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How to Manage Your Phone’s Data Use

Tips and tricks for helping stretch your mobile phone dollar further.

Mobile data

Smartphones give you access to a wealth of information and media, but most networks put a cap on the amount of data you can use each month. A typical phone contract includes a data allowance of between 500MB and 10GB per month; the more data, the higher the monthly cost. Your usage can mount up surprisingly quickly – watching a film on the phone is about 700MB in SD, an hour of streaming TV is around 500MB or 60-140MB for the same of radio, chatting on Skype for an hour is around 40MB. Try these tips to better manage your data usage:

  • If possible, wait until you can connect to free Wi-Fi before using your phone’s data features.
  • When you are on the road, use your car’s GPS, not your phone, to find your way. The phone has to download map data as you move, but maps are preloaded in a GPS, making this free to use.
  • Be careful of how many “free” games you play on the move. Many of these are funded by ads that pop up on your screen. Every ad has to download through your network, using up your data allowance.
  • If you regularly need to use a lot of data on your phone, consider a data-compressing app, such as Onavo ( It compresses
  • data before it is fed to your phone, so you use less of your monthly allowance. You may have to subscribe to such compression services, so you’ll need to weigh up whether it’s worth the cost.

Travel Smart

Using your phone overseas can be costly. Before you go, see if your carrier offers prepaid or flat-rate roaming. At your destination, if your phone is unlocked, you can buy a local prepaid SIM to replace yours, or buy a cheap prepaid phone and use free Wi-Fi for internet.

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