Top Tips for Reducing Data Use

Delivering unmatched value means helping you get the most data for your dollar. One of the best ways to stretch your data is to use less of it when you’re making calls, watching movies, finding your way or going about your day.

The good news is that you already have the tools you need to reduce data use — the powerful combination of your phone’s features and connecting to Wi-Fi. Want to cut back on data? Read our top tips about how to do it.

Buddy up with Wi-Fi instead of using data

Opting for Wi-Fi over cellular data can save on your monthly data usage, potentially reduce charges and even enhance your device’s connectivity in areas with poor cellular reception. Wi-Fi networks are often faster and provide a reliable alternative for internet access without incurring data charges. Additionally, connecting to a “trusted Wi-Fi network” means using a Wi-Fi connection that is secure and has been verified or is owned by you or someone you trust, ensuring your data remains safe.

How to Connect to a Trusted Wi-Fi Network

For iPhone:

  1. Open Settings: Tap on the ‘Settings’ app on your home screen.
  2. Select Wi-Fi: Find and tap on ‘Wi-Fi’.
  3. Connect to Network: Choose a trusted Wi-Fi network from the list and enter the password if required.

For Android:

  1. Access Settings: Open the ‘Settings’ app on your device.
  2. Navigate to the Internet: Tap ‘Network & internet’ > ‘Internet’.
  3. Choose a Network: Select a trusted Wi-Fi network and input the password if prompted.

Enhancing Cellular Reception with Wi-Fi Calling

Wi-Fi calling is a feature that allows you to make or receive phone calls over a Wi-Fi network, ideal for improving cellular reception in areas with limited cellular connectivity.

For iPhone:

  1. Go to Phone Settings: Open ‘Settings’ and scroll to ‘Phone’.
  2. Enable Wi-Fi Calling: Tap on ‘Wi-Fi Calling’ and then toggle on ‘Wi-Fi Calling on This iPhone’.

For Android:

  1. Open Settings: Head into the ‘Settings’ app on your Android device.
  2. Find Wi-Fi Calling: Tap on ‘Calls’ (or ‘Network & Internet’, depending on your device), then find ‘Wi-Fi Calling’.
  3. Activate Wi-Fi Calling: Toggle on ‘Wi-Fi Calling’ to enable it.

By connecting to trusted Wi-Fi networks and enabling Wi-Fi calling, you can enjoy enhanced connectivity, better call quality and data savings. Whether at home, work or public places, taking advantage of Wi-Fi can significantly improve your smartphone experience.

Take advantage of data-saving device settings

Saving data on your devices is crucial for managing your monthly data plan and ensuring you don’t run into unexpected overages. Here are step-by-step instructions for conserving data on various devices:

For iPhone 4G/LTE:

  1. Disable Background App Refresh:
    • Go to Settings > General > Background App Refresh.
    • Select ‘Wi-Fi’ or ‘Off’. Selecting ‘Off’ will prevent apps from updating in the background.
  2. Monitor Data Usage:
    • Navigate to Settings > Cellular.
    • Scroll down to see data usage per app and disable data for apps that use too much.
  3. Enable Low Data Mode:
    • In Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Options, toggle on Low Data Mode to reduce data usage.

For iPhone 5G:

  1. Use Smart Data Mode:
    • Go to Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Options.
    • Enable Smart Data Mode to automatically switch to LTE when 5G speeds aren’t needed.
  2. Disable Background App Refresh:
    • Navigate to Settings > General > Background App Refresh and choose ‘Wi-Fi’ or disable it.
  3. Limit High Data Use Apps:
    • Check Settings > Cellular to manage and turn off cellular data for specific apps.

For Android:

  1. Set Data Warning & Limit:
    • Open Settings > Network & Internet > Data Usage.
    • Tap on Billing Cycle and Data Warning and set limits to receive alerts or cut off data when you reach a certain usage.
  2. Restrict Background Data:
    • Within Data Usage, tap on Mobile Data Usage, select an app, and toggle off ‘Allow background data usage’.
  3. Enable Data Saver Mode:
    • In Settings > Network & Internet > Data Saver, turn on Data Saver to restrict background data use.

For Apple Watch:

  1. Disable Background App Refresh:
    • On your iPhone, open the Watch app.
    • Go to My Watch > General > Background App Refresh and turn it off to save data.
  2. Reduce Streaming Quality:
    • In the Watch app, navigate to Music > High-Quality Streaming and toggle it off.
  3. Manage Cellular Use:
    • In the Watch app, select Cellular and customize which apps can use cellular data, minimizing unnecessary data consumption.

Following these steps on your respective devices can help significantly reduce data usage, keeping your monthly bills in check and ensuring you stay within your data plan limits.

Say No to Behind-the-Scenes Cellular Data Use

Your device might be using more data than you realize, even when you’re not actively using it. From refreshing apps in the background to performing cloud backups and syncing without a Wi-Fi connection, these hidden activities can eat into your data plan. Here’s how you can take control and turn off these data-hungry features:

Turn Off Background App Refresh


  1. Open Settings: Tap on the ‘Settings’ app on your iPhone.
  2. Navigate to General: Scroll down and select ‘General’.
  3. Adjust Background App Refresh: Tap on ‘Background App Refresh’. Change this setting to ‘Wi-Fi’ to prevent apps from refreshing over cellular data.


  1. Access Settings: Open the ‘Settings’ app on your Android device.
  2. Go to Connections or Network & Internet: Tap on ‘Connections’ and then ‘Data usage’. For some devices, this may be ‘Network & internet’ > ‘Data saver’.
  3. Manage Background Data: Choose ‘Mobile data usage’, and then find ‘Allow background data usage’ to turn it off. Alternatively, you can turn on ‘Use Data Saver’ to limit background data use.

Apple Watch:

  1. Enter Settings: Press the digital crown to find and tap on the ‘Settings’ app.
  2. Select General: Scroll and tap on ‘General’.
  3. Disable Background App Refresh: Tap ‘Background App Refresh’ and toggle off ‘Background App Refresh’. Note that instructions may vary slightly based on your Apple Watch model.

By adjusting these settings, you’re taking a significant step towards conserving your cellular data and ensuring that your device only uses data for tasks you’re actively engaging with.

Turn Off Cloud Backups and Syncs Over Cellular Networks

To conserve your data plan, it’s wise to ensure that cloud backups and syncs for services like Google Photos, Dropbox and iCloud are set to occur over Wi-Fi only. Here’s how to adjust these settings:

iCloud Backup (iPhone Only)

  1. Access Settings: Tap on the ‘Settings’ app on your iPhone.
  2. Navigate to iCloud Settings: Go to [your name] > ‘iCloud’ > ‘iCloud Backup’.
  3. Turn Off Cellular Backups: Toggle off ‘Back Up Over Cellular’. Note: This setting might not be available on all devices.

Dropbox (iPhone & Android)

  1. Open Dropbox App: Launch the Dropbox app on your device.
  2. Access Account Settings: Tap on the ‘Account’ option located at the bottom-right of the screen.
  3. Adjust Camera Uploads: Select ‘Camera Uploads’, then toggle off ‘Use Cellular Data’.

For iPhone:

  1. Launch Google Photos: Open the Google Photos app.
  2. Access Backup Settings: Tap your profile picture, then tap on ‘Backup’.
  3. Disable Cellular Data Usage: Turn off ‘Use cellular data when there’s no Wi-Fi’.

For Android:

  1. Open Google Photos: Start the Google Photos app.
  2. Navigate to Backup Settings: Tap your profile picture, then ‘Backup’ > ‘Backup settings’.
  3. Set Mobile Data Usage: Tap on ‘Mobile data usage’ and set the ‘Daily limit for backup’ to ‘No data’.

By following these steps, you can prevent unnecessary data usage and ensure that your device’s cloud backups and syncs occur only when connected to Wi-Fi, keeping your cellular data usage in check.

Turning Off Cellular Data to Boost Wi-Fi Connections

Sometimes, smartphones use cellular data to assist with internet connectivity when Wi-Fi signals are weak. Here’s how you can turn off this feature to ensure your device relies solely on Wi-Fi and save cellular data:

For iPhone (Wi-Fi Assist):

  1. Open Settings: Tap on the ‘Settings’ app on your iPhone’s home screen.
  2. Go to Cellular: Scroll down and select ‘Cellular’ or ‘Mobile Data’ for some versions.
  3. Find Wi-Fi Assist: Scroll to the bottom of the menu where you will find ‘Wi-Fi Assist’.
  4. Turn Off Wi-Fi Assist: Toggle the switch to off (white) position to disable the use of cellular data for boosting Wi-Fi connectivity.

For Android (Adaptive Wi-Fi or Smart Network Switching):

Note: The exact steps may vary slightly depending on your device’s manufacturer and Android version.

  1. Access Settings: Open the ‘Settings’ app on your Android device.
  2. Navigate to Connections: Tap on ‘Connections’ or directly on ‘Wi-Fi’ if available.
  3. Go to Wi-Fi Settings: Tap on ‘Wi-Fi’ to see more options.
  4. Open Advanced Wi-Fi Settings: Look for ‘Advanced’ settings or a gear icon within the Wi-Fi settings. On some devices, you may need to tap on the three dots in the top right corner to find ‘Advanced’.
  5. Disable Adaptive Wi-Fi or Smart Network Switch: Find an option such as ‘Switch to mobile data’, ‘Adaptive Wi-Fi’, or ‘Smart Network Switching’. Toggle this option off to prevent your device from using cellular data to enhance Wi-Fi connectivity.

By disabling these features, you can control your cellular data usage more effectively, ensuring that your device doesn’t automatically switch to mobile data in areas with poor Wi-Fi signal strength.

Make calls and chat with apps connected to Wi-Fi

Apps like Google Hangouts, Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp and FaceTime allow you to make voice or video calls at no charge, and if connected through Wi-Fi, incur no data charges. Note that if you plan to use these apps while traveling internationally, we recommend testing them out before you leave to make sure you’re comfortable using them.

Downloading Maps for Offline Use on Google Maps and Apple Maps

Navigating through unknown territories or ensuring you have directions when you’re in remote or mountainous areas can be challenging, especially if cellular reception is spotty or non-existent. Consumer Cellular provides excellent coverage, but for those moments when you’re out of range or looking to conserve data, downloading maps for offline use is a practical solution. Here’s how you can download maps on both iPhone and Android devices:

Benefits of Downloading Maps Offline

  1. Reliable Navigation: Ensure you always have access to navigation and can find your way, even in areas without cellular reception.
  2. Data Savings: Save on data usage by not having to use live maps.
  3. Peace of Mind: Travel confidently through remote, mountainous, or unfamiliar areas knowing you  always have reliable maps available.

Google Maps (iPhone and Android)

  1. Connect to Wi-Fi: Ensure your device is connected to a Wi-Fi network.
  2. Open Google Maps: Launch the Google Maps app.
  3. Search for Your Area: Enter the area you wish to download in the search bar.
  4. Access Offline Maps: Tap on your profile picture, then select ‘Offline maps’.
  5. Select Your Map: Choose ‘Select your own map’. Adjust the visible area to cover the region you wish to download.
  6. Download: Tap ‘Download’ to save the map to your device for offline use.

Apple Maps (iPhone Only)

Note: The offline maps feature is available on iOS 17 and later.

  1. Connect to Wi-Fi: Make sure your iPhone is connected to a Wi-Fi network.
  2. Launch Apple Maps: Open the Apple Maps app.
  3. Go to Offline Maps: Tap on your profile picture, then select ‘Offline maps’.
  4. Download New Map: Choose ‘Download New Map’ and search for the area you’re interested in.
  5. Adjust the Map: Customize the map view to encompass the area you need.
  6. Download: Tap ‘Download’ to save the map for offline access.

By following these steps, you can download maps before your trip, ensuring that you  always have dependable directions. Whether you’re exploring the countryside, navigating through remote regions or simply looking to reduce your data usage, offline maps are an invaluable tool for modern travelers.

Download Content for Offline Enjoyment: Movies, Podcasts and Music

In our constantly connected world, there are still times and places where Wi-Fi or cellular service might not reach—like when you’re flying at 35,000 feet, traveling through remote areas or simply looking to save on your data usage. Preparing for these moments by downloading your favorite entertainment in advance can transform your offline moments into an enjoyable experience. Here’s how to ensure your favorite movies, podcasts and music are ready for offline use:

Benefits of Downloading Entertainment Content

  1. Uninterrupted Access: Enjoy your favorite movies, podcasts and music without a Wi-Fi or cellular connection.
  2. Perfect for Travel: Make long flights or remote journeys more enjoyable with access to your entertainment library.
  3. Data Conservation: Save on cellular data by downloading content over Wi-Fi in advance.

How to Download Movies, Podcasts and Music for Offline Use

  1. Connect to Wi-Fi: Before downloading, ensure your device is connected to a Wi-Fi network to avoid using your cellular data.
  2. Choose Your App: Open the app you want to download content from. Popular streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Disney+ offer options to download movies and shows directly to your device.
  3. Find Your Content:
    • For movies and TV shows, browse through the app’s library and look for the download icon, usually indicated by a down arrow.
    • For podcasts and music, apps like Spotify and Apple Podcasts allow you to download episodes or songs by tapping the download option next to the desired content.
  4. Download: Once you’ve found the content you want to download, tap the download icon or option. The content will start downloading to your device, making it accessible anytime, even without an internet connection.
  5. Access Your Downloads: After downloading, you can find your movies, podcasts or music in the app’s ‘Downloads’ section or a similarly named area.

By following these simple steps, you can curate your personal entertainment library to enjoy offline, ensuring that your next flight, road trip or off-the-grid adventure is accompanied by your favorite content. Remember, the availability of content for offline use varies by app and subscription plan, so check your app’s settings and terms for more details.

Know your limits when not on Wi-Fi

To reduce data usage when you’re not connected to a Wi-Fi network, consider limiting streaming, social media, online games and video calls or conferencing.

Activate airplane mode when you leave the U.S.

If you’re traveling internationally and prefer not to incur international roaming charges, activate airplane mode on your smartphone. You’ll still be able to connect to a Wi-Fi network while in airplane mode.

Use more data than your current plan? You’re still covered. 

Some months, you just need a little more flex in your data plan, others, you need less. With our SmartFlex feature you can “flex” your data needs up or down any time without reduced speeds or penalty charges—at the end of the month, we simply bill you for the plan that fit your needs. 

Learn more about SmartFlex here