Low-priced, budget data plans can offer a fairly cheap way to get internet access, but they also mean penny-pinching users have to keep an eye on their data usage. Nobody likes having to deal with bill shock, so here are a few tips and helpful tools for reducing your data usage on Android devices. Happy browsing!
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First of all, you need to be aware of how much data you're using in a given period in order to properly estimate your data needs. You can use the built-in data usage checker in Android's Settings>Data usage selection (in the Wireless & Networks section of settings) to display a graph of your data usage over a given period of time, as well as how much data particular apps are using. This should give you a fair idea as to how much you use over a month, as well as which apps are the data hogs.
The Android Power Control widget allows you to tweak or switch off battery-guzzling features of an Android device when you don't need them (such as the WiFi radio and GPS features), but it can also be used to switch off Auto-Sync, which prevents apps from checking for notifications, chat messages, newly received emails, and otherwise syncing (and consuming) new data. You can reduce data consumption by turning off Auto-Sync (the icon just to the left of the Brightness button). Just be aware that you're sacrificing immediate notification in doing this (you can still turn it on and off intermittently over the day, or manually sync your apps).
Another potential data guzzler is Google Play's auto-updating of your apps. While keeping your applications updated to the latest versions is generally recommended, updating and downloading new apps (such as graphically intensive games) can require large amounts of data transfer. Depending on the version of Google Play, you can turn off auto-updating when not on WiFi, or even turn it off altogether (which is also useful when you want to backup a version of an app in case an update is buggy).
A more draconian method (and one that is not highly recommended) is to Restrict Background Data Use (which can be done in Settings>Data Usage). This restricts apps from using data in the background, but can also break functionality with a lot of apps and widgets, so use with extreme care.
An Android optimization tip that's sometimes bandied about is clearing your application caches to save space, especially on low storage capacity devices. This can, however, adversely affect your data usage with certain applications (such as browsers or social networking apps). For example, clearing your Google+ or Facebook cache might seem like a good idea now, but it will also mean that the next time your social networking app syncs for data (like new posts from friends or circles), it's very likely that it will need to redownload such things as profile pictures and other connected media files.
Many ad-supported games are available for free on the Google Play Market, but there are very often hidden costs involved. Even if a game isn't "freemium," ad-supported games will still take up a portion of your data cap every time it loads up a new banner ad or promotion. If you're watching out for your data usage, skip ad-supported games where possible, or game only in a WiFi hotspot. Better yet, you can show the developers of a good game some love and purchase the ad-free versions of games you really love.
Streaming media services allow users to access their multimedia content wherever you are on the go. Cloud music services from Amazon and Google, as well as video website YouTube and other content providers give you access to tons of videos and music anywhere you've got a data connection. Of course, because you're downloading and playing media on the fly, you're going to eat up a sizable chunk of your data cap if you're away from a WiFi hotspot. If you really must listen to a particular album or watch a movie during a long commute or train ride, consider uploading a copy to you device, rather than streaming it through your mobile connection.