As you reach the end of the month, you also reach the end of your cell phone data cycle. If you have enough data to get you through the month, that’s great! However, if you’re low on data, you may experience slower speeds and even data overage fees. But why do you end up running out of data each month? 

One reason is that certain apps and activities on your phone are eating up more of your data than you think and plan for. Luckily, being aware of which apps and activities use up the most cell phone data helps you know how to prevent it. 

Keep reading to learn which apps use up the most data on your phone and how to stop it.

How to check your data use

Before we talk about the apps that eat up most of your cell phone data, let’s talk about how to check your data use.

Cellular data is what your phone consumes when it’s not on Wi-Fi. When you make a phone call in your car, turn your Wi-Fi off at your house, or are in a public area and not connected to Wi-Fi, you are using cellular data.

If you own an iPhone, open up the settings app and click on the “cellular” option. Each of the apps on your phone will be listed in alphabetical order with a number next to it. This number tells you how much data has been used.

At the bottom of this settings page, there is a reset button. This lets you restart the count for how much data these apps have used. If you find yourself scrambling not to use too much data at the end of the month, this may be a helpful way to keep track of how much you’re using and which apps use the most.

Which apps eat up the most phone data?

While everyone’s phone habits are different, there are five apps used more frequently by most people. These apps are: YouTube, Facebook, Netflix, Spotify, and Instagram. 

If you love watching Netflix or can’t live a day without listening to Spotify while you work out at the gym, don’t worry! There are simple ways to keep your cellular data use in check while still enjoying these apps.

YouTube 

Maybe you love watching baking tutorials on YouTube while you wait in line at the grocery store. Or maybe you watch music videos on your break at work. No matter what or when you are watching YouTube, it can sometimes eat up a lot of your cellular data, especially if you’re watching the highest quality videos.

But don’t worry. There are ways to curb YouTube’s data usage without cutting YouTube videos out of your cell phone habits completely! Instead of watching every video in HD quality which is 720 pixels or higher, consider switching to a lower video setting like the standard definition 480 pixels.

When you pull your phone out to watch a video, you’re probably not thinking about what quality your video is in, so to make it a little easier, there are YouTube settings to help!

Go to the settings on your YouTube app or website. You should see a toggle switch that says, “Play HD on Wi-Fi only”. Click this switch to turn it on! This prevents you from playing HD videos over cellular data, so you don’t have to remember to switch the quality every time you’re not on Wi-fi.

Another setting to turn on is the “Upload over Wi-Fi only” setting. This is great for YouTubers who frequently upload videos. Simply go to settings and turn on the toggle switch that says, “Upload over Wi-Fi only”. This way, you won’t be able to upload a video while on cellular data.

Lastly, if you use YouTube music, streaming this music over cellular data can take a chunk out of your monthly data allowance. To prevent streaming over cellular data, click on the YouTube music settings that enable you to stream over Wi-Fi only.

Facebook 

One of the biggest reasons Facebook is eating up your cellular data is one you may not even be aware of. Autoplay is the default setting on Facebook when you download the app and sign up. Autoplay is a setting that automatically plays videos when you scroll by them.

Even if you don’t click on the video to watch it, the video has loaded on your phone and used up a significant amount of cellular data as it does this. 

So, this setting basically takes your 5-minute Facebook break where you just want to look through friend requests or scroll through your feed and turns it into a break where you’ve downloaded four videos that you haven’t watched.

A great and easy way to save your cellular data is to turn off autoplay. You’ll still be able to watch videos, but they won’t automatically load and play unless you click on them.

To turn off autoplay, go to the settings on your Facebook app or website. 

Netflix 

Watching Netflix on the bus ride home or while you’re taking a break is a great way to unwind. However, it may be eating up more data than you know. Streaming videos over cellular data already uses a large amount of data, but streaming TV shows and movies take up much more.

To minimize data usage while still watching the occasional TV show or movie on cellular data, consider changing the video quality. Netflix estimates that you can use one gigabyte per hour that you watch high-quality videos on Netflix. That means if you watch three of your favorite hour-long episodes, you’ve used up three whole gigabytes of data!

However, if you change this setting to too low quality, you can get four hours of Netflix watching per gigabyte of data, so the switch may be worth it! Netflix settings have a preference where you can turn off cellular data usage. Go to the switch that says, “Set Automatically” and toggle it off. Next select low or medium-quality video to be the default video setting while on cellular data.

This new setting will enable you to continue watching your favorite shows and movies while not eating up a chunk of your data.

Spotify 

The best way to curb Spotify’s data usage is to download albums and playlists so they’re available offline. This does require you to have room on your phone and be a Spotify premium subscriber, but downloading your favorite music allows you to listen offline without using up cellular data!

Spotify also has a music quality setting that can help save your data. In the “Your Library” option, click on “Streaming Quality” and four options should come up: automatic, normal, high, and extreme. Out of these options, set the quality to normal.

Instagram

Instagram is eating up so much of your data because the app automatically preloads videos and photos as a default. Even if you don’t click on a video or like a photo, the app is set to preload them before you even encounter them in your feed.

The setting to disable preloading is pretty vague, but it essentially stops automatically preloading your feed until you scroll to it. Here’s how to change it. In Instagram settings, go to the option labeled Cellular Data Use. Within this folder, there should be a toggle switch that says Use Less Data. Simply turn this switch on to disable your app from preloading videos.

3 more tips for saving data 

If you try these setting changes, and you still find yourself running out of data each month, here are some extra tips to help you save data and get the most out of your cell phone plan.

1. Connect to Wi-Fi

The problem may not be that you are using your phone too much over cellular data. It might be that your phone isn’t actually connected to your Wi-Fi, even when you’re at home! Before scrolling through Instagram or watching YouTube videos, make sure you’re connected to the Wi-Fi in your home.

You can also adjust your Wi-Fi settings so that your phone automatically connects to your internet when you are home! Even checking to make sure the Wi-Fi icon shows up in the top right of your phone screen is a great way to save your cellular data!

2. Shut off your apps

When you’re done using an app, the best way to prevent excess data use is to shut off your app. You can do this by swiping up on an iPhone to close out the app and remove it from your recently opened apps.

3. If all else fails, get a new cell phone plan!

If your plan has been consistently running out, consider getting more data or switching plans altogether. This could save you money and get you better cellular data usage!  

If you want to switch, it’s a good idea to have a general idea of how much data you need. If you have a family plan with multiple users, be sure to account for data use across all lines.

The bottom line 

It’s more important than ever that you stay connected! Your cell phone plan should support this connection, not run out at the end of each month. By adjusting video quality settings, preloading settings, and downloading everything you can to be available offline, you can save a big chunk of your data usage and prevent overage fees. 

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