Run out of data before you run out of month? These tweaks will help

Like clock-work my cellular company sends me an alert about a week before my data plan rolls over, to say my daughter has used 75% of her allotment, (I limit how much my kids can use the LTE network). The reason she goes over is social media apps Instagram and Snapchat.

Apps like those and Facebook use a lot of data because they constantly refresh, even when you’re not using them. Without the background refresh you’d never get a notification that someone has commented or ‘liked’ your post. Snapchat would never send a notification that someone’s sent a Snap.

You can turn off Background refresh in Settings that would save on your data plan. Just go to Settings and scroll to the bottom where you will find all of the apps loaded on your phone. You can turn off Background Refresh for all of them or just the apps you rarely use, or the ones that use the most data. If you’re constantly going over your data plan this is a good move.

There are other ways to lower your data usage with these apps.

In Instagram, you can save data with one click in the app’s settings. Click on the gear icon near your profile picture and select “Cellular Use”. You’ll see an option to “use less data”. Normally, Instagram loads photos in an instant and videos begin playing automatically. By switching on “use less data”, those photos load a tad slower and videos only play when you click the play button.

In Snapchat there is a data saving setting as well. In settings, you’ll need to scroll down to “manage”. Within that setting, you’ll see a toggle for ‘travel mode’. Again, everything loads slower but it may be the difference between running out of data every month if you use the app frequently.

Facebook uses a ton of data by refreshing everything in the background, sending notifications and auto-playing videos. If that’s a problem you should take a look at Facebook Lite. It’s a separate app designed to connect to practically any cellular signal, even the weakest ones when you’re traveling through the middle of nowhere.

The load time for posts, photos and videos is noticeable. Videos take a couple of seconds to load which can be annoying considering we’re used to seeing everything instantaneously. The app looks different on the iPhone and Android device but while it may be annoying at first, you’ll save a lot of data and make a connection when you otherwise couldn’t using the Facebook app.

My favorite tip on saving data on the road is to use your phone’s ‘personal hotspot’. One person connects to the network and turns on ‘personal hotspot’ while everyone else turns off their cellular service and connects to the hotspot over wifi. The amount of data coming in from the cellular signal is constant, meaning it won’t use more data than it would if only that person connected to the network.

A Sprint technician verified that this will save data but depending on how many other phones are connected to the hotspot, it will slow their connection. This option may not be a good one if someone is watching a streaming movie on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu or YouTube.

But here’s another huge data saving tip: download Netflix movies and shows before you leave the house. Both services allow users to download movies on smartphones and tablets while on Wi-Fi. When you’re watching one of those downloaded videos it will not need a cellular connection. It will also play more smoothly since it isn’t streaming.

These simple tweaks could mean the difference between going over your data usage plan when you’re on the road or just away from¬†Wi-Fi