Don’t get caught by expensive data charges. Here are our tips to cut the costs of using the internet on your phone.
If you’re like me, you probably use your mobile phone less and less for calls. Really it’s a mobile web device – and that’s where mobile companies are going to make their money.
Every time you check email, surf the net, download an app or watch a video on YouTube, you’re using data. For most people the cost will be covered by an included package, but as we go 4G and download and stream more, that allowance is much easier to use up. If you go over your allowance or use it abroad it can be pricey.
Follow these five tips to keep costs down:
1. How Much Data Do You Need?
When you upgrade or buy a new mobile phone you’ll see more and more that minutes and texts are unlimited and the price difference is down to how much data you need. Use this handy data calculator from EE to get an idea of what you’ll use.
For most people 1GB (gigabyte) will be enough. Don’t get too much! It’s easy to think oh it’s only a couple more quid a month, but over a 24 month contract, that’ll add up.
Read our Upgrade Your Phone In 7 Steps guide.
2. Use Wi-Fi
First, make sure your phone connects to Wi-Fi at home. And your work if there is a Wi-Fi network. The password should be on the router. If there’s anywhere else you’re often at (e.g. your partner’s or friend’s home), ask if you can connect there too.
When out and about it’s easy to forget that there are plenty of ‘hot spots’ you can use. Look out for these:
O2 – free to all though you need to register first https://www.o2wifi.co.uk/my/index
BT – free to BT, EE, Orange and T-Mobile customers. This is the largest network.
The Cloud – free to Sky customers.
Virgin – this is largely on the London Underground. It’s free to Virgin Media and Virgin Mobile customers.
You’ll also find hot spots (often powered by the companies above) partnered with shops to give free access. Places you can get free Wi-Fi include:
It’s worth downloading the JiWire app, which let’s you search for nearby Wi-Fi – whether paid or free.
A quick note. Be careful of any unsecured wifi. Don’t use it for sensitive data.
3. Check Your Settings
Have you noticed that videos auto play in the Facebook app now? That’s using your data. Get emails “pushed” to your home screen? Also using data. Auto subscribe to a podcast? That might do the same.
It’s worth going through all your settings for each app to see if there are auto updates, downloads or other functions that’ll be using data even when you’re not using your phone.
Here are some of the best:
– Facebook videos can be switched to only run when on Wi-Fi. Go to settings and select “Wi-Fi only” under Videos and Auto-play. On the iPhone you find this not in the app, but in the phone’s own setting section.
– In Google Chrome browser, go to settings in the app, then bandwidth. Here you can choose to “Reduce Data Usage”. This cuts the size of images and other parts of webpages to make them smaller.
– In the Google Maps app, you can download some maps to use offline. It’ll use up space but handy for when you are on a car journey or have limited signal. Enter your desination, type OK Maps in the search box then hit save. You can access them but hitting the little person symbol.
4. Go Offline
If I’m near the end of a month and data is running out, I’ll try to take as much “offline” as I can. This can help battery too.
When on Wi-Fi I’ll find the webpage I need and take a screen grab (on the iPhone you hold down the top button and home button at the same time). I’ll often do this with directions, or when I have tickets on my phone or in email. A quick snap means I shouldn’t need to access data at all.
5. Turn Off When Abroad
Really important here as the costs can be extortionate. Don’t even be tempted to put it on for a quick check. I once accidentally put it on for 30 seconds and was charged £2.
You’ll find that many countries have far better Wi-Fi provision than us. Use the JiWire app to see what’s available overseas too.