We’ve all been there, one minute we are excitedly clicking on a link on social media that seems enticing. The next, we’re staring at the spinning wheel of death as we’ve run out of data. During the COVID-19 lockdown, conserving and making the most of your data is more important than ever, so it’s worth developing some good data monitoring and saving habits.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, conserving and making the most of your data is more important than ever, so it’s worth developing some good data monitoring and saving habits.

Here are a few tips to make sure you’re always aware of how much data you have, and how to make sure you’re not using it up needlessly.

Manage your apps and updates

While your phone screen may be set to sleep, or you may be using one particular app, your smart device could be very likely running apps and updates in the background that are chewing through data. Your mail account may be syncing new messages as they land on the device; apps may be updating automatically using data as they do. Some apps may even be syncing data, even though you’re not using them.

It’s worth doing a review on which apps and features are eating up data and then making some changes to permissions. Both iOS and Android devices have settings that allow you to stop certain apps using background data and turn off automatic updates. It’s also a good idea to make sure any apps you’re not using are closed. Once you’re logged into a Wi-Fi network, you can update until your heart’s content and it won’t cost you a single byte of your own mobile data.

Download a data tracker

If you don’t have an unlimited service plan and you want to keep a keen eye on your data, it’s worth downloading a data tracker onto your smart device. Beyond monitoring data, many of these apps offer a breakdown on usage; which apps are using the most data; real-time stats; locations in which data was used; hourly and daily history of usage; and some of them even generate forecasts, based on your daily browsing habits, to predict whether or not you’ll stay within your bundle.

Some of these apps are free from your Apple App Store or Google Play Store, while others may incur a small monthly cost.

Download media you want to watch or listen to

Streaming media – be it music, movies, TV shows or podcasts – chews through data quite rapidly. While watching a trailer or a video on how cats are jerks on YouTube is fun, it’s a massive strain on your data reserves. To limit this wastage, you may want to have a look at services that allow the option to download content to your phone, storage allowing.

YouTube Red, for example, may cost a bit of money, but it pays for itself by allowing users to download videos and music to your phone. Spotify, Apple Music and Google Play all offer an offline service with which users can download songs, albums and whole playlists to your device while on Wi-Fi, allowing you to save a ton of data and play your downloaded content without using data when not in a Wi-Fi spot If you use a podcasting app, try using Wi-Fi – be it your own, work’s or public Wi-Fi.

Manage your limits and watch for notifications

To avoid running out of data – or SMSes or voice time, for that matter – smart device owners have a number of options. Both iOS and Android devices offer data-checking functionalities, but only the latter allows you to set alerts and limits. iOs allows you to choose which apps are allowed to use mobile data and which can only be used when in a Wi-Fi area.

That having been said, all mobile networks in South Africa send notifications to users about how close to out-of-bundle (OOB) they’re getting. Only Cell C, though, offers a way to manage your spend limits through its Spend Control Feature, launched in November last year. Subscribers can set spend limits as well as decide how much or whether they want to go OOB.  It’s accessible through the Cell C app, the Cell C Portal on www.cellc.co.za and/or via USSD *147#.

Use Wi-Fi whenever you can (but be careful!)

To save on your mobile data, the best way is to use Wi-Fi networks in your vicinity. If you have Wi-Fi in the home or at work, save the password to your phone and hop on. This limits the amount of data your phone will devour as you complete updates, download content, check your mail or watch videos about cute kittens.

As Wi-Fi coverage is becoming more widespread in metropolitan areas, try getting into the habit of checking whether or not a hotspot is within your location when you’re out and about. A lot of them are paid-for networks, but they also offer a trial period for a limited amount of time and/or data. Be careful, though; a lot of public Wi-Fi networks are not sage so it’s not a good idea to send sensitive information while using it. You can mitigate this risk if you use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt your traffic.

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