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How to use less mobile data – five top tips

We reveal five easy ways to save money on your mobile phone bill by reducing your mobile data usage.

One of the great things about smartphones and 4G tablets is the ability to stream music, check email and navigate maps on the go. But one of the worst things is when you get a phone bill that’s much higher than you’d expected.

And as networks begin to curtail their all-you-can-eat mobile data deals, it’s crucial – for the sake of your bank balance – to keep a close eye on your data usage limit and make sure you don’t rack up eye-watering costs. These top tips will help you avoid leapfrogging over your usage limit.

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1. Stick to wi-fi when you can

If you’ve got unlimited broadband at home or access to your work wi-fi, there’s no reason to waste your phone’s data. The same goes in a growing number of public places such as cafes, bars, supermarkets, train stations and even some public transport.

Connect to wi-fi and you’re free to watch hours of Netflix and browse Facebook to your heart’s content – or at least until your battery runs out. And if you’re a podcast listener, take this opportunity to download the shows you love without being penalised by your network.

2. Turn off background activity

Getting charged for something you actually use can be painful enough, but parting with your cash for an app that’s churning away while your mobile’s in your pocket is excruciating. But, by default, apps such as BBC News update themselves while not in use so you’ll have the latest headlines when you next look. Snapchat is another prime culprit.

Luckily, it’s easy to stop. If you’re on an iPhone or iPad, head to the Settings menu and then to General and tap Background App Refresh. On Android? Go to Settings, Data usage then, depending on your device, More or the three dots in the top right-hand corner of the screen and then Restrict background data.

3. Download maps

Navigating around maps can be a real drain on your data usage – potentially pricey if you use your phone as a sat nav or just have a lousy sense of direction. Google Maps allows you to download significant chunks of the country so you can access them offline. So if you’re about to embark on a trip to somewhere new, quickly download a map of your route before you go.

Sorry iPhone users, the default Maps app for iOS doesn’t have an offline mode, so you’ll have to install Google Maps.

4. Go easy on social media

Sending the odd tweet and scrolling through your Facebook timeline on occasion isn’t going to do too much harm. But if you’re a social media addict, your data usage will soon stack up – especially now that videos start playing automatically when you log on.

If you have an Android phone, head to Settings and then Data usage. There you can see which apps are the most profligate and then pick and choose which ones you’re happy to use your data. Similarly, for iPhones head to Settings and Mobile data to identify the worst offenders and then use the toggle if you want to turn off the data tap.

5. If in doubt, set a limit

Apple and Google have made it very easy for you to keep track of your data usage, so be sure to keep an eye on it over the month.

If you’ve tried everything but still can’t help overshooting your data allowance, it might be best to remove temptation and set a limit. If you’re an Android user, you can set a warning and then a cast-iron limit so mobile data will turn off before you start racking up charges. It’s a good idea to set the limit a little way under your contractual allowance, to give you some leeway in emergencies.

Setting a limit isn’t available on iPhones or iPads, but you can install a third-party app such as My Data Manager or Data Usage, which will warn you when you approach your allowance.

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