Tip #1: Switch your Google Chrome browser to lite mode

For all of those Android users out there, this one's for you. This tip will ensure that your browser is less greedy with data. Google Chrome's Android browser offers a lite mode. This option routes pages through Google servers, so that your search results are compressed when they reach you. Utilizing this mode can save you a lot of data. And data is money!

To try this, go to Chrome's settings. Look for a line labeled "lite mode." Click it and make sure the switch is activated. 

Tip #2: Optimize your music apps 

If you listen to google play music on your way to work, it could be sucking your data plan dry. Try this; go into the google play settings and look for the title "quality on mobile network." From there, try setting it to "low" or "normal" and see how you like it. You may not even notice the quality difference, and it will save you data. 

Tip #3: Get your directions ahead of time 

Next time you know you are going to be in need of directions, map it in google maps ahead of time while you are connected to Wi-Fi. Search for your destination as normal and download it. You will be able to use the map like usual. Access it in the "offline maps" section of the google maps main menu and get on your way. You can save data while you travel!

Squeeze your cell phone plan 

After educating yourself on the amount of data you use each period, it will be time to put that knowledge to use. You've taken steps to cut and minimize your data usage. Perfect. Now it's time to find the best cell phone plan for you.

Squeeze is a free service that helps users stop overpaying on recurring household bills. They offer a free way to compare cell phone plans, which means you don't have to do this job! You've done enough work to learn about your data and reduce it. 

To sum it up 

There are many ways to evaluate your cell phone and data plan. You just have to know where to start. Determining the amount of data you use each month will kick off your journey to a smarter and more personalized phone plan. 

If you use these tips, you can optimize your data and find a plan that's right for you. Finding the best cell phone and data plan does not have to be difficult. Companies like squeeze make it easy. Making educated data usage decisions will get your bill to where it needs to be.

>>COMPARE CELL PHONE PLANS: Lower your monthly cell phone bill