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9 ways to stay below your data cap on Android and iOS

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal,Nick Mediati | Dec. 9, 2013
Limited data plan? No problem—we have some simple tricks that can help you cut back on data usage

Bad news, smartphone owners: Unlimited data plans are, for the most part, a thing of the past. Even if you've managed to hang on to your unlimited data plan on AT&T or Verizon, it's likely not truly unlimited--your carrier probably throttles your data speeds if you exceed 2GB of downloaded data in a given billing period.

Telecoms want you to buy bigger data allowances, and they have the leverage to do so: We're using more data than ever these days thanks to apps, social media, Web services, and our obsessive email-checking. So what's a hard-working, socially connected, tech-savvy person such as yourself to do with a limited data plan? Follow these tips to cut back on your data habit, track and monitor your usage, and extend your data plan--so you never have to pay overage charges again.

Monitor usage

Before you can start reducing your data usage, you need to know how much data you actually use. The only way to do that is to monitor and track your usage so that you learn exactly what your phone is doing--even when you're not using it (thanks, background data).

You have a few ways to track your data usage on an Android or iOS device. The simplest method is to look up the information on the device itself, namely your smartphone or tablet. Android users can check their data consumption by digging into the settings menu: Navigate to Settings > Wireless and network and tap Data usage. Here, you'll find an interactive graph that displays how much data you've used over the past month. You can also check previous months' data usage, and you can view a list of apps that use data and see how much they consume.

Checking your data usage on your device is convenient, but the function is limited, and you should rely on it only in a pinch. It's better to track data through a carrier-specific app, such as AT&T's MyAT&T app or Verizon Wireless's My Verizon Mobile app. The main benefit of using one of these apps is that you'll have an accurate estimate of how much data your carrier believes you've used, and therefore how much your carrier will charge you for.

If you want more data and tracking options than either your device or your carrier can provide, consider using a third-party app such as Onavo Extend to track your data in a more detailed manner. Onavo Extend, which is available on both Android and iOS, is a free app that offers detailed monthly usage reports and data plan analysis, information that can help you determine whether you're using all of the data that you're paying for each month. Onavo Extend also "extends" your data plan by compressing your incoming and outgoing data so that you use less data overall.


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