If you're not subscribed to an unlimited mobile data contract, or aren't always in range of a Wi-Fi connection, it's easy to go over your monthly mobile data allowance and incur huge phone bills. Here we explain how to minimise the amount of mobile data used by Android smartphones.

When choosing your mobile phone contract it can be tricky to work out how much mobile data you need. It's always worth looking at past phone bills to see how much data your phone has consumed, but be wary of the fact that you'll probably use your new toy more than your old one, and that if it supports features such as 4G then you may use more mobile data than you realise.

It's not just when you're watching YouTube videos or checking Facebook that your phone consumes mobile data either. Many apps are running in the background and using that data connection - email is a great example, as it could be checking back with its servers every few minutes for new messages. App updates can also use a lot of data, but Google Play lets you ensure these occur over Wi-Fi only.

The good news is it's easy to keep tabs on what apps are using mobile data. Android also has tools that let you see when you're approaching your monthly limit and even set a usage limit, plus you can turn off mobile data altogether. Here we'll show you how you can minimise data usage on your phone and ensure you don't go over your limit.

How to update apps over Wi-Fi only

This is easy. Just launch Google Play, tap on the three horizontal lines icon at the top left corner, then choose Settings. Under General choose Auto-update apps and select 'Auto-update apps over Wi-Fi only'. 

How to mobile minimise data usage on Android

How to completely turn off your data connection

Swipe down from the top of the screen, select Settings, press Data usage and then flick the Mobile data switch from On to Off - this will completely turn off your mobile data connection.

Note: you will still be able to connect to the internet and use apps as normal if you are connected to a Wi-Fi network.

How to set a data usage limit

If you want to set a limit for how much data your Android smartphone uses over the course of a month (or any time period), plus a warning that tells you when you are approaching that limit, once again visit Settings > Data usage. Make sure the monthly usage cycle matches that of your phone contract (don't assume it refreshes from the 1st of each month).

You will see a large graph detailing how much data you have used over the course of the month. Choose a maximum amount of data that can be used in a month, and when Android should warn you that you are close to that limit. Drag the two horizontal bars across the graph to reflect these choices.

How to mobile minimise data usage on Android

How to minimise mobile data usage

If you simply want to minimise the amount of data your Android smartphone uses, then you can do this by going through each app that you have downloaded and disabling background data. 

Swipe down from the top of the screen and open Settings, Data usage, then scroll down to view the list of apps using data on your phone.

How to mobile minimise data usage on Android

Click on an app, then select the option to Restrict background data. Be choosy, though: these apps will now refresh in the background only over Wi-Fi. Restricting background data on WhatsApp, Facebook or Gmail, for example, will mean you won't receive new message notifications unless you physically launch the app, causing it to sync with its servers.

You should also check specific apps for data saving settings. Twitter, for example, has rolled out Twitter Lite as a data-friendly way to use the service, and has also added a 'Data saver' mode to its main app, which it says could reduce your data usage by up to 70% through tricks like blurring image previews.

Other apps will have their own ways to save data, so make sure to dig through the settings of any of the apps that you know are hogging your data allowance.