The average smartphone user consumed 89 percent more megabytes of data in the first quarter of 2011 than in the same period last year. But the era of unlimited data is almost over as, more and more, cellular carriers are instituting tiered pricing plans. To avoid overage fees, you’ll need to rein in data consumption. Cutting back doesn’t have to be painful, though. A few tweaks to the phone will reduce the data stream considerably, and certain apps and browsers can bring even greater savings.
Having notifications from Facebook, Twitter and your e-mail “pushed” to you as soon as they arrive is convenient, but it eats up data. Unless you absolutely need notifications immediately, make sure that any application with a “Refresh” setting is switched to “Manual” (instead of being on a timer), and turn off push notifications for your e-mail app. Finally, check to see that auto-sync (usually found on e-mail clients and calendars) is disabled. For heavy users, these tweaks can reduce consumption by hundreds of megabytes a month. Other tips: Switch to Wi-Fi before refreshing apps that require data, as well as before updating your app library, and at home leave the phone connected to a Wi-Fi network.
Download Opera Mini, a free, fast and compact Web browser for iPhone and Android handsets. When a user asks to view a page, the request is sent to the Opera Mini server, which downloads the page from the Internet. The server then packages the page in a neat little compressed format, called OBML, that requires less data to download. YouTube addicts should also get the Skyfire browser ($3), which has a multimedia compression feature that allows users to spend less time loading videos and less data accessing them.
Onavo is a free app that acts as a proxy server for iPhones and Android phones. It compresses data sent to the user—from Facebook, Twitter and other websites—on Onavo’s servers before sending it to the phone. Users also receive access to compression reports and metrics on data savings. The app doesn’t compress information that the user sends, though, so image and video uploads will look as good as possible. If you’re still fretting over your bill after taking these steps, the 3G Watchdog for Android ($3) and DataMan Pro for iOS ($2) apps both provide elaborate data-monitoring and notification services, helping to curb usage as your monthly limit approaches.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.