Managing mobile internet consumption on Android

That the Android OS has a ravenous appetite for data is no news. Android users keep tearing their hair out as a result of the data guzzling nature of the OS.

Take a look at this U.S. data usage chart from Nielsen:
Smartphone Data Usage - US
You can access the full Nielsen article here, if interested. Speaking of the various data usage activities engaged in, Nielsen reports:

But while a higher proportion of iPhone owners engage in these kinds of activities, consumers with Android devices who engage in these activities consume more data on average.

This is from a U.S. report, but our own in-house consumer surveys here at The Mobility Company here in Nigeria pretty much tallies. Android is the undisputed mobile OS data guzzling king.

What makes it more pertinent here is that many consumers use their mobiles as the primary point of access to the internet. This is in contrast to what obtains in the US where the majority have access to PCs, Wifi and cable internet. The likelihood of seeing higher mobile data consumption rates here is strong.

An Example

I was recently contacted by one such user who had recently converted to Android. She reported that her droid was using up 1 GB data plan in two weeks. On my recommendation, she disabled Background Data and subscribed to a 25MB plan to see how things would go. Her feedback was that 25MB was used up within a day, even though she had her smartphone switched off for a few hours.

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If you really do want to use Android but don’t have deep pockets for data subscription, you must be ready to nurse your device. There is no way around this.

Tips To Manage Mobile Data Usage On Android & Save Money

I have a few tips to help you manage data consumption on your Android smartphone and save you some cash (please send some my way, in the spirit of give and take).

  1. You can turn off Background Data in the settings menu. Note though that when you need to sync or check your mail, your smartphone will ask you to turn it back on.
  2. Download a 3rd party app to restrict data usage on certain apps and services.
    These apps generally tell you how much data you are using, or when an app is using a lot of data in the background. Some also let you block specific apps on 3G or shut off 3G data when they exceed a cap that you set, or limit data usage on certain apps to Wi-Fi only. There are dozens of them available in the Android Market, but you can start out with Onavo.
  3. For web browsing, forget the stock browser, do yourself a favour and install Opera Mini
  4. Install an app manager and shut down any app that requires an internet connection if you wont be using it.

By implementing the above tips, you may cut down your device’s data usage significantly. If the above tips are too much for you, then you have no business purchasing an Android smartphone. No?

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Did I miss out anything?

Mister Mobility

I started blogging about mobile in 2004 as a fun way to share my passion for gadgets and mobile services. My other interests include digital media, speaking and teaching, photography, travelling, and dancing.

36 thoughts on “Managing mobile internet consumption on Android

  • November 17, 2011 at 8:50 am
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    The major reason why I’m sticking with my BlackBerry for a very long long time. Me no get three much money to throw around on just internet access.

  • November 17, 2011 at 8:58 am
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    You mean android drink Data like water and their are no special Data compression service for it. That will be one of the disadvantages of the phone though most people praise it to high heaven because of its applications. I wish everybody using it good luck

  • November 17, 2011 at 9:21 am
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    I have Facebook, weather, whatsapp, Twitter and 4 email clients on background download but I haven’t seen my data plan take a real hit. the only time I feel the pain is when I download apps, music, trailers etc. 600mb for Asphalt 6 on my 1gb plan… yeekpa no thanks

    but for browsing most definitely use opera mini. version 6.5 now shows the data compression ratio. At last check its compressed my browsing from 98mb to 21mb. Nice.

  • November 17, 2011 at 10:16 am
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    Also make sure you visit the Android market less often and only do updates when important features and critical security updates are available.

    Make sure the built-in apps are set not to update automatically.

    Since the pulldown menu is always handy, ensure mobile data is turned off when you are not browsing or using any app that requires data connection explicitly to function.

    Generally turn off mobile data when you are not actively using the phone.

  • November 17, 2011 at 11:34 am
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    i’ve been able to control my data consumption by installing the data manager widget

  • November 17, 2011 at 2:02 pm
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    As it is observed by many Android users, the Android guzzles data. You must have a PHD is data management and efficiency before picking an Android device if your primary source of internet data is your mobile plan. 700mb is one week! I was dowloading and testing different apps, watching youtube and TEDtalk videos. If I was doing same on my Nokia E7, I won’t consume this much data.

    You will thus find this set of tips handy. Do I want to go through all this? Not now!

    Question: Does iOS and Windows Phone not consume huge data too when actively syncing like the Androids?

  • November 17, 2011 at 2:42 pm
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    Recommendation Number 2 above ..

    [ get an Android with ICS and use the inbuilt data monitoring feature, or alternatively use a third party app (like ZDBox – as mentioned by Harry’Android’ Echemco (looking for trouble. ;-))
    ] is most CRITICAL.

    You can then set data caps per application / globally. The apps that are guzzling your data can then be easily identified and dealt with adeq8ly.

    Even on Symbian, apps like Nimbuzz / WhatsApp guzzle data even while sitting idly. Any push_app / or any function that ‘sync’s anything – like these-would chew data non-stopy
    The rate at which the data is chewed often depends on the specific app (eg Nimbuzz implements some compression)

    It is up to each individual to decide on what is useful to him.For instance, I do not need to get my email ‘on the go’. same thing with tweets .

    You can also turn of unnecessary use of images in all your apps. It is quite significant in saving the volume of dala ‘wolfed’ down.

    ……
    .
    .
    For web browsing, forget the stock browser, do yourself a favour and install Opera Mini
    .
    .
    ….
    This NASTY attitude of recommending Opera Mini – instead if UC Mobile- always sends my blood temperature above boiling point o!)

  • November 17, 2011 at 3:15 pm
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    @Jesse

    As it is observed by many Android users, the Android guzzles data . You must have a PHD is data management and efficiency before picking an Android device if your primary source of internet data is your mobile plan. 700 mb is one week! I was dowloading and testing different apps , watching youtube and TEDtalk videos. If I was doing same on my Nokia E7 , I won’ t consume this much data.

    Yeah! That’s about right. All the Android users here are PhD holders. Maybe if you do youtube, test apps and do video calls on your Symbian, you won’t hit 700MB in one week, but 689MB in same period wouldn’t make much difference.

  • November 17, 2011 at 3:39 pm
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    @Eye.bee.kay

    This NASTY attitude of recommending Opera Mini – instead if UC Mobile – always sends my blood temperature above boiling point o !)

    I’m sorry Eye.bee.kay. This not some kind of nasty attitude, it is very empirical. I’ve tried UCBrowser a couple of times and it is still not matching Opera mini in data compression. Any day I’m able to get a better result with UCBrowser, there would not be anything holding me from switching.

  • November 17, 2011 at 4:04 pm
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    @Yomi I want to sincerely thank you for this write up, I have being thinking of to jump RIM fence cos the grass is always greener at the other side of the fence of Android. With my BB 8520 EDGE compliance I use average of 8Gig compressed Data mainly for podcast online fm station. Thank you so much for the enlightment. For my android friend I wish you luck. I will move to 3G compliance BB for my new phone

  • November 17, 2011 at 4:20 pm
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    Its all depends on what you do, if you leave everything open on your android phone like normal featured phone you’ll get to get your data guzzled mercilessly. For me , I leave whatever want opened when I want it. The network data can be switched off so nothing to worry about. Still happy for up-grading from Symbian to Android.
    Thanks to Yomi for a nice tip.

  • November 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm
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    Jesse, “Question: Does iOS and Windows Phone not consume huge data too when actively syncing like the Androids?”

    In the case of iOS it’s pretty simple. No app can work in the background and use data without your EXPRESS permission. You can control ALL apps’ activities and data useage from the Settings app. Even the first time an app wants to use push notification, it has to ask out clearly for your express permission to accept it on iOS. Finally, most app run in a frozen state when multitasking on iOS, so the case of surreptitious background guzzling of data doesn’t occur.

    Maggedeboy; I’ve not used a honeycomb tablet before, but you should expect it to have same featuress as Android Gingerbread for Android phones. However, if you’re using a Wifi-only Honeycomb tablet, then the issue of data guzzling shouldn’t be a problem since you can control when you’ll be on net!

  • November 17, 2011 at 4:33 pm
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    (
    Harry >> I’m sorry Eye.bee.kay. This not some kind of nasty attitude, it is very empirical.
    )

    em·pir·i·cal
    Adjective: Based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic
    )

    My approach to comparing the compression rates was definitely empirical.

    most people are just being platitudinous about the supposed superior compression rate of Opera Mini over UC Mobile. It a falsehood that has been repeated for so long- and so often- that it has taken on the toga of truth.

    Even the specific test site you provided then – gave the compressive edge to UC Mobile!!

    Like we said, could be, COULD BE – the results are different depending on platform.
    But be assured that- on Symbian, uc Mobile is better – by light years ahead!

  • November 17, 2011 at 4:46 pm
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    BTW Yomi, you’ve said most of the strategies to stop data guzzling on Android in this article. I learnt those methods the hard way. Disabling background data goes almost 50% in curbing the unnecessary data wastage. Sometimes it’ll be more practical not to sync your contacts with Facebook or twitter because it has an avalanche effect in mitigating data conservation. Finally, third party apps like “App Killer” does the rest. App Killer kills ALL running apps whenever the phone’s screen goes blank. This is a nifty way of doing this, if you ask me. You also have the option of putting some useful apps on the exception list on the “App Killer” application!

    Finally, the ultimate way of conserving data usage on Android is to upgrade to Ice Cream Sndwich which has a native data management arrangement in the settings app.

    That Said, I still pity third party app developers. With the introduction of ICS, many of these data management apps on Android may have to go the way of the dinosaur. extinction Developers thrive on imperfection on OSes. Supposing an OS (like Android) is perfect and all holes with functionality are plugged, would there be any need for third party apps? Wondering aloud. #JustSaying!

  • November 17, 2011 at 6:07 pm
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    (
    Developers thrive on imperfection on OSes. Supposing an OS(like Android) is perfect and all holes with functionality are plugged, would there be any need for third party apps?
    )
    i feel there will always be deficiencies- and opportunities -that tthird parties will continue to explore and exploit.

    It is OSes that make a foray into non_core_OS functions that exacerbate this problem.

    Microsoft is always trying to be EVERYTHING in the Desktop World by building in functionalities into their OS -that threaten the Antivirus companies, among a host of others…

    I see the same thing insidiously happening in the mobile App World. – in the quest for superiority by the OzSes..

  • November 18, 2011 at 4:05 am
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    some times it just bothers me, why wont google make data and resource efficiancy their key point while updating the android platform?

  • November 18, 2011 at 7:39 am
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    @Eye.bee.kay

    Does it mean anything to you that the author concluded by say:

    The data may be damning, but Juniper stresses that its findings do not necessarily indicate that Android is less secure. “Across Juniper customers globally, infection rates of between five to six percent are common across a mix of all types of mobile devices,” Hamel says.

    In other words all types of devices and platforms are equally vulnerable. He also mentioned that most of the threats come from outside the Android market.

  • November 18, 2011 at 8:45 am
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    Never said Android is necessarily less secure. Just saying it is under MORE attack! Thus the need to be less OSTRICy about the dangers. THOSE dangers are Real…

  • November 18, 2011 at 9:06 am
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    @eyebeekay,

    ”But be assured that- on Symbian, uc Mobile is better – by light years ahead!”

    thats a fallacy of hasty generalisation..for You UC is great but if UC is that great, they will be number one today. I use both and although UC may be better at compression (have not tested both enough to judge)..am sure its not by miles! And i prefer my web pages delivered beautifully rather than try to save few KBs. Over all opera comfortably beats UC browser. Thats why they are number one today. Thats why in your subconscious you recommend opera..

    This sort of arguments has no basis anyway. Use whatever suit you simple! I use opera and i use UCbrowser as i deem fit. But if i’m asked to install just 1, it will definitely be opera and not UC!

  • November 19, 2011 at 7:36 am
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    All these many protocols to conserve data and Andriod? ROFL. Thank God for the likes of BlackBerry and Symbian. I once used a Samsung SGH-i9000 and that phone drank data the way fish drinks water. I didn’t need and prompting to sell it. Andy users, best of luck to y’all. I aint got no business with andy for the foreseeable future.

  • November 19, 2011 at 11:56 pm
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    I still use over 7 gigs on my android phone a month even though I am connected to wifi a lot of times, no doubt android aint no blackberry when it comes to data compression. I really do not try to manage since I have unlimited data. I stream lots of movies which is why I probably use that much.

  • November 20, 2011 at 4:13 pm
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    Yup, android’s greed for data is a big turn off and the platform is alledgedly very mean on battery life of devices (mobile devices). It kinda scares the shi*t outta me moving from a symbian E72 to an SGS. Btw, UCweb kicks opera maxi…er.. Mini in the groin imho

  • November 30, 2011 at 12:09 pm
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    @Yomi,

    I have gone over my x10i settings several times. Please where in the android settings does one turn off background data? Such doesn‘t seem to exist on my android. Or age could be telling on my eyes.

  • November 30, 2011 at 1:00 pm
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    settings>>accounts and sync>>> background data

    otherwise you download the “data enabler” from the android market and install/use.its equally effective

  • November 30, 2011 at 2:48 pm
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    otherwise you download the “data enabler” from the android market and install / use. its equally effective

    This application is not needed at all for people using Android 2.2 devices and up. The pulldown menutakes care of data enabling/togging. In fact it is more convenient using the pulldown menu data toggling because it is accessible from almost every application without interrupting whatever you might be doing.

    I think Android 2.0 and 2.1 also have this feature, though I’m not certain.

  • November 30, 2011 at 3:20 pm
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    @ harry.
    the pull down menu on Android 2.3 does not take care of data toggling

  • November 30, 2011 at 4:27 pm
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    @fortespy,

    Thanks. See what aging can do to one’s eyes. The thing was staring me straight in the face yet I couldn’t see it.

    I use 2.3 and I think what Harry meant was if you disable background data, you can toogle it on again from drop down bar because any app needing to access data would alert you from there then you enable using the drop down bar. To disable again, you have to go back into settings.

  • November 30, 2011 at 5:15 pm
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    This Android OS just reminds me of a local saying, ‘Olowo fo owo ra iku’ (rich man take own hand buy death).

    You forget to deactivate ‘background data’, and you have willy_nilly set fire to your money-(data) depleting (burning) without your knowing it! How sweet!.

    Truly for Nannys who like to nurse their phone!

    I dey laugh ooo..

  • December 1, 2011 at 8:34 am
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    You can download and install a widget from the Android Market to handle data toggling right from your home screen.

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