In a perfect world, everyone would have unlimited Wi-Fi. But that’s not the case. Mobile devices often prefer you to use Wi-Fi, but you can set a metered Wi-Fi connection on Android for better control over your data usage. You can set this on a single Wi-Fi network on multiple networks.
How Android Handles Metered Wi-Fi
Usually, large updates default to Wi-Fi on Android. The moment you connect, apps and even the system itself may try to update. This can quickly eat up your data, especially with larger system updates and apps. To help you avoid exorbitant charges, you can tell Android to treat Wi-Fi the same as mobile data.
When you’re connected to a metered Wi-Fi connection on Android, nothing downloads without your permission. Occasionally, a critical security update may still install, but this should be rare. Google sometimes pushes these updates, despite the connection you’re on, to keep users safe. I think I’ve only had this happen twice in the last 10 years or so.
Individual apps are still an issue, though. For instance, social media apps don’t care whether your Wi-Fi plan is limited or not. There are settings in most social media apps to reduce usage, such as not auto-playing videos.
Set a Metered Wi-Fi Connection
The process may vary slightly based on your version of Android. All steps are based on Android 12. However, the method should also work on earlier versions of Android, especially 10 and 11.
- Connect to any Wi-Fi network. You have to be connected Wi-Fi for the options to appear.
- Open “Settings” on your device and tap “Network & Internet.”
- Tap “Data Usage.”
- Tap the three-dot menu at the top right and select “Metered Wi-Fi networks.”
- Toggle the network(s) you want to metered to On.
Some Android devices (including those running Android 12) include a secondary method. My device doesn’t offer this option, but follow these steps to see if your device does:
- Go to Settings and select “Network & Internet.”
- Tap “Internet” or “Wi-Fi,” depending on the device.
- Tap your Wi-Fi network. You’ll need to be connected to it at the time.
- Select “Network usage.”
- Tap “Treat as metered.”
Restrict Background Data Usage on Apps
There are several ways to restrict background data usage on apps. Even when apps are closed, they may still use background data. This is often to give you notifications or update a widget. For instance, weather apps use background data to update the temperature in your notification tray and send you alerts.
You can turn off background data usage and limit overall data usage by changing the settings for individual apps.
- Go to Settings and tap “Application Manager.”
- Tap “App info.”
- Select your desired app and tap “Data usage.”
- Turn off “Background data” and “Unrestricted data usage.” The first is mainly for mobile data but can restrict an app’s overall data usage for mobile and Wi-Fi.
Save Your Wi-Fi Data
While there are quite a few ways to reduce data usage on mobile, many of those same methods work for limited Wi-Fi plans, too. A few more quick tips for saving even more data on a metered Wi-Fi connection on Android include:
- Use mobile data as much as possible if you have an unlimited data plan.
- Avoid streaming and/or use streaming services with offline options.
- Play games that offer offline play to avoid data-hungry ads.
- Turn off auto-play for videos on social media, YouTube, and any streaming apps.
The most important step is to monitor your Wi-Fi usage and pay close attention to heavy-usage apps. Best of all, prevent it from automatically turning on. This helps you avoid costly overages each month.
Monitor Android Wi-Fi Data Usage
You’ll still want to keep a close check on your Wi-Fi data usage on Android to make sure you’re not going over. You don’t need a special app to do so. Instead, do the following to quickly check your current Wi-Fi usage on your device during a set period and per app:
- Go to Settings and select “Network & Internet.”
- Tap “Data usage.”
- Tap the three-dot menu at the top right and select “Show Wi-Fi usage.”
- Tap “Wi-Fi” at the bottom of the screen. This only appears when you turn on the option to show Wi-Fi usage.
- View your current usage. Use the drop-down menu to view different time periods and scroll through the list of apps to view individual usage during the time frame.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does using a metered Wi-Fi network stop Wi-Fi usage?
No. This only limits large downloads and most background data usage unless you specifically allow an app to use background data. Always check new apps when you install them to see if they’re allowed to use data in the background. See the Limit Background Data Usage section above for the steps.
Will Android security apps help reduce Wi-Fi usage?
They can, but only in terms of helping prevent viruses that can eat up data in the background. Plus, security apps may actually increase usage due to security definition updates.
Most Android devices have some form of security app built in, so you may not need anything else. However, be careful with what you download from the Google Play Store and always scan APK files when sideloading apps.
Can I use streaming apps offline?
Many streaming apps, especially premium ones, allow you to download music, TV shows, and movies to enjoy offline. You can download everything over mobile data (if you have an unlimited plan), then watch or listen as much as you want without worrying about using your Wi-Fi. Just make sure you turn your Wi-Fi off to avoid accidentally streaming in real time versus streaming your downloaded file.
For example, you can download content from Netflix to watch offline if you’re a subscriber. You can also use a video downloader to download content from certain sites and download certain videos, such as Creative Commons licensed content, from YouTube.
Image credit: Franck via Unsplash
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