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Although T-Mobile and Sprint are keeping unlimited data on life support, its death is imminent. Surging usage and adoption of smartphones is bottle-necking wireless providers' networks in major cities across the nation. As a result, two of the nations largest providers have removed the option for totally unlimited data and replaced it with tiered and shared data plans.

For those still rocking unlimited data, keep on keepin' on. Enjoy it while it lasts. And if you're willing to spend a small fortune to stave the inevitable, power to you. I originally had plans to do exactly that – to buy all future Verizon smartphones sans contract and keep my unlimited data for as long as possible. Unfortunately, the stars were misaligned and it didn't work out as planned.

Most people will never need to worry about data consumption, though many stress over losing a grandfathered unlimited plan or worry their 2GB plan will never be enough. My mother is a perfect example of such. I've been monitoring her data usage for months now, just to see how much she's been using. The day before I pre-ordered my iPhone, I logged on to our account and noted she had used her iPhone to consume only 76MB of data.

Some, however, unknowingly chew through data quickly and face steep penalties. Overages on a basic tiered data plan with Verizon or AT&T are $10 per additional gigabyte. Overages on shared plans, however, are $15 per additional gigabyte. Pass your cap early in the month and you could face upwards of $20, $50 or much more in overages.

Fortunately, curbing data usage is not rocket science, and it doesn't always require users to dramatically change their data consuming habits. Limiting data consumption can be as easy as flipping on the Wi-Fi switch at the right time or holding off on downloading big files until you're sleeping.

Here the best ways I've learned to be more frugal with my bits:

 

Use Wi-Fi when possible

This is easily the most obvious way to save on data. When you're at home, connect to the wireless network and get download happy. You pay for home Internet, too, so you might as well take advantage of it any way you can.

But plenty of public locations also offer free Wi-Fi nowadays. Don't be afraid to leave your Wi-Fi connection on when leaving the house (it's not going to have a dramatic effect on your battery life). Most smartphone platforms have an inbuilt alert that will notify you when you're near an open wireless network. (Note: Don't forget to make sure it's a public or guest network first!)

Connecting to Wi-Fi instead of using your phone's wireless network will not only save your precious bits, but it will also help your phone's battery life.

 

Limit streaming and download media when possible

Streaming media is undoubtedly the biggest culprit when it comes to data consumption. Video, clearly, is the worst. But music can burn through data just as bad.

In just an hour and a half of watching YouTube videos from my phone, I managed to gobble through nearly 400MB of data a few months ago. (HD video, meet LTE.) But video consumption is one thing. You're watching it, intently, and should be aware that you're also consuming data. But streaming music can be even worse as many people turn it on and play music in the background while they do other things. This is certainly capable of taking your data and running with it.

Checking the Data Usage utility in Android, Spotify has used 660MB on my One X this month, only 77.95MB of that was in the foreground. Spotify consumed 583MB in the background. I fell asleep listening to Spotify on my iPhone one night, which managed to use nearly 1GB of data. Luckily, I was still on an unlimited data plan then.

A great way to get around this is to download media to your device when on Wi-Fi and delete it when you're done. Several music streaming services allow users to store their favorite playlists and songs for offline listening. I currently have 6.9GB of music downloaded from Spotify onto my iPhone 5 – this is how I use Spotify for all of my music needs without destroying my data cap.

 

Update applications at night over Wi-Fi

With Smart App Updates, which only sends the changed portion of an app for updates, Google has worked wonders to keep the never-ending stream of application updates from totally blowing users' data caps away. Apple and Google placing limitations on the size of applications and updates that can be downloaded over cellular definitely helps, too. Still, at roughly 5MB a pop, updates can seriously start to add up if you have a horde of applications on your mobile device that get updated several times per month.

In most cases, updates can wait. Unless an application you desperately need has been updated with a major bug fix, you can probably wait until you find a capable Wi-Fi network to update your apps.

 

Spring for a larger data plan

It may sound counterintuitive, but if you've made all the sacrifices you're willing to make and still find yourself going over your monthly allowance every billing cycle, it's probably a good idea to jump to a larger data package. Verizon and AT&T both offer up to 20GB of data for heavy data users, though they may cost a pretty penny.

If you're going over regularly, by paying for more data to begin with, your wallet may fare better than just eating overages. For example, if you have a 2GB Share Everything with Verizon, an overage will cost you $15 for one additional gigabyte. However, paying $10 more per month will net you two additional gigabytes. Use over 4GB on a 3GB tiered data plan with AT&T and it will cost a total of $50. The 5GB plan is also $50 per month, but it includes the hotspot feature.

Toy around with different configurations and you may just find one that nets you more bits for less money!

 

These are just some ways to save bits. Tell me, readers. How do you curb your data usage? What do you do to avoid data overage fees?


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75 Reactions to this post

"Pre-Paid, Sprint, T-Mobile? Tell us how you avoid data overages?"


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John Villanueva Unlimited from AT&T, so I don't stress over it. However, I do go through wi-fi, at night, to avoid any throttling. =P
SmithsLane Sprint. there 3g is kinda crappy sometimes but they are alright :)
Fa Menalo "Use Wifi whenver possible" Right stand in front of a McDonalds or Starbucks whenever possible. Oh whats that you actually work at a place that isn't near a restaurant or isn't a coffee shop? Well, guess you're SOL. Wifi? Gimme a break. Please stop echoing the corporate mantra of the sheep at Verizon & AT&T are feeding you. We all know they want to make money and the best way is to rip customers off is with the inability to turn off LTE and tiered data. Wake up morons
Guillermo Perez-Arguello I have Sprint which is awesome and has unlimited data, but I also avoid having fun online at these ridiculously slow speeds at home. I have to be near a damn tower to enjoy my service....
James McKay Wifi when im home. I only use 3G when im out and about.
Taylor Collins I connect to WI-FI when I'm home.
Flako Ramirez Sprint baby, why on earth would i limit myself specially if you got LTE? What if i wanna watch a youtube video or show my friends a video on youtube? I be lile oops sorry guys wait until next month to see it because im about to go over my data cap...lmfao and no i wont use WiFi thats why data is for
Lori Pence Fields verizon p/p jetpack for my tablet and iPod touch
Chris Northcutt I ha e Sprint. A lot of people say their plan sucks because their 3g download and upload speeds are the slowest of any carrier. I however am satisfied where I am at as I consistently get about 1 MB download speeds each day. More than enough to run Hulu, Netflix, YouTube or any other streaming video app.
Josh Avondoglio It's all about strategic and smart use of Wi-Fi.
Edward Gonse I avoid data coverages by using Boost Mobile as my carrier.
Anthony Andrade i have sprint
Anthony Andrade sprint does not have data overages and neither does tmobile
Kevin McQuade grandfathered
Kevin McQuade Grnadfathered by verizon <3
Marv Cabatic Unlimited with Virgin Mobile. Currently using 3G Watchdog App.
Jorge Lopez Tmobile unlimited, but turn off data when not using it, helps save battery and data(-_-)
Shannon Rae Beauford T-mobile unlimited
Antonio Watkins Sprint is unlimited
Angel Hernandez Built in data monitor. Turns it off after 5Gb. Paying $45 For 5Gb of data,unlimited txt nd talk on At&t for my Gs3(:
JerryandAudrey Smith T-mobile unlimited data and wifi for my tablet
Jacob Robert 3G watchdog.
??? QQ Phone Manager
Marrion Bell I don't I have T-Mobile unlimited nation 4G F sprint
Lucas Crutchfield i don't, i have grandfathered ulimited data on verizon. 4G-LTE for free for as much as you want is the bomb
Bill Gillespie And sprint sucks
Bill Gillespie Tmobile doesn't have data overages
Marvin Oubre Sprint truly unlimited.
Joe Czo Most prepaid carriers offer $50 for unlimited text, call and web. That's why people prefer prepaid over contract. Me I like 4g LTE so I'm staying with Verizon and my unlimited data as long as I can keep it.
Mark Fisher Jr. Tmobile unlimited on a iPhone.
Trieu Tran Wifi at school and home. Always use public wifi whenever it's available :D
Tony Abiama Sprint Unlimited, that's how
Jose Guzman easy get sprint unlimited 4 G
Elijah Ford Prepaid, T-Mobile, (Galaxy S2).$50 for unlimited talk,text and web.
Jim Marshall III Simple mobile (sister company of T-Mobile) unlimited everything for $40 bucks flat no tax. I've been using it for about 6 months with no issues what so ever.
Michael Staley app called data manager. works great!
Clifford Warner sprint :)
Kevin Jackson Tmobile unlimited data and rooted htc one s wifi hot spot without a concern for data cap.
Julian Scott I use to have sprint, I had it for 5 years. Whn I had sprint I had the"simply everything unlimited" plan, but some how still managed to slip in BS over charges ever month and paid ova 400 dollars a month. That's when I had enough n switched to "VM" an very happy for 2 years now.
Steve LeBoeuf Wifi no brainier
Julian Scott Virgin mobile is "sprint" 45 dollars a month 1200 minutes unlimited text and unlimited data! :-) never go back to a contract phone "VM" is the best.
Ronald Johnson IPhone- unlimited
Emmanuel Kenway metro pcs 4g lte
Rudy Belova Unlimited with t-mobile, and even before that, it was just throttling.. .. Wifi?? Oh, i think that's for at&t and verizon users..
Cal-Gene Johnson I use Boost mobile. They have way better phones now. Hell Straight talk has the sg2 now!
Eduardo Ordaz wifi,wifi,wifi,wifi.
Fermin Sanchez I don't unlimited haha T-Mobile
Tom Edwards I use wifi if I use phone but I use my iPod touch a lot so I don't have use phone as much
Ioan-Radu Tanasescu get an unlimited data plan, problem solved
Rashaud Cook On VZ and have 4GB, I just don't use the web or YouTube just wait until I get on wifi
Vicente Reyes Sprint and cricket have the full unlimited, but you don't get the full bars like the rest.
Vicente Reyes Ya but T-Mobile throttles you down off of 4g to 3g and lower, depending on how much data your using.
Bruce W. Thomas Jr. Its not as bad as some people make it out to be.
Bruce W. Thomas Jr. Wifi and paying attention to how much I use... I didn't go over 5 gb a month with sprint so I got the same with verizon...
Vicente Reyes Have an app that lets you know where your at, and for app updates to only download when its on wifi
Nick Stone It says how do you avoid overages. I simply have 3GBs of data on ATT and I piggy back on everyone's WiFi
Daniel Quintero stay on sprint lol........or go to tmo i am torn
Stephen Colbert Unlimited Sprint LTE. They turned it on by me a week ago and I'm at 4GB.
Robert Salender Still have my unlimited on VZ. Using it for free tether, lol.
Roger DeOliveira Tmobile customers dont need to worry about data
Stephen Nicholas Woodall I just don't care. On at&t and have used 13GB of 4g data.I'm not paying it this time around.
Nick Truskowski If you people can read they said prepaid..
Nick Truskowski T-Mobile, $30 100 minutes, 5 gb of data.
Arnulfo Aviña Torrés By having Unlimited Data!!
Josh Biskup Wifi at home and work
Johnny Tooter Shackelford Verizon unlimited....
Gordon Christie easy switch off data unless im gonna need to use it
Said Issa T-mobile unlimited 4g data : p
Allan Jesus Hernandez Be smart about it.
Stuart Brewer Third-party reseller plan. ;)
Amer Ahmed I simply know my limit and not go over, like magic.




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