Managing your device settings

As well as tweaking individual app settings, you can also adjust the settings in your phone or tablet to better manage your data usage.

Switch off automatic updates and update only when you’re on Wi-Fi

If you have your device set up for automatic updates, you may find you use up more data in the background than you’d like. So if you seem to be using more data than you expected to, switching off automatic updates for the rest of the month could help.

Switching off automatic updates on an Apple device
Go to Settings and choose iTunes & App Store. Here you can choose to switch off mobile data for automatic updates, meaning you won’t automatically update unless you’re on Wi-Fi.

Switching off automatic updates on an Android device
In the Google Play Store app, choose Settings from the menu. Next, choose Auto-update apps, then Auto-update apps over Wi-Fi only.

Reduce background data usage

Many apps, such as email and social media, will use background data, which means they use your allowance to refresh themselves while you’re not actively using them. But this can be turned off without really interfering with how you use your phone – it just means you won’t receive new messages or notifications unless you choose to launch an app.

Switching off background data on an Apple device
Go to Settings, then General, then Background App Refresh. Here you can turn the functionality off altogether by switching the toggle at the top of the screen to Off.

Once you’ve done this, you can still choose to keep certain apps active by switching their individual toggles to On.

Switching off background data on an Android device
This has to be done on an app-by-app basis, and handily doesn’t stop your apps refreshing when connected to Wi-Fi.

Go to Settings, then Data usage. From here you can see the list of apps that use data. Choose an app, then choose Restrict background data. Repeat the process on all apps you want to restrict.

Other handy hints

  • Make use of available Wi-Fi networks and Wi-Fi hotspots when you’re out and about. It’s worth mentioning that Wi-Fi Assist on iPhone can actually use up more data than you’d expect if it’s constantly looking for, connecting to, and then disconnecting from Wi-Fi. So you may want to switch it off and just manually connect to Wi-Fi when you need it.
  • For auto back-up services like Dropbox or iCloud, choose a Wi-Fi only option
  • Limit how often you tether your phone or use it as a hotspot
  • Turn off features like Location unless you need to use them, to avoid them using data when you don’t need them to.
  • Switch mobile data off altogether when your phone isn’t in active use – for example, if you leave it on overnight because it’s also your alarm clock