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7 ways to curb your iPhone's cellular data use

Ben Patterson | June 26, 2015
Sure, four (or six, eight, or more) gigabytes of cellular data probably sounded like a lot when you first signed up for your iPhone data plan. But thanks to the latest data-hungry iOS apps and features, a GB of mobile data isn't what it used to be.

But think twice before binge-watching an entire season of House of Cards over LTE. Netflix (or another video-streaming service, for that matter) can easily chomp a gig or more of data an hour for HD-quality video. Indeed, a couple of HD Netflix movies could blow through an entire month of cellular data.

So take it easy when it comes to streaming Netflix, YouTube, or other videos over cellular. Remember, even just a few minutes each day can add up.

If you simply can't live without Netflix while you're on the road, try dialing down your Netflix video quality to save bandwidth. Open your Netflix account in a desktop browser, visit the Your Account screen, click the "Playback Settings" screen, then pick an option: Low (think sub-DVD quality, but only a third of a gigabyte of data use per hour), Medium (0.7 GB an hour for SD-quality video), or High (3GB an hour or more for HD-plus quality).

Turn off auto-playing videos on Facebook

A recent update of Facebook's iOS app added an eye-popping new feature: auto-play videos, which start playing automatically as you scroll through your news feed.

It's a nifty feature, and the default "smart auto-play" setting supposedly adjusts your auto-play video quality depending on your battery life and whether you're on a cellular network. Still, all those auto-playing videos can add up when it comes to cellular data.

If you'd rather turn off auto-play Facebook videos, try this: Open the Facebook app on your iPhone, tap the More button in the bottom-right corner of the screen, scroll down and tap Account Settings, then tap Videos, Auto-play. Flick off the "Smart Auto-play" switch, then pick a new setting--ideally, either "Use Wi-Fi Only" or "Never Play Videos Automatically."

Use a browser with a mobile-friendly mode

A little casual web browsing over your iPhone's LTE connection probably won't drain your monthly data allowance on its own. Again, though, it all adds up.

That's why frugal iPhone users would be well served with a bandwidth-conscious mobile browser--specifically, one that "crunches" webpages into smaller chunks that consume less cellular data.

Among the options: Opera Mini, a free browser that shaves hefty chunks of data from webpages, and Google Chrome, which crunches webpages with its Google-hosted "Data Saver" feature (tap the menu button in the top corner of the screen, then tap Settings, Bandwidth, Data Saver).

Set your podcatcher to only use Wi-Fi

Not that long ago, my wife and I had a brief but annoying cable Internet outage at our house, meaning (horror of horrors!) we had to rough it with LTE for a few days. Oh well, I thought; we're grownups, and we can live without Netflix for 48 hours, right? (Um, right?)


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