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Although many data plans these days are advertised as “unlimited,” most actually have a cut-off point when your data stream is going to slow radically. If you don’t want to pay the premium prices that “unlimited” plans demand, then it’s even more important that you avoid going beyond your maximum data allowance, or there will be high penalties to pay. Either way, it’s smart to monitor your data flow — not only to make sure you don’t pass your limits, but also to find out if you need to rethink your current data plan.
It’s not hard to do this using tools baked into current versions of Android or a third-party app. Here are a few strategies that you can try. (Note: these directions are for a Pixel XL running Android 9. The interface of your phone many vary somewhat, depending on the manufacturer, model, and OS version.)
You can have your phone issue a warning if you’re nearing your data limit before the end of your monthly billing cycle. You can even set a limit beyond which your phone won’t use any data.
On the same page, you can toggle “Set data limit” on. This will turn off your mobile data completely when it hits whatever limit you set.
If you have Android 8.0 or later, your phone should come equipped with Data Saver mode, which kicks in when you’re not on Wi-Fi and ensures that apps and services that are not being actively used won’t be able to stream data in the background.
It’s very easy to turn Data Saver mode on and off.
There may be specific apps that you want to allow to use background data, even when Data Saver mode is on. For example, you may want to get Twitter notifications no matter where you are.
While Data Saver can help you manage which apps are allowed to work in the background, you may want more detailed control of your data. In that case, an app such as Google’s Datally, My Data Manager, or one of several available data management apps can help.
Datally, for example, will not only automatically prevent apps from working in the background, but it will also allow you to set a daily data limit and a bedtime mode, create an emergency bank of data (in case you run low toward the end of the month), and monitor hot spot usage (which, as I know to my regret, can destroy a month’s data allowance in short order).
Another popular app, My Data Manager, tracks data usage across single and multiple devices, arranges for alerts, checks data usage across a family plan (so that you’ll know who used 75 percent of that month’s data allowance), and tracks consumption so you can figure out whether you should switch to a different plan.
The advantage of all these apps is that you can treat them as set-and-forget tools, allowing them to do their thing in the background, or you can continually tweak them to fit your needs as you go. Either way, you — and your data plan — are the winners.