How to reduce your mobile data usage

Submitted by Abi on 9 February 2015 - 5:10pm

As technology has developed mobile phones have become more useful and taken on a bigger role in our day-to-day lives. Subsequently our need for mobile internet has increased and, with the introduction of super-speedy 4G, it's easier than ever to eat through your mobile data allowance. 

We take a look at the different ways you can manage your data to get the most from your phone and avoid hefty bills, including practical ways to reduce your usage without changing your mobile phone habits. 

Use WiFi to browse

Use your home or work WiFi when you can and opt for WiFi hotspots when you're out to save your mobile data. Apps like OpenSignal and WiFi Finder can help you find public WiFi hotspots or the O2 WiFi app is free for anyone to use and provides free WiFi at thousands of high street retailers. If you're in London and you're a customer of O2, EE, Three, Virgin Media or Vodafone then you can also make use of free WiFi on the London Underground.

Update and sync apps over WiFi

Save some Megabytes by setting your apps to update and sync only when connected to WiFi. This is usually managed via your phones settings and means your apps and any push notifications, such as email, won't update until you connect to a WiFi signal. You can manage your apps individually if there are some things that you need to keep on. 

Download over WiFi

Plan ahead and save your data by downloading the things you need, such Google Maps or Spotify Playlists, over your home WiFi before you head out. 

Use mobile versions of websites

Most companies have a mobile version of their website. These are optimised for smartphones and tablets so use less data than desktop versions of the same site. 

Keep your cached data

Deleting cached data frees up space and can speed up your phone but it means you have to download pages, images and text from your favourite websites all over again. If you want to reduce your data usage, and your phone isn't a slug, then keep your browser cache intact. 

Reduce the quality of streamed video

Reducing the quality of videos played on a mobile phone screen won't impact your enjoyment but it will save you some Megabytes by compressing the file and making it smaller. 

Which activities are eating up your data?

If this isn’t enough, here are some examples of how much data each activity uses so you can pull back on the more data hungry ones. As you can see from the chart below there are big differences in the amount of data used for various activities. For example you could watch 5 mins of HD video or send 375 emails for approximately the same amount of data.

How much mobile data is used to browse a web page?


1 web page


How much data is used to send an email?


1 email


How much data is used to update my social media?

Social media 

1 update


How much mobile data do games and apps use?

Apps and games 

1 app download


How much mobile data does music use?


1 song


How much mobile data do videos use?


1 minute of medium quality video

3.75MB (0.5 Mbit/s bitrate)

How much mobile data does TV and film streaming use?

TV and film

1 minute of high quality TV or film

7.5MB (1 Mbit/s bitrate)

The examples used above are taken from EE's website. If you want to calculate your own usage we like EE's data calculator. It provides a fairly accurate estimation of how many MBs are used in various activities and you can adjust the levels to reflect your usage.

For more tips read our guide How to monitor your mobile data usage.

What are your top tips for making your allowances go further? Tell us in the comments section below.