Min­imis­ing mo­bile data us­age

SHORT ON YOUR GI­GA­BYTES WHEN OUT AND ABOUT? HERE ARE THE TOOLS YOU NEED TO GRAB YOUR­SELF SOME EX­TRA DATA.

TechLife Australia - - WELCOME - [NATHAN TAY­LOR]

WHILE MONTHLY QUO­TAS for land­line broad­band ser­vices have (thank­fully) fi­nally grown to the point at which you gen­er­ally don’t have to stress over your data us­age, the same is not true for mo­bile ser­vices. Most mo­bile ser­vices of­fer only a few gi­ga­bytes per month, the kind of quota that can be eas­ily wiped out with sys­tem and app up­dates, plus ca­sual brows­ing. Worse, most post-paid mo­bile ser­vices will charge a lu­di­crous ex­cess us­age fee if you do ac­ci­den­tally go over your quota.

Luck­ily, there are tools to help you deal with quota anx­i­ety. This month, we’re go­ing to look at some of the top tech­niques to re­duce your mo­bile data us­age.

USE A DATA SAVER PROXY

Data savers have been around for a few years, with the func­tion­al­ity now even built into sev­eral browsers, but not many peo­ple know about them. A data saver is a proxy or VPN ser­vice that pre-down­loads sites you visit, then com­presses those sites be­fore send­ing them on to you. That way, the amount of data sent across the mo­bile link can be sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced. The amount of data saved varies sig­nif­i­cantly de­pend­ing on the ser­vice and the type of con­tent you’re ac­cess­ing, but 10–50% ex­tra data is not un­com­mon. As an added bonus, they also fre­quently speed up brows­ing, since less data has to tra­verse the last mile of the in­ter­net con­nec­tion.

There are a sur­pris­ing num­ber of ser­vice op­tions here. Some of the best in­clude Chrome, Opera and Fire­fox.

Chrome has a built in op­tion, hid­den away in its ad­vanced set­tings. In the mo­bile ver­sion of Chrome, tap on the ver­ti­cal el­lip­sis and se­lect Set­tings. Look un­der Ad­vanced for ‘Data Saver’. Tap on it, then turn the switch to ‘on’. A graph will ap­pear show­ing you how much data you’ve saved. (As an aside, this is also avail­able as an add-on in the Desk­top ver­sion of Chrome. Look in the Chrome Web Store for Data Saver.)

Opera was one of the first to im­ple­ment data sav­ing, and is avail­able in both its desk­top browser and mo­bile browsers. Its mo­bile browser Opera Mini ac­tu­ally has sev­eral set­tings, let­ting you choose how much com­pres­sion to ap­ply to images and me­dia. You can find the data saver in the set­tings.

Fire­fox has sev­eral add-ons that can do the job, in­clud­ing one that uses Google’s Data Saver ser­vice. In the Fire­fox add-on di­rec­tory, look for ei­ther Data saver proxy for Fire­fox (which uses Google’s com­pres­sion proxy) or skyZIP ac­cel­er­a­tion and com­pres­sion Proxy.

Opera Max for Android is a great tool from Opera that sets up a VPN that both com­presses in­com­ing data and blocks ads — and pro­vides re­ports on back­ground data us­age. It’s rather an­noy­ing that you have to keep “re­new­ing” the ser­vice ev­ery 12 hours, but it’s other­wise a very use­ful ser­vice.

USE AD BLOCK­ERS

A sub­stan­tial volume of your mo­bile data quota is likely go­ing into down­load­ing ads — and ads can be some of the worst of­fend­ers when it comes to band­width, with em­bed­ded video, ro­tat­ing gal­leries and heavy flash em­beds. An ad blocker can spare you both an­noy­ance and save you band­width on ads.

On iOS de­vices, Ap­ple has ac­tu­ally built in a con­tent-block­ing API that lets third-

party ap­pli­ca­tions block cer­tain types of me­dia. There are a num­ber of apps that use it, but we rec­om­mend 1Blocker, a tool that will stop ads, track­ers, so­cial me­dia widgets and track­ing cook­ies from ever mak­ing it to your browser.

On Android, you have the op­tion to use a browser like Fire­fox (with add-ons), AdBlock Browser or Opera Mini, which has tools avail­able for ad-block­ing. There are also sev­eral apps that you can in­stall for ad block­ing — but you’ll have to down­load and in­stall them from their home pages since Google tends to re­move all ad block­ers from the Play Store. We can rec­om­mend AdClear, which can be found at www.seven.com/ android-ad­blocker-down­load.php.

DOWN­LOAD ME­DIA FOR OFF­LINE PLAY

A num­ber of sub­scrip­tion ser­vices, in­clud­ing YouTube Red and Spo­tify Pre­mium, al­low you to down­load me­dia for off­line view­ing. For in­stance, in Spo­tify, you can go to ‘Set­tings > Play­back’ and switch on off­line play­back, at which point Spo­tify will start caching your mu­sic li­brary lo­cally. Even though you’re not tech­ni­cally ‘off­line’ when you’re on a 3G/LTE, Spo­tify will still use the lo­cal ver­sion for play­back, sav­ing band­width. Plus, if you’re on Ap­ple Mu­sic, you can down­load songs to your de­vice for later off­line lis­ten­ing.

Google Maps also has an off­line mode, which is rec­om­mended if you use your phone for nav­i­ga­tion. Within the app, tap on the ham­burger to bring up your op­tion, then tap on ‘Off­line ar­eas’. You’ll be able to se­lect a zone (or mul­ti­ple zones) and Google will down­load the map for that area to your phone, mean­ing that it won’t have to use 3G data to down­load live maps while you’re trav­el­ling.

TURN OFF BACK­GROUND APP UP­DATES AND DOWN­LOAD­ING.

Apps can use data even when you’re not ac­tively us­ing them. Back­ground up­dates and sync­ing should only be en­abled when you’re on Wi-Fi.

On Android, go to ‘Set­tings > Data us­age’ un­der ‘Wire­less & Net­works’ (‘Set­tings > Con­nec­tion > Data us­age’ on Sam­sung TouchWiz). This will give you an over­all view of your data us­age, as well as an app-by-app break­down. There should be a but­ton to ‘Re­strict back­ground data’ which you can switch on (in later ver­sions of Android it’s just listed as ‘Back­ground data’, in which case, you would switch it to ‘off’, and in some ver­sions of Android, you have to tap on the ver­ti­cal el­lip­sis to see the op­tion). Do­ing this means that only the app in the fore­ground (that is, the one cur­rently open in front of you) can ac­cess the in­ter­net as long as you’re con­nected only to a mo­bile net­work. Once you con­nect to Wi-Fi, nor­mal back­ground down­load­ing will start again. Al­ter­na­tively, you can turn off back­ground data for in­di­vid­ual apps. Un­der ‘By ap­pli­ca­tion’, Android will show us­age for each app. Tap on an in­di­vid­ual app, then switch back­ground data off for that app. If you switch it off for Google Play, app up­dates will be dis­abled un­til you con­nect to Wi-Fi.

On iOS, go to ‘Set­tings > Mo­bile’. Un­der ‘Use mo­bile data for’, there are in­di­vid­ual switches for each app you have on your phone. You can turn them all off or se­lect which ones you want to al­low to use 3G/4G data. For any you switch off, these apps will not ac­cess the in­ter­net at all, even while you’re con­nected to a mo­bile net­work.

If you just want to stop back­ground down­loads, how­ever, go in­stead to ‘Set­tings > Gen­eral > Back­ground App Re­fresh’. There is a switch here to turn off back­ground down­load­ing ei­ther glob­ally or for in­di­vid­ual apps. As with Android, as soon as you con­nect to a Wi-Fi net­work, nor­mal back­ground and fore­ground in­ter­net ser­vice re­sumes.

As an ex­tra note for iOS, you should also turn off Wi-Fi As­sist, found at the bot­tom of ‘Set­tings > Mo­bile’. With Wi-Fi as­sist, your phone may use mo­bile data even when it’s con­nected to Wi-Fi, if iOS de­cides that your Wi-Fi con­nec­tion is too slow or spotty. It’s prob­a­bly bet­ter to make that de­ci­sion your­self.

A SUB­STAN­TIAL VOLUME OF YOUR MO­BILE DATA QUOTA IS LIKELY GO­ING INTO DOWN­LOAD­ING ADS AND ADS CAN BE SOME OF THE WORST OF­FEND­ERS WHEN IT COMES TO BAND­WIDTH, WITH EM­BED­DED VIDEO, RO­TAT­ING GAL­LERIES AND HEAVY FLASH EM­BEDS.

1Blocker for iOS is like Dis­con­nect.me and uBlock Ori­gin com­bined.

On Android, you can turn off back­ground data glob­ally or just for in­di­vid­ual apps.

Opera Mini has a highly con­fig­urable data saver with dif­fer­ent lev­els of com­pres­sion.

Chrome has a data saver built in.

Turn off back­ground app re­fresh in iOS.

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