How To Stretch Your Data Allowance

We take things for granted. 10 years ago, Facebook was a new website and the iPhone was something only half of the population had heard of. A decade on, we have a mental model that includes these things as bedrock features of our lives.

Conversely, we now have problems that we never used to : Managing the data in our phone plans (primarily to avoid paying too much) is a new challenge most of us face. Assuming that your starting point is that you have a reliable provider and a decent value plan, here’s what you can do to extend your data allocation. 


Stretching your data allowance


The amount of video we are watching on our phones is rising every year at exponential rates.Video is anything with a moving image – from a YouTube clip to a Netflix video. Recent evidence suggests that people watch 100% more each year!

Before we get in to extending the value you get from your data, it will help to know how the technology works – at a very high level. There is a significant factor working against you in the background when it comes to the amount of vide you consume on your phone. 

The latest 4G phones have capabilities to get download speeds of up to 100 Mbps of data (that’s a lot!) When you’re streaming a video from a website, if the website you’re using (for example, YouTube) will detect a 4G connection and send the highest quality image possible resolution – because the connection is so good !

Manage Your Data Usage


So, the key thing you can do to use less data, it’s to get in to YouTube (or wherever you watch your video on your phone) and make sure it is downloading a lower quality stream. For a screen the size of your phone, 240p should be fine – you won’t even be able to tell the difference.

If there is one other thing you should do to cut the amount of data you use, it’s to install the free Self Service app that your phone company provides. Almost every phone company in the world has one of these now and they’re great. Open it up and you’ll see a simple graph giving you the information you need – the date when your plan renews and the proportion of your data allocation you’ve used. 

Simply having these facts at your fingertips and checking them regularly (I aim to check mine as regularly as I do my bank account – one every couple of days) will have a huge impact on the amount of data you use. Simple awareness of how you are progressing will help you cut down. In the event you are going to go over your allocated data entitlement, you’ll be able to buy more data at the cheapest rate possible, from within the app.

Note : The research suggests that those who use their Self Service Apps are also happier with their phone company. They don’ t have to call customer support as often because they can manage their account from their phones, themselves.

Summing up - managing these things – for cheats!


We’re users, not technical professionals. We shouldn’t have to worry about the amount od data we use. Most people don’t spend long in their settings and neither should they have to. Phones should be designed to do things easily, without instruction.

The truth is that average users can address the data problem in some simple ‘high street’ ways. Upgrading your phone plan can give you the extra data you need, rather than you having to roll your sleeves up and mess around with Self Service apps and YouTube quality settings.

Newer, smaller phone companies often offer the best value when it comes to data. Some also offer helpful facilities that the bigger phone companies don’t. For example, some will give you more data when they raise the data allocation in their plans– without you having to do anything. 

Others offer data rollover or data vault facilities (in which data rolls over eternally – whatever they give you is yours for ever, until you leave!) The reality is that picking the best plan and changing regularly can give you enough data that you don’t have to worry about managing it better.


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