How to prevent your Android from eating mobile data

Running your handset on mobile data is a tricky endeavor, especially if you have a limited data cap. Some apps, like YouTube, will eat gigabytes of data in no time so you need to tread lightly. But that’s an obvious consumer. What about all apps or even system services on your Android that are eating mobile data in the background? What can you do to prevent this? Learn below.

Table of contents:

  1. Don’t update apps with mobile data
  2. Limit background data usage for apps
  3. Disable sync while on mobile data
  4. Set Limits for data usage
  5. Disable Mobile data always on in Developer options

How do I stop my Android from eating data?

Disable background activity for apps, stop syncing photos over mobile data, and just wait until Wi-Fi is available to download and update apps from Play Store.

It’s a good idea to set up a Data limit in System Settings and disable “Mobile data always on” in Developer options. Don’t forget to disable Auto-play videos in social media apps.

1. Don’t update apps with mobile data

Let’s start with app updates. By default, apps will update solely on Wi-Fi unless you specifically allow updates and installation of apps over mobile data. Now, if you have a large monthly data cap, this isn’t a big problem. However, if your data cap tops at a couple of gigabytes or even less, we strongly encourage you to disable this option.

Here’s how to prevent apps from auto-updating while on mobile data:

  1. Open Play Store.
  2. Tap on your Profile pic and open Settings from the contextual menu.
  3. Select Network preferences.
  4. Make sure that “Auto-update apps” and “App download preference” options are set to Wi-Fi only.

2. Limit background data usage for apps

The thing you should know is that background data usage can eat up a lot of data if not careful. This is sometimes necessary for the standard functionality of certain apps but, with some apps, it will relieve you of a lot of data over time without actively using them.

You can limit background data usage on a per-app basis in system settings or enable the system-wide Data saver that will disable all background data usage. Here’s what to do:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap Apps. Expand all apps or open Manage apps.
  3. Tap on the app that’s using a lot of data. You can find out which apps use the most data in the background in Settings > Connections > Mobile data usage.
  4. Tap Mobile data or (Mobile data & Wi-Fi) and disable the “Allow background data usage” option.
  5. On the other hand, to enable the system-wide Data saver, navigate to Settings > Connections > Mobile data usage > Data saver. Just toggle ON the Data saver option and you are good to go.

There are also data-saving options in apps like Chrome, Twitter, and Facebook. You can usually find them in in-app settings. Also, disabling auto-playing videos in the feed can help save some data.

3. Disable sync while on mobile data

This one is somewhat similar to Play Store auto-update over cellular data we covered in the first solution. Sync option will sync everything and back up your data to Google Drive or OEMs cloud (based on your settings and preference) solely on Wi-Fi. Unless you explicitly force sync/back up while on mobile data. Of course, we suggest avoiding this for obvious reasons.

Also, if you use Google Photos to back up your photos, make sure to disable backup on mobile data. You can do that by following these steps:

  1. Open Google Photos.
  2. Tap on the Account icon at the top and open Settings.
  3. Open Back up & sync.
  4. Choose Cell data usage.
  5. Select None at the top.

In case your Android keeps on eating mobile data like crazy, consider setting a data limit.

4. Set Limits for Data usage

These days, technology provides more data for less money (unless your service provider is all about that profit) but that wasn’t the case only a few years ago. So, OEMs started incorporating Data usage tracing to help users avoid going over the cap and paying astronomical amounts for a fistful of megabytes.

With this built-in system tool, you can set your data cap on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. Once you reach the limit, you’ll get notified so you can disable cellular data.

Here’s how to use Data usage on your Android:

  1. Enable Mobile data.
  2. Open Settings.
  3. Select Connections.
  4. Open Data usage.
  5. Select Billing cycle & data warning.
  6. Enable Data warning and set value where you want to get notified. For example, I have 5.5GB of free 4G data to use and I set the warning at 4.5 GB.
  7. You can enable Set data limit and then set the data limit. Again, I get 5.5GB monthly so I set the Data limit at 5.4GB to avoid going over. Your carrier might not count the data consumption the same as your Android, so I set a 100MB window, just in case.

The device will automatically disable data after the data limit is reached. Some Android skins offer daily or weekly limits which can be a more convenient way to limit data usage. That’s not available on my Samsung running OneUI 3.1 over Android 11.

5. Disable Mobile data always on in Developer options

The option that allows mobile data to take over if Wi-Fi is unstable or keeps disconnecting sounds great. But, once again, it’s not exactly great if you want to save up some data for later when you are outdoors.

Especially when streaming or downloading files that take large chunks of your monthly data allowance. The option is, for some reason, hidden in Developer options but we’ll show you how to disable it in no time.

Here’s how to disable Mobile data always on in Developer options:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap About phone. Once there, expand Software information.
  3. Tap on the Build number 7 times and insert PIN/Password if prompted.
  4. Get back to the main Settings screen and open Developer options.
  5. Locate Mobile data always on and disable this option.

If your Android is still eating mobile data for no apparent reason, consider resetting Network Settings.

And, on that note, we can conclude this article. Thank you for reading and make sure to tell us if the steps we provided here helped you save a bit of mobile data. Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below or reach us on Facebook and Twitter for more content.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in March 2017. We made sure to revamp it for freshness and accuracy.

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Alan
Alan
August 9, 2021 4:41 pm

My Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro will now only connect by Edge, not 3G or 4G. Any ideas?

Kazz Gallant
Kazz Gallant
July 22, 2020 10:23 pm

I cant find the network settings for samsung cloud. I tried following the above advice, no luck. I was out of wifi zones for 5 days and it ate almost 2GB of my mobile data yet seems to have no way to change the network settings. I have a Samsung Galaxy Note9… can anyone help?

Ivan Jenic
Admin
Ivan Jenic
June 5, 2018 6:33 pm

Hi Grace.
If you’re talking about Google Drive, you’ve probably exceeded the 15GB limit of the free storage. You need to pay for additional space, and Google probably asks if you want to upgrade.

Grace
Grace
June 5, 2018 6:07 pm

How do I OP+OUT of some site that is charging me for cloud?

Grace
Grace
June 5, 2018 6:05 pm

I received a message saying I’m being charged for cloud. What does this mean and how do I stop it?