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How to check and manage data usage on your smartphone

Find yourself always going over your data limit each month, or getting constant data use warning texts from your provider? Here’s our guide on how to check what apps are using up your data allowance, for iOS, Android and Windows Phone…

Although most monthly smartphone subscriptions now include generous amounts of data, it’s far too easy to hit those limits if you’re using lots of apps. Thankfully it’s fairly easy to monitor your mobile data use with iOS, Windows Phone 8 and Android, so you can keep from hitting those limits before your month is up.

Here’s how to check your data use, limit data usage and keep apps from stealing your last remaining shreds of allowance.

Check and restrict data use on iPhone

Go to Settings, and then scroll to the Mobile section (with the green mast icon).

Scroll down and you’ll see a section headed ‘Mobile Data Usage’, which tells you exactly how many MB of data you’ve consumed since the last time you reset the stats.

How to check data use on an iOS iPhone, Android mobile or Windows Phone device

More usefully, if you continue to scroll down, you can see exactly how much data each app has used. If you spot that a certain app has been sneakily downloading in the background, you can shut off its access by flicking the switch to the right of its name.

If you remember to reset the stats at the start of your month, you can keep tabs on how much data you’ve consumed and make sure you don’t go over. It’s a pain that it’s not an automated process, but you can download apps such as DataMan Next which keep tabs for you.

Check and restrict data use on Android

Go to Settings, and then tap on the Mobile data option near the top.

As well as the option to enable/disable mobile data, you’ll see a big ol’ graph that shows you exactly how much data you’ve consumed, on a day-by-day basis. You can select a specific date range, to see what you’ve used since the start of the month, by tapping on the ‘Data usage cycle’ box.

How to check data use on an iOS iPhone, Android mobile or Windows Phone device

Scroll down and you’ll see exactly what apps have been eating your data allowance, arranged with the most data-hungry at the top.

If you decide to cut off an app’s data privileges, just tap its name in that list and scroll down, then tick the ‘retrict background data’ box. This way, the app won’t be able to access your mobile network unless you’re specifically using it.

On that graph we just told you about, you should see an orange warning line. You can drag this up and down by holding your finger on the rightmost edge, and when your data usage hits that line, you’ll get a message warning you that you’re nearing your limit. For instance, if you have 1GB of data to use each month, it makes sense to set the warning line around the 800MB mark, so you’ll know if you’re fast approaching that limit.

You can also set a maximum data limit, which is the red line. If this line is reached, your phone will no longer use mobile data until you re-enable it, so you don’t get hit by horrendous network charges.

Check and restrict data use on Windows Phone

Go to Settings, and then scroll down to Data sense. You’ll see right there and then, under the menu option, how much data you’ve consumed over your mobile network and also over Wi-Fi.

If you tap on Data sense, you’ll be taken to the mobile data settings. From here you can set a limit, either one-time or monthly. Just tap ‘set limit’, select which option you prefer, and then choose your maximum limit and the expiration date.

How to check data use on an iOS iPhone, Android mobile or Windows Phone device How to check data use on an iOS iPhone, Android mobile or Windows Phone device How to check data use on an iOS iPhone, Android mobile or Windows Phone device

If you’re really struggling to keep to your data allowance, try tapping the ‘Restrict background data usage’ option after setting your limit. This keeps your apps from sneakily downloading when not in full use. You can choose to either restrict background data use when you’re near your limit, or at all times.

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