They give us connection, convenience and endless entertainment. They’re our absolute favorite apps. What on earth did we do before we had them?
There’s just one downside: some of those apps use considerable amounts of mobile data. Here are a few that use the most (which we’ve given a Data Hog Rating, 1 being the lowest data-usage, 5 being the highest) and a few Data Saving Hacks for enjoying them efficiently, to avoid overage charges.
For starters, U.S. Cellular’s WiFi finder app tells you exactly when and where you can use your favorite apps without using all of your data. And for you happy app addicts, our larger (but affordable!) data packages might be the way to go.
1. SOCIAL MEDIA | Data Hog Rating: 4
For many people, these are the apps of choice, especially Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. But they drain data quickly, and not only when we’re sharing photos and videos.
An hour of just browsing over a cellular network can use up to 90 MB of data. One hour a day (and who can’t knock that out?) adds up to nearly a whopping 3 GB of data a month.
Auto-play videos (served based on many factors in Facebook’s and Twitter’s newsfeed algorithms) use a great deal of data. But here’s what you can do…
Data Saving Hack: Set Facebook and Twitter videos to auto-play only while you’re on WiFi, or not at all.
2. MUSIC STREAMING | Data Hog Rating: 3.5
Apps like Spotify and Pandora make our commutes more pleasant and our treadmill time more bearable. All of that audio streaming, though, uses data quickly. An hour at the average music stream quality will use up about 43 MB. Here’s a thought…
Data Saving Hack: If you’re listening with earbuds, reduce the sound-quality setting in Spotify to “Normal,” its lowest setting. At 96kbps, this will use data a third the speed of the highest quality setting.
3. MOVIE STREAMING | Data Hog Rating: 5, OINK!
With so many cat videos to share and series to binge watch, video streaming apps are more popular than ever. Warning, though: they’re just about the biggest data hogs around. In the case of Netflix (which uses slightly more data than YouTube), streaming only ten minutes could use between 100 and 200 MB.
Data Saving Hack: Netflix adjusts its streaming quality based on your connections speed and doesn’t allow you to select lower video quality. So if you have WiFi at home, do your binge watching there.
4. VIDEO CHATTING | Data Hog Rating: 4.5.
Great both for doing business and for staying connected with friends and family, Skype, FaceTime and Google+ Hangouts are wildly popular video chat options. But they all use data fairly quickly.
Data Saving Hack: Video chats are typically planned in advance. Plan yours for a time when you’ll be able to use WiFi.
5. GAMES | Data Hog Rating: Eh, Depends.
Games range in how much data they require. But the ones with 3D graphics and multi-player functionality? They use lots.
Data Saving Hack: One of the most popular games in recent years, Candy Crush Saga, happens to be simple and data-efficient. And most single player games don’t use data at all once they’re downloaded. Test your skills with one of those!
There’s nothing wrong with being a bit obsessive about your data usage. With your phone’s data gauge (found within Settings), you can see which of your apps are using the most data, and find out how much you’ve gone through at any given point during your monthly billing cycle.
Luckily, more and more public establishments are offering free public WiFi access, from coffee shops and restaurants to theaters and grocery stores. The best overall tip we can give is to use that free WiFi when you can. Just let U.S. Cellular’s WiFi finder app point the way!