Cut down on your data usage


Maya Fisher-French learns a few tricks of the cost-cutting trade

I am a lot better at financial management than I am at managing my cellphone data usage, but the reality is, data is money and, for most of us, our smartphones are like a dripping tap, using data we are not aware of.

I received useful tips from Karin Fourie, Cell C executive head of communications, on managing data, and spent about an hour resetting, configuring and investigating.


Most handsets allow customers to check which applications are using data and how much they are using. On an Android device, customers can select Settings and then Data Usage to see exactly which applications are using data. I discovered that my iPhone is not so user-friendly and you have to click Reset Statistics each month to calculate your monthly data usage.

You can also download third party data monitors to keep data usage in check. I went to the useful, which recommended five apps for tracking iPhone data: DataMan Next, DataWiz, Onavo Extend, Data Monitor and My Data Manager.

I haven’t downloaded any of these yet because I want to see how I get on just using my iPhone Reset Statistics setting.


If you leave your browser open and the page is refreshing, you will keep using data even while using the next application. Fourie tells me that other applications, such as Instagram, also drain data. For example, many customers allow Instagram to automatically play videos, so even if a user scrolls past a video, it will continue to play in the background and consume data. Fourie recommends that customers turn off automatic play on videos for all applications.

Once I checked my phone’s data statistics, I was horrified to discover how much data the Weather App consumes, even though I hardly use it. Again, this is because it is continuously refreshing. You can change the Background App Refresh option so that the app does not automatically refresh – I did this for every app. For apps I don’t use often, I also changed the settings so that they could not consume cellphone data. If I need the app, I can change the settings again.

Also delete any apps that you do not use. What really bugs me about the iPhone is that there are some apps I never use, but I can’t delete them, such as Stocks. This can go through serious data, so make sure it is at least not using your cellphone data.


My phone always wants to update, either the software or an app. This uses up a lot of data. Fourie recommends that you do these updates using Wi-Fi at home, or at work. If you don’t have access to Wi-Fi, find yourself a hot spot where complimentary data is available.

Cell C suggests that updates on a mobile device be set to only automatically update once connected to a Wi-Fi network. This will stop applications from automatically updating. It is important to remove unwanted applications from your device. Fourie says free applications – due to their nature – sometimes unfortunately push software updates or advertising via the application, which consumes data. Read the review of an app before you download it so that you understand the implications related to data usage.


Data roaming when you travel is extremely expensive, and can run into tens of thousands of rands if you access the internet and emails over several days because international providers charge very high rates for data roaming. Fourie recommends that if you are travelling abroad, you should purchase a data SIM card in the country you are visiting to keep costs down and avoid a billing shock. Also, in most international airports, hotels and public places, there are Wi-Fi access points, which you can use to access the internet, send emails or check Facebook.

Fourie says Cell C’s customer care unit will help customers learn how to minimise data usage on their cellphones. Cell C also sends out an SMS warning if your data bundle is running low.

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