Increase Your Data I.Q.: Learn How to Monitor and Manage your Cell Phone Data

Starting or thinking about  getting a new data plan?

If you’ve already determined your data needs, your next step will be to ensure you’re using the right amount of data.

Follow these five tips to monitor and manage your data and stay within the limits of the plan you’ve chosen.

Track Your Data Online

The first step to good data management is to keep track of what you’re using. Thankfully there are some easy ways to do this.

Sign in to your online account from your cell provider a few times each month to see a summary of the data you’ve used to date. If it’s halfway through the month and you are approaching your limit, it’s time to conserve data. If you’ve barely made a dent, you’re doing well. You can also access this information by calling in to your provider’s customer service department.

Track Your Data From Your Phone

Depending on your device, there are other ways to track your data use without signing in or making a call.

For iOS phones, you can go to Settings and tap Cellular, where you’ll see a running total of the data you’ve used, as well as a breakdown of data used by each app on your phone.

Unfortunately, it can’t give you a total for the current month – all amounts will be the total since the last time you reset the count.  However, you can manually reset the total to zero anytime with a button at the bottom of the screen.

On Android, you can call up your data usage for any set period of time by going to Settings > Wireless & Networks > Data usage.

There are also apps that can track your data, like My Data Manager for iOS and Android.

Use Wi-Fi Wherever Possible

Free and public Wi-Fi is getting easier and easier to find as more businesses, cities and public places install safe Wi-Fi systems – and this can be one of the most effective ways to reduce your data use.

Make sure you are logged in to Wi-Fi in any place where it’s available, especially in places you visit regularly. If you have Wi-Fi available at home, work and most usual stops on your daily or weekly schedule, you can dramatically cut down your data use.

Limit Overall Data Use

If you have followed the steps above and are still having trouble sticking to the data in your plan, you can either upgrade your plan or limit your own data so that you don’t accidentally go over.

Limiting data looks different between Android and iOS, but can be an effective tool on both platforms.

On iOS, the only way to limit data is app by app. Open the main Settings menu and scroll down to the list of individual apps. Here you can open each app and select whether it should be allowed to use mobile data to access the internet or only go online when you’re connected to Wi-Fi.

On Android, you have the option to limit the total data your phone will use during any given time period by going to Settings > Wireless & Networks > Data usage.

This feature will cut you off when you hit your limit and can also send you an alert when you’re approaching your limit.