Data Overages? The Primary Suspects

In the not too distant past, data was something used sparingly to check the weather, the bus schedule, maybe to get directions. 500 MB seemed unlimited. Now 1 GB of data is recommended for 80% of users (the remaining 20% requiring more).

The advent of applications (“apps”) takes the lion’s share of the blame for this increase. Suddenly, we use our phones to manage three email accounts, to monitor company and personal social media, to make edits on documents, as schedulers, as game consoles, as music and audio devices, and (often lastly) as phones. We also take our phones everywhere, including international trips, and expect to be able to text, post pictures to Facebook and recieve emails.

Unfortunately, all this convenience comes at a cost – in our data bill.

Roaming charges are known for their high cost. It can be surprising how quickly the bill can rack up when the cost of data increases significantly. A picture text from Europe can result in a hefty bill.

Apps preload data intensive features such as images and videos. These features are visually compelling and make an app more interactive. However, for those looking to keep the data bill down, one must learn to manage settings accordingly.

Primary Suspects:

 1) Facebook:

Frequent culprits of high data bills are Facebook games, such as Farmville. These games are rich in imagery and require data to run. For example, European mobile network ‘Three’, listed the data usage for the top ten sites visited. This study revealed that Farmville alone accounted for 1.68 terabytes per month in data usage over its network.[1]

Facebook itself is also data intensive, consisting mostly of images and videos. A recent change to Facebook now preloads all videos contained in a feed. This not only boosts data usage, it also slows your device. Further, no one wants to pay to pre-download videos without the intention of watching them.

Wired Magazine makes the following suggestions for disabling this feature:[2]

 On iPhones and iPads: If you’re using the official Facebook app, navigate to Settings > Facebook > Settings. This is your iOS settings, not the settings menu within the Facebook app. Toggle the “Auto-play on Wi-Fi only” and switch to on. This won’t stop auto-playing videos on Wi-Fi – and there’s no way around that, sadly – but it will stop them from playing when you’re using your cellular data connection to browse Facebook.

On Android devices: In the official Facebook app, hit the hamburger button on the right — that’s the button with the three horizontal lines, in case you didn’t know. Scroll down till you reach “App Settings” and check “Auto-play videos on Wi-Fi only”.

2) Data Hungry Apps:

Facebook is not the only app guilty of being data intensive. Many apps including Twitter and Instagram, preload images and videos that eat up data. The following list outlines how to disable these settings:[3]

Turn off preloaded videos on Instagram: Instagram profile > Settings bar > (Settings) Videos > (Data Usage) check “Preload videos on Wi-Fi only”.

Turn off preloaded images on Twitter: Twitter feed > Settings bar > Settings > General > uncheck Image previews.

Decrease quality of Skype video: Skype home > Settings bar > Settings > (Voice and video calls) Video quality > change to low.

Restrict data use for Podcasts on iOS: Settings> Podcasts> Uncheck “Use Cellular Data”.

Turn off preloaded videos on YouTube: YouTube menu > Settings > Preloading.

One very good suggestion is to check the settings on newly installed apps.[4] Often they install configured to use data to sync, update, and download content. Getting to know the features of your new app can help prevent nasty surprises when your bill arrives.

3) Streaming

Streaming is another issue for data usage. Streaming video or audio is very data intensive, for example, Netflicks or online radio. It is considerably more cost effective to pre-download media in wifi to play at a later date. For example, if you want to listen to a podcast while driving, simply download the podcast onto your device while at home. Once you have viewed or listened to the program, you can delete it.

4) Other Possible Sources:

Data limits can also be set directly from your phone settings. For example, Android devices allow for restrictions to updates and syncing of all apps from the central Android menu.[5]

Android: Android Settings > (Wireless & Networks) Data usage > Settings bar > enable “Restrict background data”.

A further tip is to limit the data required in using your search engine. Chrome specifically allows minimization of data usage while running searches.

Google Chrome: Chrome menu > Settings > (Advanced) Bandwidth management > Reduce data usage.

How Telus can help:

Telus also has a few handy ways to address data usage. First, you can request ‘data notifications’ from Telus that notify you when you are nearing your limit. This can be enabled by logging into your online account and setting up notifications. The Telus site offers step by step instructions to enable this feature.[6]

Second, you can pre-purchase data packages for unique situations that may result in data overages. For example, if you are travelling in the USA or Europe. Telus has ‘add on’ plans which may be purchased for a 30 day span, allowing for ‘roaming’ texting, voice and data.

These are just a few ways to keep your data usage in check. All devices are different, so the above processes may not work for your device. If you are concerned about your data usage, we would be happy to review your options with you.






[5] Ibid.