As mobile technology has expanded, so has the capabilities of our cellphones and more specifically the apps installed on them. These days, there’s an app for almost anything, but they all have one thing in common: they probably use mobile data.

This shouldn’t be news to you, and for most of us the struggle to stretch our monthly data allocation is very real. Unless you have no apps installed on your device, and even if you rely on only the basic apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook, you may have noticed that you’re using more data than you’d like.

There are ways to curb data usage and save some bucks, and it’s simpler than you’d think. Here’s how.

The basics

Apps don’t just always use mobile data when they’re open. Very often, apps update and use background data even when they aren’t being used, and it’s easy to manage this.

If you’re an Android user, you can switch off background data for certain apps in your device’s settings.

On your Android device, go to Apps > Settings > Data Usage > Cellular Data Usage and disable the ‘Background data’ setting by tapping on it. You can choose to disable background data usage for specific apps by scrolling down.

For iOS users, go to Settings > General > Background App Refresh, and tap on Background App Refresh to disable it. Again, you can choose to disable this functionality by scrolling down and selecting individual apps.

Automatic updates

Automatic app updates can chew away at your data before you’ve even had a chance to use it on things that matter to you. Unless you have a WiFi connection at home and/or the office that you are always connected to, it’s wise to disable this functionality to avoid high data usage.

On Android, go to Apps > Play Store > Menu > Settings > Auto-update apps, and choose to only allow app updates when you are connected to WiFi (‘Auto-update apps over Wi-Fi only’).

On iOS, go to Settings > iTunes & App Store , and then disable ‘Updates’.

Reign yourself in

The best way to manage mobile data on the fly is to have your phone monitor data usage as you go, and warn you if you exceed a certain limit.

On Android, go to Apps > Settings > Data Usage > Settings > Data usage, and enable the ‘Set mobile data’ functionality by tapping on it. You can now select your personal mobile data limit, and also tap on ‘Set mobile data limit’ to turn off data once you have reached said limit.

For iOS users, go to Settings > Mobile Data, and disable those apps that use too much data according to the usage amounts that are displayed.

Other data chompers

Remember, every time that you connect to the internet, whether this is with an app or on your mobile browser, you are using mobile data. If you are streaming music or videos, you can reduce the amount of data used by disabling high-quality streaming.

If you are using an online video streaming service like YouTube, you can set the video quality to something lower than HD. This can also be done for video played on platforms like Facebook and Netflix.

Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, all have an option under ‘Settings’ that allows you to turn off autoplay for videos, and Facebook and Instagram both offer an option to use less data by enabling a cellular and data-friendly function.

On WhatsApp, disable automatic downloads in your settings to stop all the video and images that are so common on WhatsApp groups from downloading automatically.

Apps to help you monitor your data usage

No, it isn’t counter-intuitive to use an app to solve your data woes. Download the My Vodacom app (available on iOS and Android) to view and monitor your data usage, and buy data bundles if you’ve run out.

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