As our devices are getting bigger, better and smarter, they’re also giving us richer content, and that means more data usage. Here’s what you can do.
All devices are not created equal. Even though data is the same thing no matter what you use, individual devices can consume data in different ways and at different speeds. Your new smartphone may be using more data than those of your friends and family. Why does this happen?
Smartphones and tablets
Despite their data-hungry reputations, smartphones are actually very lean data users. This is because they were designed with data in mind (unlike PCs, which we will get to in a moment.) Yet while phones are better for data, they also offer more opportunities to use data and this is why it often feels as if the data on your device is disappearing.
A major reason for this is that smartphones and tablets are almost always connected. Maybe you have noticed that even your phone GPS doesn’t work all that well if you are out of data or not connected to Wi-Fi. Smart devices become really dumb when they don’t have access to the internet.
This includes everything from updates and sharing photos to backing your files up in the cloud. All of these services require data. The best way to save on data is to use Wi-Fi whenever you can, especially when you do large downloads and uploads. But remember: even those small images that come through WhatsApp use data and all add up. Smartphones and tablets love being connected.
The differences between phones
The type of phone or tablet you use can also make a difference on how quickly you use data. For example, research has shown that the larger your phone screen, the more likely you are to keep using your device and thus use more data - up to 40% more! This is not the device’s fault, but ours: we just like doing more on a bigger screen. Tablets in particular can be attractive to use for things such as watching movies, which – if you stream or download them – uses data.
Newer devices, in particular flagship phones, are also faster. This allows you to do more than you did before. For example, on a cheaper phone you might not be able to jump between apps without them stopping. But on a high-end phone it is easy to do multiple things at once.
Likewise, newer and better devices will have a faster data connection, such as 4G, so the device can load things more quickly. It may be annoying to wait a few seconds longer for a web page, but then you are less likely to visit as many webpages as someone on a fast device. Even voice services such as Siri and Okay Google require data – and these are easier to use on more expensive phones.
The higher data speeds also prompt many sites and apps to send higher-resolution images and videos. If an app such as YouTube detects you have a good data connection, it may show you HD video instead of smaller files. Every site works and looks better on higher speeds, but they demand more data to do so.
While smart devices are designed to be nicer to data, computers such as desktops and laptops are not. By default, these expect a Wi-Fi or local network, which means they don’t think about data usage at all. As a result, a PC will gobble up data when it needs it with little care for your data cap or bundle size. Worse, the updates that come with computers tend to be large. So make sure when using mobile data that your PC doesn't do any unexpected updates, and keep an eye on your phone's data use when connecting via your Personal Hotspot.
While on the topic, you may have set your devices to only do updates while on Wi-Fi. But what if you set up a Wi-Fi hotspot with your phone, and you connect via the Wi-Fi hotspot using your tablet? The problem here is that your device will still think it is on Wi-Fi and thus using Wi-Fi data, not mobile data. All the precautions to stop it from downloading on mobile data will be circumvented. So, when you connect anything to a Wi-Fi hotspot that uses mobile data, remember that it can’t tell the difference and may use your data quickly.