You want to pay more attention to your smartphone's data usage. You may have received a text from your service provider informing you that you've run out of data, or your phone is running slow and you want to speed it up.
What apps use the most data on Smartphones? The most notorious offenders are streaming apps (both music and video), social media apps, video chat or meeting apps, and map or GPS apps. Others that use large amounts of data are ridesharing and online game apps.
Let’s look at some of the most common data-heavy apps and which ones use the most cellular data. I will then give you some easy tips and tricks to help you save your data and reduce your monthly bill.
Which of my Apps Uses the most data?
Here are the smartphone applications you should keep an eye on, and use the tips we review later to optimize them so you can keep using them and not worry about your data usage so much.
1. Streaming Apps
Streaming apps are the most notorious apps in terms of data usage. We use these apps to listen to music and watch movies and documentaries. Examples of streaming apps include Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, and Spotify.
I will put meeting apps in this category as well, although some of them will fall into the next category also. Apps like Google Meet and Zoom use data so fast!
If you prefer watching HD and 4k videos on your mobile phone, away from wifi then be prepared for large data bills.
- One way to still enjoy the highest definition entertainment is to download videos, music, movies, tv shows, and documentaries while connected to wi-fi.
- Or you can watch them using lower-quality settings that don't require substantial data amounts. More on this later.
2. Social Media Apps
Another data hog are social media platforms. Whether you are scrolling endlessly or watching video after video, you will not only spend lots of time but lots of data as well.
Instagram, for example, uses a preloading feature to load images and videos as you are scrolling, before you get to them, so you don't have to wait for them to load once you click on them. Preloading uses your data even if you don’t watch the preloaded video!
Also, if you post videos, you will use a lot of data to upload each one.
- Upload compressed or smaller versions of videos. They will be much easier to upload and cheaper on the data consumption side.
- You can use these apps connected to wifi. Alternatively, you can also switch off the video auto-playing feature on specific social media applications. Just go into settings and look for data usage or video setting to make the adjustment.
- On top of that, consider downloading the lite versions of these apps as they don’t consume vast amounts of data.
GPS and Ridesharing Apps
When you turn on your smartphone's location-sharing settings, as you use mapping services like Google Maps or Apple Maps, tells your phone to constantly send and receive data in order to determine your exact location and direction of travel.
This uses a significant amount of data, especially if you have location-sharing settings turned on for multiple apps or if you are in an area with poor cellular reception.
Additionally, some location-sharing features, such as real-time tracking, can use even more data as they require your phone to constantly update your location. This happens with ridesharing apps.
These apps send and receive vast amounts of data from your phone, such as your exact location and location relative to the rider/driver, to calculate the best route.
- Only turn on location settings or use those apps when needed. Turn off your real-time location settings (or cellular data) as soon as your driver arrives.
Here are several effective ways to reduce your smartphone’s data usage.
Tips to reduce data usage on your phone
You don’t need to stop using these apps entirely to reduce your data usage, although that is an option and worth looking at if data savings is important to you.
Therefore, use the following recommendations to save your data.
Make sure you connect to wifi when possible
When you connect to wifi, your phone uses the internet connection provided by the wifi network instead of using its cellular data. Any data you use while connected to wifi doesn’t count toward your cellular data usage.
Additionally, using wifi also provides faster internet speeds for your online experience.
Use battery saver
Battery saver mode automatically turns off background data for apps you’re not currently using.
This means that apps will not be able to use cellular data in the background while they are on, which can help you save on your data usage.
Change the formats of all streaming apps (video and music) to lower the resolution
When you change the settings of your streaming apps to a lower resolution, it reduces the amount of data those app use. This also goes for meeting apps like Google Meet or Zoom.
To do this, go to the app’s settings and set the video or audio quality from its highest setting to one or two steps below. So if the service’s highest resolution is 4K streaming, reduce that to 1080p (or high definition). If you want more data savings, reduce it to 720p (or standard definition). These reductions will barely be noticeable on most phones and save you a bunch of data.
You will be surprised at how little you miss the extra resolution when you see how much data you save immediately.
For music apps, take the audio quality from “Very high” to “High” or “Normal.” You won't notice much difference if you're driving the car, going for a run, running errands, or doing things around the house.
Streaming services typically have their default settings on the highest resolution possible by default because this creates the best sensory experience for their users. They don't worry about how much of your data it uses.
You can always change the settings back when you're watching a specific video, on an important conference call, or have some time to sit down in a quiet place and listen to some high-definition music.
But for everyday use or if you are traveling and need to make your data go as far as possible, reducing the quality of your streaming services will help a lot!
Additionally, streaming at a lower resolution will also help improve your phone's performance, as it will require less processing power to stream the music or video. Over the short term, that helps with your battery life, and over the long term the life of your cell phone.
Keep track of your data usage
It's important to monitor your data usage if you don’t want to exceed your data limit. Most phone companies have an easy way to do this.
Or you can use the data usage tracker on your phone, or a data tracking app, to keep track of how much data you have used this pay period. This will allow you to adjust your usage habits to avoid exceeding your data limit.
Limit your use of data-intensive apps
Some apps, such as social media and streaming apps, can be used less if you really need to trim that data usage. It’s not a popular option, that's why it’s last on this list.
Advanced tips to reduce data usage
Those are the easiest ones to implement and will make the most difference in your data usage day to day, But here are a few more options if you feel inclined.
Use offline mode when possible
Some apps, such as music and navigation apps, have an offline mode that allows you to use the app without an internet connection. Even apps like Google Maps does.
Turn off automatic app updates or make them “wifi only”
By default, most apps are set to update automatically in the background. This can use a lot of data, especially if you have a lot of apps installed on your phone. Turning off automatic app updates can help you save on your data usage.
You can also adjust your settings to only allow updates to happen when connected with wifi.
Avoid using your phone in areas with poor cellular reception
If you are in an area with poor cell reception, your phone will use more power and data trying to maintain a connection. Avoid using your phone in these areas to save on your data usage.
Turn off your phone's location settings
When you don't need your map app to navigate to a new location, or you aren’t using a rideshare app, turn off your phone's location settings to reduce its constant pinging of satellites, cell phone towers and wifi hotspots to determine your location.
All these things use not only your phone's data consumption but your phone's battery too.
Apps that use data on your phone
There are lots of different smartphone apps out there, and some of them use more data than others. Here are the six categories of apps and a little bit about each of them.
- Educational Apps - People use these apps to learn a new language and skills and for news. Examples include Duolingo, LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, Udemy, Khan Academy, and Skillshare, to mention a few.
- Entertainment Apps - We use these apps to keep ourselves entertained and occupied during our leisure time, mostly or especially when traveling. Examples include Netflix, Amazon Prime, Showmax, Spotify, and Youtube.
- Productivity Apps - Also known as business apps, these apps help simplify smartphone tasks. They include G-Suite Apps, Notion, Evernote, and WPS office.
- Game Apps - Mobile gaming apps are steadily becoming more popular, and many people nowadays hop on gaming apps to train their brains, play competitive games, or play silly games that are meant to be fun and also a way of passing the time. They include Sudoku, Wordle, Hill Climb, Call of Duty, and Subway Surfer.
- Social media Apps - It is tough to avoid them since they are part of our everyday lives. We use social media apps to catch up with new trends, network and make new friends, and communicate with friends, colleagues, and family. These apps include Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, and Clubhouse.
- Lifestyle Apps - These apps come in all varieties. They include dating apps, food ordering apps, mental health apps, travel apps, booking apps, and fitness training apps. Tinder, Bumble, Uber, Calm, Tripadvisor, and Airbnb are some of them.
When was the last time you actually scroll through the app directory on your phone and looks at every app you have installed? Which of those apps can you optimize or delete to reduce your monthly data usage and thus save on your cell phone bill?
Which apps use the most data on Android?
Data usage on Android phones is primarily used by streaming apps (video, music, meetings, and social). However, online games also consume significant amounts of data.
Which apps use the most data on iPhones?
Streaming apps (video, music, meetings, and social) use the most data on iPhones, followed by online games, which also use a significant amount of data as well.
What uses the most data on a cell phone?
In terms of data usage on cell phones, streaming apps (both music and video) use the most data. Other apps that use large amounts of data are ride-hailing and online gaming apps.