10 ways to save money on mobile data

 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.

When you don't want to sign-up to a post-paid plan, mobile data packs are a good (albeit pricey) alternative.


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.

This is actually a very important setting if you’re using an ultra-budget calls-only SIM in your phone. These SIMs don’t include a data allowance, but they’re still capable of giving a smartphone access to the net. And on some networks, you’ll be charged a stratospheric $2 a megabyte. That will teach you for not signing up to a 24 month contract!

Dumbing down your smartphone by turning off data capabilities is the sure-fire way to avoid excess data fees.

8. Use a different browser

This is a little bit technical. The default web browser included with the major smartphones is, in most respects, the same as the browser on your computer. Your phone will request a web page from a server. If there’s a mobile version of that site, you’ll get that, but otherwise you’ll get all the data you’d receive on a full-size PC.

This is wasteful, because your phone actually compresses the page down to fit on the display (more modern phones with computer-like screen resolutions do this to a lesser extent). What would be better is a browser that does all the compression before pulling the data down over the mobile network.

There are third-party browsers – such a Opera – available for both iOS and Android that compress sites. Unfortunately, basic text-and-image websites don’t account for that much of your data usage, so the savings here are modest at best. But hey, they’re also free!

Some browsers compress websites before they download, to deliver modest data savings.