Chewing through mobile data? The hacks that will make a huge difference

It's the latest cultural anxiety specific called FORO:  Fear of Running Out.
It's the latest cultural anxiety specific called FORO: Fear of Running Out. Photo credit: Supplied.

We've all been there - the sudden lack of connection alienating us from contacting our mates on Messenger, preventing us from aimlessly scrolling through the 'gram or, importantly, being able to juggle funds while standing at the till.

It's the latest cultural anxiety specific to mobile data called FORO: fear of running out.  

When data usage is at an all-time high, being conscious of where it's going is important for two simple reasons: it's costly and running out is frustrating.

According to Gorilla Technology chief executive Paul Spain, our data usage has been reaching extraordinary heights due to a rise in the video and photo content we're viewing and uploading from our mobiles.

Social media apps, video streaming apps, App Store (iOS) and Play Store (Android) can use a lot of data with app updates and installs.

Some audio streaming apps can use a chunk of data if you listen to content for long periods, though a fraction compared to video streaming.

Whether you're an Android or iPhone user, to counter chewing through data the host of New Zealand's top tech podcast has revealed a number of tricks to reduce data usage, and get the most out of your allowance.

Set a data limit


It might seem super obvious, but how many of you have actually set a data limit on your phone? It ensures that you're alerted to the rate at which it's disappearing.

Manage system updates


This is a good one. iPhone users, consider disabling 'background refresh' on iPhone to avoid apps using data while they're not in use. These updates run without your say so, and in the settings of your phone - under 'mobile' - it may shock you how much data is being used for 'system services'.

Another no brainer for iOS users is to turn off Wi-Fi assist. This feature bridges the gap in a poor Wi-Fi zone.

Pinpoint your leaks


In the settings of your device you're able to view how many gigabytes and megabytes each application is using. Disable mobile data for apps which use a lot of data and wait until you're in a Wi-Fi zone to use them.

Pushing play


Disable 'autoplay' of videos on apps such Facebook and Instagram. The running of content without manually clicking through it can use more than you realise.

What is a good way to track data?


On Android phones, go to 'settings' and 'data usage' to view data on an individual app basis

On iPhone, go to 'settings' and 'mobile' to view overall data usage and the usage on an individual app basis.

Be particularly careful if travelling overseas. In some countries you can clock up thousands of dollars in data charges very quickly.

Avoid the pain of going over your data limit with these simple hacks.
Avoid the pain of going over your data limit with these simple hacks. Photo credit: Getty Images.

What the networks say


"Kiwis love to do things on the go, and we've found that video streaming apps such as Netflix can chew through a lot of data - around 700MB per hour in standard definition streaming, or up to 3GB an hour for High Definition streaming.

"Vodafone commissioned market research agency Colmar-Brunton to carry out a study on data usage and attitudes.

"Our research shows mobile data workarounds have become ingrained in Kiwis' daily life, like searching for free Wi-Fi sites that are often patchy and slow, or only downloading play lists or watching video streaming at home.

"Our Vodafone Pass add-on delivers endless data on New Zealand's favourite apps, like Facebook Instagram, Snapchat, Spotify and Netflix. Vodafone Pass lets consumers enjoy their favourite content, whether it's music, social, chat or video, without worrying about using up their mobile data allowance."


"Data usage depends on the richness of content consumed, so for example scrolling through a mainly text website will use considerably less data than streaming music or a video.

"Plan and download your favourite content over WiFi - that way no data is used when you come to actually consume the content.

"Some phones have the ability to implement a data usage limit.

"Keep track of how much you're using. The Spark app has a great usage meter that shows how much data has been used, and how much data is remaining in the customer's monthly allocation at any given point.

"Connect to WiFi where possible. Spark have just under a thousand free WiFi hotspots nationwide for customers. However, it's important to note that not all public WiFi networks are secure so avoid accessing confidential information whilst connected to unknown networks.

"Ensure that any back-ups are only being run over Wifi so they aren't backing up content while you're using data.

"Keep up with the latest specials. We have recently launched 10GB free socialiser for six months so customers don't have to worry about running out of data over the summer holidays."

2 Degrees

"We're always super keen to help people find smart ways to use their data - or get more bang for their buck "on their current plan.

"If people are finding they are using their data then probably the easiest thing to do in the short term is look at video. Streaming video and movies is usually pretty data intensive as a rule. Consider turning off roaming for apps you don't use regularly.

"The reality is that these days, people use their phones for more than they used to - so naturally their data use goes up. It might be time to switch to a 2degrees monthly plan, which allows you to carry over any data you don't use for the next month and potentially build up a buffer. 

"Another option is our new pool plan. Let's say you mate or your partner are both on our $30 plan (3G of data a month).

"If you upgrade to our Pool Plan, for $30 a month each, you can share 10G of data across both accounts. So that's 2G more if you pool your resources."