It is one of the paradoxes of modern travel that when we become more dependent on our smartphones than usual, they become harder to use and more expensive. Use an alternative browser for your Android, iOS, or basic phone. Checking maps, downloading travel plans, getting contact information for hotels and taxis, and dozens of other things all require a data connection, but until you’re with the right cell company, Roaming data is very expensive outside North America. Even when you are using a local SIM card, prepaid data allowances can be significantly lower than what you are used to going back to your home. However, all is not lost. There are plenty of ways to burn through less data on your smartphone, while still being able to use it normally. iOS
Use Google Chrome
Google’s popular Chrome browser is available on both iOS and Android, as well as desktop operating systems. One of its most useful mobile-specific features is the data saver, which, once turned on, transfers the amount of data up to 50%. It does this by compressing most of the images and text on Google’s servers before being sent to your phone, meaning faster transfer and lower roaming costs. It even has a handy dashboard that shows how much data you have saved over the last month.
Use opera mini
Opera Mini is an alternative browser for your Android, iOS, or basic phone. Like Chrome, it sends traffic through its own servers to be compressed before downloading and has a dashboard to see how effective it is. It claims data savings of up to 90% compared to other browsers and also has a built-in ad blocker to help speed things up.
Download apps that work offline
Of course, reducing the amount of data is even better than none is being used. Look at the offline versions of the apps you usually use — you’ll be surprised how many there are. From currency management to currency conversion, City Guide to Translation tools and more are available offline. These apps work partially or completely without an internet connection and sync the latest information (usually automatically) whenever you have Wi-Fi available.
Use the offline mapping tool
Navigation apps are among the most useful things on your phone when you’re traveling, but they can quickly chew through your data allowance. Instead, use offline mapping tools like Citymaps2Go or Here WeGo which lets you download country and region maps ahead of time. Google Maps has a similar feature, but you can download the same city or small area at a time instead of all maps of the entire country at once.
Disable data hog
Along with using the previously described compression apps, you can change a lot of settings to help reduce your cellular data usage. Automatic backup and app updating devices are some of the biggest data hogs on your smartphone. They are very useful, sure, but don’t really need to run over your mobile connection. Be sure to turn off auto-update for your Play Store (Android) or App Store (iOS) or at least set automatic updates to run on Wi-Fi.
The same applies to backup tools such as iCloud, Google Photos and Dropbox. Observe the settings inside each application to ensure photos, videos, and other large files are automatically backed up only when a Wi-Fi connection is available. Finally, it is worth double-checking all other apps you have installed and turned off any inbuilt automatic update or refreshing system unless set to run on Wi-Fi only can go. It is amazing how many apps want to know without updating their information which connection they are using, and how much data they will use while doing so.
Limit cellular data access for iOS apps
iOS has the ability to individually limit which apps can access cellular data. If you’re using an iPhone or iPad just before you go abroad, go to Settings-Cellular-Use Cellular Data, and disable access for anything that is not needed at all. Netflix, Weather Apps, Spotify, and many other apps can all safely close their access until you return home. If you really need to get the latest forecast or listen to your favorite song while you’re on the move, you can briefly re-enable Access – but at least you’ll know it’s happening!
Stop background refresh
On iOS again, it is worth turning off the background app refresh. Found under Settings-General, this setting prevents apps from sending and receiving data in the background. If this is going to save you money, does it really matter if Twitter dates a few hours after the first opening? Almost certainly not.
Auto-playing videos are not your friends
Auto-playing videos will use a lot of data without a good reason when you’re on a cell connection, so be sure to disable or limit it to more and more apps. This approach varies slightly depending on which app you are using, but it is possible on social apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as video services like YouTube.
Use lighter versions of apps
As major companies have expanded into developing markets, they have realized that older phones and slower Internet connections are common, and have released lighter versions of their apps to help compensate. This is also good news for international travelers, as these lightweight apps are almost always useless data than their full-size counterparts. You are more likely to be available for Android than iOS, well-known examples of this include Facebook Lite, Twitter Lite, and several Google products (including Maps) collected under its “Go” brand.
Just turn it off
In the end, the easiest option can sometimes be the best. If you don’t need cell data at all, turn it off. Either you use airplane mode if you don’t want to connect at all or if you still want access to calls and text then disable cellular data. Either way, it will guarantee that you don’t burn through your data allowances without knowing about it, or come home for an unexpected bill!
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