Unless you’re on an unlimited data plan, it’s quite possible you’ll burn through your monthly allowance of mobile data without even realising it. Scrolling through TikTok videos, watching YouTube or Netflix or using your phone as a hotspot for your laptop can eat through those gigabytes in no time at all.
If you’ve ever ended up burning through all your data by accident, here are seven ways to save data by switching to Wi-Fi instead.
1. Use your home network to download content
One of the most obvious ways to keep your mobile data intact is to plan ahead when you’re going to be travelling on the bus, train or other long journeys.
Instead of streaming content while out and about, instead to download movies, TV shows, music and podcasts before you leave home.
Most people have unlimited broadband these days, or at least a plan that’s far more generous than the typical mobile data plan, so making full use of home broadband will help you avoid using up the allowance on your phone.
2. Turn off mobile data when at home or in the office
It should go without saying, but make full use of Wi-Fi at work as well as home – if you’re allowed to, of course. When you get home or to the office, turn off mobile data so that all the browsing or consuming of content you do is all via Wi-Fi.
While phones will usually switch to Wi-Fi automatically to save mobile data, this may not happen if you have a few areas in your home or workplace with a weak Wi-Fi signal. In this case it could be that your phone switches automatically to mobile data when it loses Wi-Fi. If you don’t notice, then you might inadvertently download large apps, or watch videos without realising it’s using your mobile data.
If you have an iPhone then you can use the Shortcuts feature to create a location-based alert that reminds you to turn off your data when you reach a certain destination. The same trick can be done on an Android phone by using Location Reminders in Google Keep.
3. Use Wi-Fi in libraries, coffee shops, restaurants and stores
Should you find that you’re caught away from the office or your home, but need to do things online which would use up a lot of data, there are still a few options available. As you’re probably aware, most coffee shops offer free Wi-Fi, so you can always pop in and order a latte while taking the opportunity to download your files or make a video call.
The same is true (except for the latte) of public libraries, most pubs, fast food restaurants like McDonalds, and if you happen to be near an Apple Store, then peruse the latest products it has to offer while also availing yourself of its decent Wi-Fi network.
One thing to bear in mind is that public Wi-Fi isn’t necessarily as secure as your own home network. Because of this, we advise using a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your connection and keep your data safe. You can find a bargain in our roundup of the best VPN deals, and see our recommendations for the best VPN services.
4. Switch to a mobile provider that offers free social media data
Some mobile operators have started offering plans which don’t count social media use against your data allowance. For example, at the time of writing, UK provider Voxi was offering a 25GB monthly plan for £12 which also allowed unlimited use of social media. So, if you have an addiction to Snapchat or TikTok, then using a plan like this would prevent you from burning through all your data in a couple of days.
5. Stop specific apps using mobile data
While you might not want to block all data use on your phone when you’re out and about, especially if you want to receive emails and messaging app notifications, there is the option to prevent particular apps from using mobile networks, and restrict them to Wi-Fi only.
This could be good for things like iCloud and Google Photos which could back up all the photos and videos you take by using mobile data. On Android simply open Settings > Apps > Manage apps then select the one you want to restrict.
You should see the option Restrict data usage, so tap that and select Wi-Fi only.
This is also worth considering for streaming apps, social media ones and anything else that uses video (which usually has the biggest files-sizes to download).
If you still worry that you’ll end up with zero data before the end of the month, you can always set up a notification that lets you know when you’ve used up a certain amount. Many of the dedicated apps from mobile plan providers will do this for you, but on Android you can also use a system setting to achieve the same result. Here’s what to do.
Open Settings > Network and Interent > Internet.
Next to the name of your mobile provider you’ll see a Settings icon. Tap that and select Data warning and limit > Data warning, then enter the figure you want to be alerted about and complete the process by tapping Set.
This process may vary slightly across different versions of Android, but the principle should remain the same.
7. Swap to a mobile plan with more data
Ultimately, if you just cannot manage with the amount of data your current plan provides then the obvious thing to do is switch to one that better suits your needs. Take a look at our roundup of the best SIM-only plans to see if you can grab a bargain today.
Martyn has been involved with tech ever since the arrival of his ZX Spectrum back in the early 80s. He covers iOS, Android, Windows and macOS, writing tutorials, buying guides and reviews for Macworld and its sister site Tech Advisor.