Why is my phone using so much Data?

We’ve been hearing that question a lot lately. If you have a smartphone, like an iPhone or an Android phone, you’re paying a cellular company for data usage. You use data whenever you’re on the Internet. So, reading emails, watching Youtube videos, using streaming radio apps, and uploading photos to Facebook, are all examples of using up data. We did one of our weekly “What Does This Button Do?” shows just on Data Usage. Click here to watch this 40 minute show. Be aware, if you watch it on a device that is using your Cellular Data connection for the Internet, this will use about 1/3 of a GigaByte of data. If you are a Geeks on Tour member, you also have access to Show Notes that you can read to learn everything that was covered.

There is a fun tool on the Verizon website for figuring out how much data you need. Find it at Verizonwireless.com/DataCalculator. We show how to use it as part of the show. We have found the main culprits to be:

  1. Using 4G instead of 3G. This is something that you can’t control. If you were accustomed to a 3G phone, and you upgrade to a 4G – or, if you happen to be in a really high-speed 4G area, then you’re using data a lot faster and you simply use more. Like drinking water from a firehose, there’s no way to use just a little. For example, if you click on a Youtube video – even by mistake – your phone may have downloaded the whole thing before you can click the button to stop it. If you’re getting close to your limit and you just want it to stop – you can turn off cellular data altogether. iPhone: Settings->Cellular Data->turn off  Android: Settings->Data Usage->UNcheck Mobile Data. Then, you can still use the services if you connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot.
  2. Photo Uploads: There are many apps today that will automatically upload all the pictures you take with your phone to a cloud storage service. You may have more than one of these turned on and not even know it! Dropbox is the one that we use, and we love it! But, at 1-2 MB per picture, it uses a lot of data. Another such service is Google+. Let’s say you just installed the Google+ app and you blindly clicked ‘OK’ for everything it asked. One of those things was “Do you want us to upload all your pictures?” The default is No, but it is oh-so-easy to click yes and turn that on. And, the default size is full size. So, if you have 1,000 pictures on your phone you’re going to use 1 GigaByte right there. AND, there are other such apps as well. Facebook has a setting to upload all your pictures, as does OneDrive, and iCloud, and Verizon Cloud. I suspect that the other provides also have some kind of cloud backup service. Imagine if all of those got turned on! 1 GB of pictures being uploaded 5 or 6 times is some serious data usage.
  3. Tethering or “Hotspotting”  We use our phones to share their Internet connection with our computers and tablets. A computer can use up a lot of data, a lot more than the tiny screen of a phone.
  4. Music: If you listen to some Internet radio service, you may leave that on for hours at a time. That uses some serious data
  5. Updates: When you phone gets a System Update, or you update your Apps, that uses a lot of data. Try to be connected to Wi-Fi before doing that. What Does This Button Do? Episode 14 covered Updates.
  6. Video calls: if you use Skype, Facetime, or Google Hangouts for video chatting with people, that’s using a lot of data
  7. Youtube or other videos on 4G: For high quality video, you may be using 1 GB/hr.

One thing that does NOT take much data is navigating. If you’re using Google Maps to give you voice directed, turn by turn navigation as you travel, don’t worry about that data usage. It’s negligible, about 5-10 MB/hr. Realize that the information about your location is coming from satellite GPS services – no data usage there. The data service is necessary for the maps, and the maps don’t really change much as you drive, especially if you’re in map view as opposed to satellite view.

You can see which apps are using the most data by going into the settings on your phone. iPhone: Settings->Cellular Data->scroll down till you see the list of apps  Android: Settings->Data Usage->scroll down to see the Apps.

What about you? Have you identified any particular culprits that use up more data than you want?


3 replies on “Why is my phone using so much Data?”

  1. As usual, an excellent presentation and summary. I was glad you included how much data your YouTube lesson would take. Are you okay with my sharing this subscription-based summary on my FB wall? See you in Tucson.
    — CoolJudy

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