Limit mobile data usage on Android phones. Don’t exceed your plan

Control and limit mobile data used on an Android phone

If you have a low data limit on your mobile phone plan or if you want to limit mobile data usage on your child’s phone, here are some great ways to minimize the amount of data a device uses.

There are many phone contracts that provide large amounts of data usage, many gigabytes in fact, but there are a couple of reasons why you might want to use a phone plan with limited mobile data.

One is that having a high data limit is expensive. These days phone contracts are priced according to the amount of data you are allowed to use. Phone calls and texts are often unlimited. However, the more data you use, the more the service contract costs. If you can live with a low data limit, you can save money on your monthly phone bill.

Another reason for choosing a phone plan with limited data is when it is a child’s phone. You want them to have a phone so that they are always contactable and can always phone home if they need to, but you don’t want to pay sky-high service charges. Paying for a couple of teenagers’ phones in addition to your own can be very expensive as any parent will know.

Having limited mobile data does not limit what you can do on the phone and it only limits where you can do it. Data usage is unlimited and unrestricted over a Wi-Fi network and there are so many free Wi-Fi hotspots these days that you, or your kids, can easily find one to download that big game or movie instead of downloading it on the go using mobile data. Use Wi-Fi more and mobile data less.

When a phone has used up all the data allowed on the plan, extra data charges are added to your bill and you don’t want that. You should set the phone to block mobile data when the limit is reached. This does not affect you or a child’s ability to make or receive phone calls.

Let’s have a look at the ways to limit mobile data usage on an Android phone. I will be using a mid-range Samsung phone running Android 12 and you don’t need a top of the range model for these tips. However, menus and options vary with the phone brand and version of Android, so your device may be different.

Connection settings on an Android phone
4 ways to limit mobile data usage in Android

Turn off mobile data

  1. Pull down from the top and tap the gear icon or open the Settings app
  2. Press Connections
  3. Press Data usage
  4. Turn off the Mobile data switch
  5. Turn off the Mobile data only apps

Completely disabling mobile data is an option. It is a rather extreme one, but if you really don’t want to use any more of this month’s data allowance, then this is the way to do it. You might need to turn off mobile data if you are near to your data limit and do not want to incur any extra charges. It can be set to turn off automatically when the data limit is reached as we will see later.

Turn on Data saver

  1. Pull down from the top and tap the gear icon or open the Settings app
  2. Press Connections
  3. Press Data usage
  4. Press Data saver
  5. Turn on now should be on

Instead of completely disabling mobile data, a much less severe option is to limit data usage with the Data Saver. It prevents apps in the background from using data. It still lets you use apps on mobile data, but if you are not using an app and it is not actually on the screen, it does not use data.

Data saver settings on an Android phone
Android data saver settings

It is possible to have exceptions to this rule, to allow you to fetch email or use Google Maps for example.

  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Press Connections
  3. Press Data usage
  4. Press Data saver
  5. Press Allowed to use data while Data saver is on
  6. Use the switches to allow only certain apps to use data

Set a data limit

  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Press Connections
  3. Press Data usage
  4. Press Billing cycle and data warning
  5. Turn on Set data warning
  6. Turn on Set data limit
  7. Tap Data warning and enter a value near your data allowance
  8. Tap Data limit and enter a value close to your data allowance
Set mobile data warning and limit on an Android phone
Set a data limit and data warning in Android phones

It is useful to set a warning when you have nearly used all of your monthly data allowance. Set the warning about 100 or 200 MB less than your plan. So if you have 2 GB of data each month, set a warning at 1.8 GB for example.

Setting a data limit prevents extra charges on your phone bill by turning off mobile data. Set the limit to just less than your plan allowance, so 1.95 if your plan is 2 GB. Just leave a little room for error as the phone’s estimate of data used may be different to your phone service provider.

Configure apps to use less data

Some apps enable you to configure them to use less data. There are too many apps to describe them all, so you will need to do a bit of digging around in each app’s settings. Here are a few examples of what you can do to reduce mobile data usage.

Reduce data usage in the Google app

  1. Open the Google app
  2. Press your account picture in the top right corner
  3. Press Settings
  4. Press General
  5. Turn on the Data saver switch
  6. Press Auto-play video previews and select Only on Wi-Fi or Never
Google app mobile data settings
Save mobile data in the Google app

The Google app on Android phones has a couple of settings that enable you to reduce the amount of mobile data used. One is the Data saver option, which reduces the update frequency of the app. It checks for updates less often. The other setting is to never automatically play videos, which use a lot of data of course. Make it your choice whether to play them.

Reduce data usage in Chrome browser

  1. Open Chrome browser
  2. Tap the three dots in the top right corner to show the menu
  3. Tap Settings – swipe up if you don’t see it
  4. Tap Lite mode
  5. Turn it on to save data
Enable Lite mode in Chrome to save data
Save data with Chrome Lite mode

When Lite mode is enabled in Chrome, web traffic goes through Google servers before being sent to your phone. This enables it to simplify web pages and reduce the amount of data. Tap the ? icon in the top right corner for more information about how it works.

Reduce data usage in WhatsApp

  1. Open WhatsApp
  2. Press the three dots in the corner
  3. Press Settings
  4. Press Storage and data
  5. Turn on Use less data for calls
  6. Press When using mobile data
  7. Clear all the checkboxes – Photos, Videos, Audio, Documents
WhatsApp data saving settings
Reduce mobile data usage in WhatsApp

When your friends and groups post photos and videos in WhatsApp, you don’t want to download them when using mobile data. That could use a lot of data. Block media downloads on mobile data and wait until you are on Wi-Fi to view them. If you use What’sApp for calls, the Use less data for calls option reduces the quality slightly, but saves data.

Reduce data usage in Google Drive

  1. Open Google Drive
  2. Tap the hamburger icon in the corner
  3. Press Settings
  4. Down at the bottom, turn on Transfer files only over Wi-Fi
Data saving settings in Google Drive
Save mobile data with the Google Drive

Don’t let Google Drive transfer files unless you are on Wi-Fi. Keep the switch on and only turn it off if you absolutely must sync files over mobile data. Turn it back on afterwards.

Reduce data usage in OneDrive

  1. Open the OneDrive app
  2. Tap the Me icon at the bottom of the screen
  3. Tap Settings
  4. Tap Update offline files using
  5. Select Wi-Fi only
  6. Return to OneDrive Settings and tap Camera upload
  7. Tap Upload
  8. Select Wi-Fi only
Save mobile data with OneDrive
OneDrive app mobile data settings

OneDrive can use data in two ways. One is by syncing files, uploading and downloading them. The other way data may be used is by syncing photos and uploading them to your online storage. If you do not sync your photos, you only have to limit file syncing. If you do sync photos, you could use a lot of data by immediately uploading them while on mobile data. By setting photo uploads to Wi-Fi only, OneDrive will wait until you are on a Wi-Fi network to upload your snapshots.

This is just a small selection of the many apps you might have on your Android phone. You need to check each one and see if there are options to either save data or restrict data to Wi-Fi only.

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About Roland Waddilove 417 Articles
Roland Waddilove is interested in technology: Computers, phones, gadgets, software and internet. Long ago he worked on computer magazines, but is now mostly a tech writer for the web.