Android Users – tips to limit data usage

Applications, System Settings & Software – 3 key areas you need to look at

Applications

For the most part, you should turn off any background updates. Apps that pull weather data, or news stories are your targets here. Just look through the settings and you should find a way to deactivate this functionality. You can always update them manually.

Twitter clients are also a big user of data! If you have multiple clients installed, you may actually be downloading the same updates multiple times. Make sure you turn off updates on clients you don’t use frequently. If you can stand to turn them off on your main client, all the better. You can always manually refresh. Alternatively, just crank up the update interval to only ping Twitter every few hours.

Many apps also send usage details back to analytics firms. There is usually a toggle for this in the app’s settings. If you’re lucky, you may find that some of your apps have the ability to download data only when on Wi-Fi.

System Settings

On the system settings front, there are a few things you can do to reduce your data usage. Some of this will come with drawbacks, and it’s up to you how much pain you can deal with. First, check your Wi-Fi sleep policy. Go to your settings, then to Wireless and networks, then to Wi-Fi Settings. Hit the Menu button, and tap Advanced. Check and make sure Wi-Fi sleep policy is set to Never. You don’t want to have the phone switching to mobile data when you leave it in sleep mode. There might be a small battery life hit here, but we haven’t noticed any difference.

If you’re going to be out for a while, consider turning off your account sync. Android makes this really simple to do. The home screen Power Control widget has a button to toggle this feature on and off. You can also set this in the Accounts and Sync settings menu. Just uncheck Auto-sync; but it is easier to just use the home screen widget. Doing this means no push Gmail, contact syncing, or calendar sync. But if it’s just for a little while, you can still manually sync.

If you’re running a newer version of Android, you probably have the option to let apps auto-update in the background. You’re going to want to uncheck that option for each app’s entry. It’s worth the minor inconvenience of hitting the ‘Update All’ button while on Wi-Fi to not blow huge holes in your data quota. Apps are getting bigger on Android, with some topping 20MB. You don’t want your phone to decide to update that when you’re on 3G.

One last way to use the Android system settings to reduce data consumption is also found in the Accounts and Sync menu. This is the nuclear option for reducing data consumption. If you uncheck the Background Data box, apps will not be able to use data in the background. You will only be able to initiate data sessions in foreground apps. This obviously limits the usefulness of the phone, but you can control your data completely!

Software

Finally, there are a few apps you can use to help monitor & manage your data use – just cannot recommend any for fear of bias – yes there are many!

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