Bill shock. It’s one of the harsh realities of the modern world. You sign up to an incredible $40 a month mobile plan with a sweet smartphone handset and 3G or even 4G speeds, and you’re all set. Off you go, gadding about the city watching YouTube clips and live sports, making video calls and running a paperless office while tracking your daily run via GPS.
Then you get the first bill. And it’s $1200. And you can’t imagine what has gone so catastrophically wrong, because if there’s one thing you hardly have time to do with your new smartphone, it’s make any calls.
Left to its own devices, a state-of-the-art smartphone is constantly connected. It pings the nearest tower for a whole host of online updates, from its apps to your email, to maps for GPS, and more. And with 4G networks rolling out around major cities, it’s easier than ever to use your phone the same way you use your home broadband connection.
Problem is, the network providers are still being very stingy with their data caps. At home, you’ll have a 200GB limit, or no limit at all. On the mobile, that can be as little as 200MB – though 1.5GB (ie 1500MB) seems to be a common quota now.
Combine social media, app updates, GPS maps (even though your phone knows its own position via satellite, the maps are downloaded) and video and you can chew through 200MB a day very easily. Go over your quota, and your network provider will charge you as much as $2 a megabyte. And that means a 100MB high definition YouTube video will cost you $200 to watch. Hope it was a really, really funny cat.
Fortunately, your smartphone is able to get its net connection via WiFi as well as mobile, and if you combine this ability with some judicious usage behaviour, you should find it easy to stay below that quota.
Let’s look at 10 ways to take control.
10. Buy a data pack
These tips and methods are ranked, and while this one is extremely effective, it involves spending money, so it gets the #10 spot.
Most smartphone plans offer a paltry couple of gigabytes of data as part of their so-called ‘included value’. For the average net-addict though, 1.5GB isn’t enough to get through a month.
We had a look at our usage while researching this article: on our home broadband, with very little file downloading or gaming, we still chewed through nearly 20GB of data mostly on streaming video.
So buying a ‘data pack’ that attaches on to your existing plan is a way to get the less-restrictive data usage you want. Unfortunately, the packs are expensive – $10 per GB, typically. And if you do go through all that data, you’ll still be charged 10 cents a megabyte for any excess usage.
9. Disable mobile data
This is a fairly draconian measure, but it does have a 100% success rate. Depending on which smartphone you own, you can dig through handset settings and actually switch off access to mobile data networks.
Your mobile will still work as a phone, and you’ll still be able to get internet on it via any WiFi network, but the phone will simply ignore the data capabilities of the mobile towers.