What can be more surprising is how many apps use location settings, and how many of them keep an idle eye on your location all the time. Forget privacy and battery life issues: many of these apps will also be pinging servers online for bits and pieces of data.
It’s mere kilobytes at a time, but when this goes on all day every day, you’d be surprised how the data adds up over the course of a month.
The solution? Turn off the GPS. If you’re not navigating or checking in, there’s no need for it. And we don’t know about you, but we’re still not 100% comfortable walking around all day with an active locator beacon in our pants.
4. Turn off automatic updates and delete old apps
Apps are great fun, but they do take liberties with your phone and your data connection. Specifically, many apps want to update themselves all the time. To apply an update, the app must first check with a server to see if an update is available, then download it, then install it.
Some phone operating systems require the user to accept all updates manually, but others will update in the background. Before you know it, you’ll have downloaded 50–100MB of data.
You can turn off automatic updates in phone settings, but these apps will still keep checking the server for updates and then ask you to install them manually.
Data usage by apps is a murky area. It’s usually tricky to tell when they’re connected to the net or what exactly it is they’re doing. So it’s important to delete old apps once you’ve finished being amused by them. This frees up space on your phone, cuts down on battery drain, and most importantly, stops more little nibbles being taken out of your data allowance.
3. Don’t watch video. Ever
Again, this is a pretty harsh piece of advice but it’s extremely effective in controlling data usage. These days, the majority of major websites – news, sports, social networking – are optimised for mobile. You can browse text and images all afternoon and use maybe 20MB.
Add video into the equation though, and that thrift goes out the window. Even the major networks admit it: look at their ‘What do you get for your allowance’ breakdowns. A 1GB allowance (according to both Telstra and Optus) will give you 1000 emails, 1000 web pages, but only 20 two-minute video clips. Or 40 minutes of video, is what they’re trying not to actually say.
Video is very data intensive, and with 4G networks and phone displays capable of 720p HD, you can rip through 1GB of data in less than the full running length of the crappy Hollywood blockbuster you rented via the latest app.