4 Ways To Get Data Usage On Your Android Phone Under Control


Roaming on your mobile data plan is rarely cheap but almost always necessary. You can control how much data you use on your device by simply opting for a plan with a data cap and price to match your budget but you can take things a little further and manage your data plan better by limiting how data is used. Here are a few things you can do on any Android device to manage your data plan. These steps do not require the installation of a third-party app, nor do they require a rooted phone. What you will need is a little time to set things up for better data management and nothing more.

Understand Data Usage Stats

Staying connected on your phone is necessary and not just because you might need to take a picture of lunch and share it with the world. Many apps like Gmail, Dropbox, Evernote, GoogleDrive, and Google Maps need an internet connection to work so you cannot just decide to disconnect. The thing is, there are many other apps that are not productive and you need to know which apps tax your data plan the most.

On Android ICS and above, you can go to Settings and tap Data Usage to get a complete picture of how data is used on your phone and which apps use it the most. Here are the stats from my Android device and I can see Google Play uses the most data on my phone. A deeper look shows me how much of the data was used when the app was running in the background. This makes sense because I download a lot of apps for testing but if I’m downloading apps when I’m outside, this is a huge strain on my data plan (which is not cheap in any sense of the word). I’m sure I don’t start app downloads when I’m on the go but apps that were in the process of downloading, or apps I may have sent to my device from the Google Play web store will download over my data plan unless I do something about it.

data usage data stats

Limit Data Usage

In this case, Google Play Store is the culprit and 241MB is the crime. What I’m going to do is restrict Google Play Store from downloading apps when it isn’t connected to a Wi-Fi. Not all apps might give you the option to disable their access when you aren’t connected to a Wi-Fi but for those that do, you should use the option in their own settings to conserve your bandwidth. Google Play fortunately does give you the option to do that. We can’t really give you a list of apps that do or do not have the same option but you can investigate it yourself and start out with the apps that use the most data.

app settings google play

Restrict background data

The Data Usage stats give you two very interesting figures; one, they tell you how much data you are using, and two, they tell you how much of the data is being used when an app is running in the background. The data used in the background can be restricted so that you aren’t eating away at those precious MBs. Tap the settings button on the Action Bar in Data Usage and restrict background data. This will have one side effect; your apps will not update in the background. The problem is, if you turn this on for all apps, your improtant apps like Gmail (or whichever one you use to receive emails) will not fetch new emails.

In this case, what you can do is restrict data usage for apps that you feel don’t need to be up to date. To do this, go to Data Usage and tap the app that you want to restrict. Under the Mobile tab, check ‘Restrict background data’. It’s going to be time consuming but you save bandwidth in the end.

restrict background data data usage per app

Set a daily data usage quota

One very reasonable way to manage your data plan is to ration those MBs out over the course of the month. Tap settings under Data Usage and turn on Mobile Data. You can define a quote for fixed periods of time and these periods may be any number of days, weeks, or for a month. Besides the time period, you can set how much data to use and your device will disable data usage if you cross it.

mobile data

Besides this, you can always disable sync for apps that you feel are taking up too much data, or you can choose to disable updates from the play store when you aren’t connected to a Wi-Fi. opt out of ads, or install a data manager. Some of these steps, though not all, may require third-party apps which may or may not be free, or some might require a rooted device.

  • Ivan

    i don’t understand why people need to auto-update their apps, especially those that have limited data usage. There is the option to never AUTO update, only when you want to, even when on WLAN. Is it that hard to open the “my apps” sometimes and update when you actually want ?

  • henriettabickley

    I want to now apps -googleplay.