Take control of the mobile data used by your Android phone

The amount of data used by our phone is a constant worry because there is usually a limit to the amount we can use. Check the data usage for each app and stop the worst offenders.

Unless you are lucky, and pay a lot for your cell phone contract, there will be a limit to the amount of data you can use. It may be as little as 0.5GB or as much as 10GB. Contracts vary, but what doesn’t are the bills you receive if you exceed your limit.

  • Data is limited
  • Keep an eye on the amount used
  • Don’t go over your limit

This is obviously a greater worry for those people with low data limits, but if you watch enough online video and listen to too many songs, anyone can use too much data and pay the price.

Which apps are using too much data? How much is each app using? Is it foreground or background use?

These are important questions and there are different ways to get the answers you need. One method is to go through the application manager and it has features you probably never knew existed.

Let’s take a look at the Samsung Galaxy S6 running Android 6. Other phones and other versions of Android may be different - it is hard to cover every version of Android because there are so many in use.

1 Go to Settings

Pull down from the top of the screen and tap the gear icon to open Settings, or go to the apps drawer and tap Settings. There are shortcuts at the top of Settings to open Application manager, but on other phones and versions of Android you might find this a bit further down the screen.

Android Settings on the Samsung Galaxy S6

2 Select an app

Scroll down the list of apps and select one. Let’s take a look at Facebook and see how much mobile data it has been using.

Application Manager in Android settings

3 Check the data usage

Here you can see the data used since 10 Mar. The date is a puzzle, but it may be when Android 6 was installed on this phone. That might have reset data usage counters to zero. press it to continue.

Application info in Android 6

4 Monthly usage

The Data usage screen shows the amount of data used in the last month. Facebook has used very little, but this is probably because I spend a lot of time in areas with Wi-Fi and rarely use Facebook on mobile data.

Your data usage could look very different to mine. The foreground data used is when you are actually using the app. The background usage is the data used when you are not using the app and it is not on the screen. Apps that use a lot of background data should be avoided.

Mobile data used by apps in Android

Notice that there is a switch to Restrict background data. If an app uses too much background data, press this switch to turn it on.

5 Background data

There is a warning that it might stop apps working. That is the whole point. It stops apps downloading or uploading data while on the mobile data network. You might not see Facebook notifications, but they will appear when you are next using Wi-Fi or you run the app while on mobile data. That is foreground usage, which is unaffected.

Limit mobile data used in the background on Android

6 Data usage overview

Leaving the best till last, those that are familiar with Android will know that there is another, simpler way to see the amount of data used on your phone. Open Settings and tap Data Usage.

The features you have here may depend on your phone. This is a Samsung Galaxy S6 running Android 6.

Monitor mobile data usage on your Android phone

  1. Press and drag this top red line to set the upper data limit. This phone’s contract allows 500MB of data, so the limit is set to 495MB.
  2. Drag this line to just below the limit. When the amount of data reaches this, you are warned that you are running out of data and there isn’t much left.
  3. Use this switch to manually turn mobile data on and off. If you reach your limit and don’t want to go over an incur extra charges, turn off the data. If you want to stop data-hungry apps from using too much data, switch it off. Apps can still use Wi-Fi freely.
  4. Turn this on to set a mobile data limit.

7 Apps and restrictions

Swipe up the screen to view the list of apps on your phone and the amount of data they have used.

Tap the three dots menu button in the top right corner and there is an option to Restrict background data. We saw a similar option earlier that could be applied to a single app. This setting is a global one that applies to all apps. It stops them using mobile data when running in the background.

Mobile data usage in Android 

People often install data manager apps that monitor the data usage and display warnings or prevent you from going over your data limit, but ask yourself whether you actually need them.

All the data management tools you need might be built into your phone. Look in the settings and if you have similar features to these here, get rid of your data manager and reduce the number of apps on your phone. It will work better.

 

Comments   

-1 # EkstrLabs 2016-06-18 20:20
You can also use Netify to monitor your data usage. It keeps anotification at the top of your notificationlis t with how much data you've used since you switched to the type of network you're on.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ekstrlabs.netify
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