In an ideal world, the highest quality audio and video would be piping to your smartphone even when you’re away from Wi-Fi. But sadly, life doesn’t always work out as we’d like—streaming high-resolution music and movies can quickly eat into your data allowance, and cost you big money if you tip over it.
Even if you’re on an unlimited data package with your network provider, there might be times when your connection is spotty and inconsistent. In that case, you’ll want to reduce the load as much as possible.
Most streaming apps let you specify the quality of the audio and video you want, and as a result, how much data they’ll consume. These are a handy group of settings to get familiar with. We’ll cover some of the most popular apps below, and if you can’t find yours, dig around in the options menu to find it.
You can conserve a significant amount of data when it comes to video streaming. A 1080p stream takes up a lot less bandwidth than a 4K stream without compromising so much quality, so it’s worth checking through these apps first.
In Netflix for Android or iOS, tap your account avatar (top right), then choose App Settings and Cellular Data Usage. There, you’ve got three options to pick from: Wi-Fi Only, Save Data, and Maximum Data. It’s the middle one you want to choose for a more compressed video format when streaming over a cellular connection.
If you’re using Amazon Prime Video for Android or iOS, you need to tap My Stuff, then the cog icon (top right), and Stream & download (Android) or Streaming & Downloading (iOS). When you select Streaming quality, you’ll have three or four options to pick from depending on your operating system: Best, Better, Good, and, if you’re on Android, Data Saver. Next to each pick you’ll see how much data each one uses on average in terms of gigabytes per hour.
When it comes to YouTube on Android or iOS, select your profile picture (top right), then choose Settings and Video quality preferences. Under the Video quality on cellular networks heading (Android) or inside the On cellular networks menu (iOS), you can either pick Higher picture quality (high data usage), Data saver (low data usage), or Auto (which means the app automatically adjusts the quality to match the strength of your mobile connection.
Then there’s Disney Plus for Android or iOS. Tap your account picture (bottom right), then choose App settings and Cellular data usage. The next screen lets you pick from Automatic (which adjusts the stream based on the strength of your connection) or Save data (which forces a lower quality at all times).
Finally, we’ve got the Hulu app for Android and iOS. Tap the Account button, then select Settings and Cellular Data Usage to choose between Best Available and Data Saver. As you might have guessed, it’s the last one you want to pick to limit how much data the Hulu app uses.
Cutting down on audio quality won’t save as much data as cutting down on video quality, but it’s still worth it—especially if you find yourself streaming a lot of music while you’re away from Wi-Fi.
With Spotify on Android or iOS, you can tap the cog icon (top right) to get to the app settings. On Android, there’s an Audio Quality toggle switch under a Data Saver heading, while on iOS you need to tap Data Saver to find the toggle switch. Turn these switches on to limit the amount of data Spotify uses on cellular networks.
Apple Music comes built into iOS and is also available on Android. On iOS, open the main Settings app and choose Music, Audio Quality, Cellular Data Streaming, and High Efficiency to cut down on data usage. On Android, go into the Apple Music app, tap the three dots (top right) and Settings to find the Audio Quality menu—again, choose Cellular Data Streaming and High Efficiency to limit data use.
With YouTube Music for Android or iOS, tap your account avatar (top right), then Settings. If you’re running iOS, go to Playback and restrictions and Audio quality on cellular data, and if you’ve got an Android device, go straight to the Audio quality on cellular menu. There, choose Low, Normal, or High. The app also switches between these depending on connection strength, and if you’re a Premium subscriber, there’s an extra Always High option that forces a high quality stream on any connection.
Should you use Deezer for Android or iOS to play your tunes, first you need to tap the cog icon (top right). There, choose Audio and Cellular data under Streaming quality to pick between Basic, Standard, High Quality, and High Fidelity if you’re a paid subscriber, or Basic and Standard if you’re not.
Tidal for Android or iOS, is known for its high-resolution streams, but you don’t have to listen in the best fidelity if your connection is struggling to cope. Tap My Collection, then the cog icon (top right), and choose Streaming. Up to four options are available, depending on your subscription: Normal (the lowest data usage), High, HiFi, and Master.