Top 5 Data Savers

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With carriers becoming more and more stingy with their data allotments, saving mobile data is becoming more and more important for the average user. Especially with carriers like Verizon Wireless offering plans like their new Share Everything Plan, where users will pull from a block of data for all their lines. The savings can be realized if you can keep that data in check, but if you go over, the penalties can be pretty harsh. Use these 5 quick tips to lower data consumption quickly and easily.

1) Avoid streaming video while on your mobile connection. Even YouTube will rack up the mileage pretty quickly, but programs like NetFlix and Hulu will double your data usage in no time at all. Make sure that if streaming movies from Netflix, Hulu or Crackle is on the agenda that the device is hooked to a public WiFi connection. Just an hour of these video services can easily use a GB or more of data.

2) Set email sizes to a lower download amount. This can be done with most devices in the email settings. Most allow the minimum to be set as low as 1kb for headers only or as high as 5MB. A nice 50kb limit should be plenty for the average user to get the idea of what an email is about. For most OS’s, simply tapping the ‘download message’ button on that email will download the rest of the content when necessary. Also, make sure that pictures are not set to auto download in emails. The savings here can be as much as 500MB a month depending on how heavily the device is used for emailing.

3) Make a few playlists that are stored on the device. Take those favorite songs and make that workout playlist part of the internal storage. Android and BlackBerry users have it eaiser here as they have that “unlimited storage” option that Windows Phone and iPhone users don’t. Even still, streaming that workout playlist an hour a day at the gym will eat through about 1GB of data per month. By moving a playlist to the device storage, that data can be saved for more importants tasks. If a streaming player is an absolute must, try and find an App that will cache stations over WiFi for later listening.

4) Phones make great GPS devices for the car now. The issue of course, is that the device needs to download that map and directions every time it starts up. Many of the better GPS Apps now offer offline mapping. These Apps download the maps for the specified areas and save them in device memory. Again, Android and Blackberry users have an advantage here with their removable storage, but even downloading the Puget Sound area to a Focus S with Navigator: Turn By Turn for Windows Phone only used 250MB of internal space. Not only is the mapping faster, but data is only used for route planning, not mapping.

5) Turn off auto updates for all Apps. While doing a bit of research on how often Apps were getting updated in the Google Play store, it was pretty scary to see how much data was being used doing it. On average the auto updates used 5MB a day, or 35MB a week, or 125MB a month. Now that doesn’t sound like that much, but if one considers that many plans include 1GB of data before throttling or cutoff now, 125MB is 1/8th of the monthly allowance. That only leaves the user about 90% of their monthly data to play with. Consider the totals on this if a family is doing the Verizon Share Everything plan and would like to cut costs more by lowering their plan from 4GB to 2GB, and 500MB are used up every month just updating apps? It makes it very hard to make that cut knowing that 25% of the usable data will be going to update Apps. Instead, open the Play store every few days when the device is on WiFi and check for updates manually.

A few other honorable mention tips that didn’t make the top five are:

Get away from advertising based “free” Apps. These chew up quite a bit of data each month, not to mention are battery killers.

Turning off the cell data radio when it is not needed. This not only saves on the battery as well, but also eliminates any chances of the device pulling a download when it is not needed.

Always update devices over WiFi not over the cellular radio. Some of the latest firmware updates for devices are 250MB. If one updates that Droid Maxx to ICS and burns 250MB doing it, it’s not going to be a low usage month.

Try to hook to WiFi whenever possible. There are free hotspots just around the corner from everywhere. Starbucks, McDonalds, many gyms, and most public buildings. Libraries have it, most schools do too. By offloading the lionshare of the data to landlines, more and more people will use less and less cellular data. This will mean faster data speeds, less network congestion and overall better performance for all.

For the average user, the steps above are proabably not needed, but for those that are starting to feel that data crunch, these simple steps can save quite a bit of cash every month. If not by preventing overages, then at least by allowing the user to move to a cheaper plan. For example, AT&T post-spaid includes 3GB of data with their standard plan, but the GoPhone Prepaid version only includes 1GB. The GoPhone verison of the coverage is a flat $75 a month. The AT&T post-paid equivilant is $120 after taxes. By shaving that data down to a GB, one can move to that plan without the worry of needing more data.

The one thing to remember, even if the plan says that data is unlimited, it probably isn’t. Companies like T-Mobile are very upfront with their unlimited data – but throttled after “x” warnings. Others like Straight Talk are a bit more vague with their, yes the plan is unlimited, but on this carrier your are limited and that one it isn’t. Then there are the ones that flat out tell people that they are unlimited and disconnect users after 1GB for violation of the Acceptable Use Policy that clearly states that one cannot use a device for streaming music, videos or uploading photos. Just remember, unlimited doesn’t always mean unlimited and by lightening the data consumption of a device, it just makes more affordable plans an option for all.

For those that are out of contract now, check out the bevy of prepaid options for your current devices:
AT&T users can check out: Red Pocket Mobile ($54.99 – unlimited talk and text + 1GB) and H2O Wireless ($60 – unlimited talk and text + 2GB)
T-Mobile users can check out: Simple Mobile ($40 – unlimited talk and text + 1GB softcap 3G data)
Verizon Wireless 3G users can check out: Page Plus Cellular ($55 – unlimited talk and text + 2GB data)
Sprint users are not able to bring their current devices to MVNO carriers.

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