Tricks And Tips For Lowering Cellular Data Usage

We’ve most likely all been there: our phones exceed our monthly cellular data limits, leaving us with no option but to turn off our data plans in order to prevent high overage fees. And then there’s the dreaded precursor caution, texts from our mobile networks warning that we have already burned through 90% of our monthly data allowances. As Canadians, we remain bound to some of the most expensive wireless plans in the developed world, with many of us opting for lower-tier plans that oftentimes include an insufficient amount of cellular data per month.

The horror stories surrounding overage fees can feel like urban legend; unfortunately, however, many are true. We’ve all seen some of the more shocking stories of individuals receiving bills for many thousands of dollars. Thankfully, in 2015, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) capped overage fees by a $50 maximum in 2013. Still, many Canadians pay on average $92 per month to possess a wireless plan.

With cell phone bills continuing to rise and the CRTC’s new rulings virtually backfiring on them by making customers pay more up front with little change in the monthly costs, Canadians will have to resort to paying a fair amount more for a generous data plan for the foreseeable future.

So, if you find yourself going over your cellular data allowance and paying overage charges, check out these tips for both iOS and Android that will help you reduce your data usage without losing much in return.

App Settings

Certain commonly used apps eat up a lot of data when the default settings remain unchanged. Try making these changes to the apps’ behaviours to avert abundant data usage:



  1. Swipe down from the home screen.
  2. Tap the Settings (gear) on top right.
  3. Under Additional Services tap Manager.
  4. Turn on Travel Mode. This makes Snapchat only load data when you actually tap on a particular snap or story.



  1. Go to your Profile page.
  2. Tap the settings icon in the top right.
  3. Go to Cellular Data use.
  4. Turn on Use Less Data. Instagram will then load smaller images based on your screen size and whther you’re on cellular data or Wi-Fi.



  1. Tap Me in the bottom.
  2. Tap the settings icon in the top right.
  3. Tap Account Settings.
  4. Tap Video and Photos.
  5. Change Autoplay to On Wi-Fi Connections Only. This will stop Facebook from autoplaying videos in your feed.

Apple Music


  1. Tap Settings from the homescreen.
  2. Tap Music.
  3. Make sure Use Cellular Data is turned off.




  1. Tap the Menu icon in the top left.
  2. Tape the Settings (gear) icon in the bottom, next to your Profile photo.
  3. Tape Streaming Quality.
  4. Make sure Download Using Cellular is turned off.


On Android

There are also, of course, operating system-specific ways in which we can preserve our data plans.

Compress Chrome Pages


  1. Tap Chrome from the homescreen.
  2. Tap the three dots in the address field.
  3. Scroll down in the window that pops up.
  4. Tap Settings.
  5. Turn Data Saver on.

Disable Auto-Updating Apps


  1. Tap Google Play Store from the homescreen. 2. Tap the Menu icon in the top left. 3. Tap Settings. 4. Change Auto-update apps to “over Wi-Fi only.”

On iOS

Wi-Fi Assist (iOS)


Introduced in iOS 9, Wi-Fi assist uses your cellular data to strengthen a weak Wi-Fi connection, oftentimes misleading users into thinking that they are not using their data plan while on Wi-Fi hotspots.

  1. Tap Settings from the homescreen
  2. Tap Cellular
  3. Scroll to the very bottom and turn off WiFi Assist

Disable Background App Refresh


  1. Tap Settings from the home screen.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap Background App Refresh.
  4. From here, you’re able to turn off the feature completely or turn it off for specific apps.


On all of the major cell phone provider plans, you’re charged at least $5 for every GB of additional data you use on top of your plan’s allowance. If you regularly have trouble staying within your data limit, consider the above options or perhaps upgrading your plan. We may be trapped, for now, within the confines of less than ideal plans; however, by being a little savvy, a monthly cell phone bill doesn’t have to break the bank.

James March
James March is an interdisciplinary designer and educator who creates all forms of printed and digital matter, including identities, user experiences, front-end interfaces, custom lettering and interactive installations. Technology is a critical component of March’s academic and professional pursuits. His education includes a Master of Design from York University, a Master of Science in Experimental Psychology and a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Psychology from Memorial University. Over the past eight years March has taught interactivity design, typography, statistics and health psychology and has been a speaker and visiting critic at conferences and institutions in Canada, the USA and the United Kingdom. March is currently a full-time professor at Sheridan College in Oakville, Canada.

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