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It's easy to reach your data limit on your smartphone or tablet without even realising it. But you can reduce the amount of data you use by trying some of these practical tips. I recently decided to take my own advice and was amazed at what I found.

Keep track of data usage

Often, the more advanced the smartphone, the more data it consumes, so keeping track of your average data consumption becomes imperative. You can use the My Vodacom App to keep track of your monthly data usage. 

You can also check the total amount of cellular data used by accessing your phone's settings. Select Data Usage in the Settings  tab on your Android device to manage your consumption. iPhone users can tap on the Cellular folder in their Settings tab to see an alphabetical list of all the apps currently using cellular data. For the Windows Phone swipe down from the top of your screen and tap on All Settings, then tap Data Sense. You can also download data monitoring apps from the various app stores

Faster speed = more data usage

As little as five years ago, downloading a video could take so long that you were as likely to cancel it as you were to wait for it to finish, but times have changed.Vodacom has consistently been rated as SA's best and fastest network. However, it’s important to remember that networks offering fast download speeds can result in higher data consumption rates, as you can browse the web faster, watch videos in high quality, enjoy a seamless app experience, and so on. You can keep an eye on your bill as well as your bundle balances by using one of Vodacom’s self-help services.

Register your Vodacom number on the Vodacom website to monitor your bill online and buy data bundles, or download the free My Vodacom App to have those services at your fingertips.

Disable automatic syncs and updates

While you're in the settings menu, it's worth disabling automatic updates. Most phones are set to automatically download updates to apps and software when they become available - so you really can use data while you are asleep. You can set updates to happen over Wi-Fi only, which ensures that all your app and software updates don't eat up your data.

Configure your email settings so you don't automatically download attachments, and turn off notifications for your apps. If you don't, your phone automatically goes online every few minutes to check for new emails or refresh Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and you'll steadily inch towards your data cap.

On Android, you can switch all of these off in one place by going to Settings> Connections> Data Usage. You'll soon see which apps are data-hungry: click on these then activate 'Restrict Background Data'. On an iPhone go to Settings>Cellular>Cellular Data Usage.

Disable or delete widgets and unused apps

Widgets (that sit on your desktop or home screen and are constantly updating) use data continuously as they are updated with new information, and while you may not be using a specific app, it could still be accessing your data. If you haven’t used an app in a while, rather delete it to prevent any unwanted surprises. Also ensure that you close apps correctly. Apps will often continue to run in the background after you hit the Home key. Close them by checking for running or recent apps and close them.

Disable autoplay settings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

While these apps tend to use a substantial amount of data, you can limit the amount by simply disabling autoplay of videos. If there are any other services you use that also autoplay video, be sure to contact the platforms for info on how to turn this option off.

Roam and Surf wisely

Using data in another country can really make your holiday expensive. Data bundles also don't apply on roaming so it's advisable to switch off whatever connections you can do without, connect only when there's Wi-Fi and use the Vodacom international roaming options for more affordable voice and data rates. 

Buy data bundles

Buying a data bundle is one way to supplement your monthly data allocation. Bundles represent far better value than paying out-of-bundle rates. Get them when you need to top up or subscribe to a recurring monthly bundle to supplement the data you receive with your Vodacom contract. You can log on to the My Vodacom App or dial *135# to buy a Vodacom data bundle and save.

Just4You from Vodacom can offer tailor made deals to fit both your budget and your lifestyle. Simply dial *123# for the best offers available. 

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