While some people have unlimited mobile data plans, many aren’t that lucky. Unfortunately, apps and Google don’t always care how much data you have left on your plan. To avoid unplanned data usage, you can turn on Data Saver on Android. While it’s not perfect, it does give you much more control over the data use each month.
What Is Data Saver?
Google released Data Saver on Android 7.0 and later releases. If you have an older version, you won’t be able to use the feature, sadly.
First, it’s important to know this isn’t the Data Saver feature available in Chrome for Android. This is Android’s system setting.
Data Saver is designed to let you toggle on/off which apps you will allow to use background data. Developers have to incorporate this feature into their apps. According to Google, when an app is turned off in Data Saver, meaning restricted data, the following should occur:
- No autoplay on videos
- No prefetching content
- Restrict automatic downloads, including updates
- Don’t ask users to whitelist the app (apps can explain whether background data is a necessity or not, though)
- Compress data if possible
- Provide lower bit-rate and lower resolution video and images
- Remove any unnecessary images
This is for all apps available through the Play Store, including Google Play Store and Google Play Services. Third-party apps that you install from other sources may not respect Data Saver.
When this mode is turned on, only the apps you select should be able to access background data. For instance, you may allow your weather apps to update the temperature and send alerts, or you may enable your email app to check for new mail.
While there isn’t a guarantee that apps will completely obey the rules, you will drastically reduce background data usage, saving you money on limited data plans.
Enable Data Saver on Android
To enable Data Saver on Android, open Settings on your Android device. Notice the extra icon circled in the image? That’s the Data Saver icon. It only appears when the feature is enabled. Even though I have an unlimited plan, I still use the feature to prevent certain apps from running constantly in the background and slowing down my device, so that’s an extra benefit.
Tap “Network & Internet” and choose “Data Usage.”
Tap the menu at the top right of the window and select “Data Saver.”
Toggle the Data Saver switch to On.
Tap “Unrestricted data access” underneath the Data Saver toggle to turn apps on and off. It takes a few seconds, but the 0 changes to the number of apps that use your mobile data freely. Apps toggled to On use mobile data whenever they want or need to. If you toggle an app to Off, its data is restricted.
While some apps are enabled by default, toggle them off if you don’t need them. I currently allow 16 apps access, one of which is the built-in security app from my carrier, which works surprisingly well.
If you’ve already turned off background data within an individual app’s settings, you’ll see a message saying background data is already disabled.
You can change your settings at any time within the Data Saver settings. For instance, if you didn’t toggle your messaging app to on, you might not receive notifications about new messages or might not even receive messages until you open the app.
Obviously, the more restricted apps you have, the less data your device uses. Another feature that may also help is “Limit mobile data usage.” You’ll find the setting within “Data Usage” where you accessed Data Saver. Toggle the option on to turn off all data when you reach a set limit. This will at least help you to not go over.