Close to 60% of South Africans now have internet access, according to a study done by We Are Social and HootSuite in 2018, with many users gaining access to the World Wide Web via smartphones. Statista estimates the number of smartphone users in South Africa to currently stand at 22 million, with that number expected to rise to more than 23 million in 2020.

However, accessing the internet via a smartphone requires the use of mobile data, with many users often struggling to use the internet as they’d like to due to data costs.

Being mindful of how one uses mobile data can help internet users to make more efficient use of the data they are able to acquire. Here are six ways to cut down on mobile data usage and avoid wastage.

1. Turn off background data

Your phone often uses data without you even knowing it. Turning off or restricting mobile data will ensure that you only use data when you want to. Here’s how.

Android
  1. Open “Settings” and tap on “Data usage”.
  2. Scroll down to see how much data specific apps use, or tap on “Cellular data usage”.
  3. Tap on the apps that you prefer not using data with, and select “Restrict background app data”.
iPhone
  1. Tap on “Settings”, scroll down and tap on “Mobile Data”.
  2. Scroll down to see a list of apps, together with the amount of data they use.
  3. Tap on the green “switch” to turn off mobile data usage for specific apps.

2. Don’t allow apps to auto-update

Apps that automatically update can use huge chunks of data in one go.

To turn off auto-update on Android devices:
  1. Open the Google Play app.
  2. Tap on the three horizontal lines in the top-left corner.
  3. Tap on “Settings”.
  4. Tap “Auto-update apps”.
  5. Select “Do not auto-update apps”.
For iPhone users:
  1. Open “Settings”.
  2. Scroll down and select “iTunes & App Store”.
  3. Toggle the switch to turn off automatic updates.

3. Only access multimedia content over Wi-Fi

Videos, streaming music and image heavy websites like Facebook and Instagram can use large amounts of data. To save data, only access this kind of content while you’re on a Wi-Fi connection.

Tweak your Gmail account settings to only download email attachments on a Wi-Fi connection: open the Gmail app, go to “Menu”, then “Settings”, tap your email address, and tick the box that allows you to download attachments when connected to Wi-Fi.

In fact, restricting a large part of your internet usage to a Wi-Fi connection is the single best way to avoid using a lot of data. Check out these spots that offer free Wi-Fi in Johannesburg.

4. Use an optimised browser

Optimised browsers like UC Browser, Opera Mini and Google Chrome process content on websites in such a way that less data is used. Using these apps instead of the default browsing apps on your smartphone can save a lot more data than you might think. Just take note that you’ll need to switch on Data Saver if you are using Chrome. To do this, open Chrome, tap on “Settings”, and then on “Data Saver”.

5. Turn off 4G and LTE

4G and LTE connections are lightning-fast, but also tend to process more data thanks to its speed. Turning off 4G and LTE in your mobile settings under “Mobile networks” will reduce the amount of data you use.

6. Use data bundles

Accessing the internet at out-of-bundle data rates is much more expensive than using data bundles. Always ensure that you have an active data bundles, and replenish them once they’ve been depleted to avoid running out of airtime. With Vodacom’s new Out-of-Bundle rules, you will receive a reminder via SMS to buy a bundle before you run out.

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