Optimize data usage

Some of this information applies only to devices running Android 5.0 and higher. If your device is running 4.4 or lower, the Menu icon looks like this . If your device is running 4.3 or lower, the Settings icon looks like this .

Data usage is the amount of data that your device uploads or downloads in a given period. You can check your data usage in the Settings app on your device. You can see how you use data and change the settings to make sure you’re not using data unnecessarily.

Some things to keep in mind regarding your data settings

  • If you don't have mobile data, you'll only see settings that apply to Wi-Fi.
  • If you're using a tablet with multiple users, data usage settings apply to all users, but only the owner can see the options described here.
  • If you're using an Android One device, you can only assign one SIM card to use for your mobile data connection.

Check your data usage

You can check how much data you use and set a data usage warning or limit to help manage your data usage. If your device has more than one SIM card, you can use the tabs at the top of the data usage screen to check each SIM card's information.

Important: The data usage you see in your device’s Settings app is measured by your device - your carrier could count data usage differently. If you go over your plan’s data usage limit, your carrier could charge you fees. Check your plan to see your data limits.

Check current data usage or data usage by time period or app

To check how you much data you use on your device, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Settings menu on your device.
  2. Under Wireless & networks, touch Data usage.
    • In the Mobile tab, you can see how much data you use on your carrier's data network or networks. If more than one is displayed, touch the tabs at the top of the screen to switch between them.
    • To see Wi-Fi usage, touch the menu icon Menu in the top right corner of the screen. Check the box next to "Show Wi-Fi usage." In the Wi-Fi tab on the main screen, your device will show how much data you use over Wi-Fi connections. If you don't have mobile data, you'll only see settings that apply to Wi-Fi.
  3. You can check the following settings for mobile or Wi-Fi use:
    • Check current data usage: By default, you’ll see the date range of your most recent data usage cycle. You can see how much data you’ve used in that time period simply by looking in between the two vertical white lines on the graph.
    • Check data usage from different time periods: Move the vertical white lines on the graph to the time period that you want to view. Then check to see how much data you used during that period of time.
    • Check total data usage: You can see the total data usage for the time period you select below the graph.
    • Check data usage by app: You can see how much data each of your apps is using below the graph. Apps are listed in order of how much data they’ve used.
Set data usage warning

You can set a warning to alert you when your device uses a certain amount of data. This feature is only available if you have mobile data.

To set a data usage warning, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Settings menu on your device.
  2. Under Wireless & networks, touch Data usage.
  3. In the graph that shows your data usage, drag the line by its right side to the level where you want to receive a warning.
  4. When your data usage reaches this level, you'll receive a notification on your device.
Set data usage limit on your device

You can set a limit to the amount of data that your device uses. When your data usage reaches that limit, mobile data on your device will turn off automatically and you'll receive a notification. Many features on your device might not work correctly when data is turned off. This feature is only available if you have mobile data.

To set a data usage limit, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Settings menu on your device.
  2. Under Wireless & networks, touch Data usage.
  3. Turn on Set cellular data limit or  Set mobile data limit depending on your version of Android.
  4. When the dialog box appears, read the message, and touch OK.
  5. Drag the line at the top of the graph by its right side to the limit you want to set.
  6. When your data usage reaches this level, mobile data on your device will turn off automatically and you'll receive a notification.

To turn mobile data back on, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Settings menu on your device.
  2. Under Wireless & networks, touch Data usage.
  3. Move the switch next to "Cellular data" or "Mobile data" to the On position.

Change your data usage settings

You can adjust your data usage settings to optimize the data that you use. Some apps use data only when you’re using them. Other apps use data in the background, even if you’re not actually using the app. You can conserve data usage by changing how and when apps you use access data.

Turn off data access over mobile network

You can conserve data usage by turning off access to data while you’re on your mobile network. If you do this, you won’t be able to get any data over your mobile network, but you’ll still be able to use data when you connect to a Wi-Fi network.

To turn off data access over your mobile network, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Settings menu on your device.
  2. Under Wireless & networks, touch Data usage.
  3. Use the switch next to "Cellular data" or "Mobile data" to turn it off, then touch OK
  4. To turn mobile data back on, simply move the switch to the On position.
Turn off auto-sync or restrict background data

Auto-sync allows your apps to automatically sync to the data you have on your device. You can conserve data usage by turning this feature off. If you do this, you will need to sync your apps manually whenever you need them to access data on your device.

Be aware that if you restrict background data, some apps and services won't work until you're connected to Wi-Fi. 

To turn auto-sync off or on, open the Settings menu on your device and touch Data usage under "Wireless & networks." Then follow these steps based on your version of Android:

On Android 5.0 or higher
  1. Touch the menu icon Menu in the top right corner of the screen.
  2. Touch Restrict background data.
  3. When the dialog box "Restrict background data?" appears, touch OK.
  4. To turn background data back on, touch the menu icon Menu in the top right corner of the screen and then touch Allow background data.
On Android 4.4 or lower
  1. Touch the menu icon in the top right corner of the screen.
  2. Touch the box next to "Auto-sync data."
  3. When the dialog box "Turn auto-sync data off?" appears, touch OK.
  4. To turn auto-sync on, follow the steps above. When the dialog box "Turn auto-sync data on?" appears, touch OK.
  5. To manually sync an app, open the app you want to sync and follow the prompts to sync.
View or restrict background data usage by app

Some apps transfer data in the background. This means that an app may download data for future reference when you're not actually using the app.

To reduce your overall data usage, you can restrict background data usage for individual apps. However, this may also affect the app's performance or cause it to malfunction. Check whether data usage can be restricted from the app's own settings before restricting it here. You can usually access data usage through an app’s Settings menu.

To view and restrict background data usage by app, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Settings menu  on your device.
  2. Under Wireless & networks, touch Data usage.
  3. Make sure you're viewing the network for which you want to view or restrict app data usage. If more than one is displayed, you can switch between them by touching the tabs at the top of the screen.
  4. Scroll down to find the app whose data usage you want to view. The blue bar for each app shows its total data usage for the cycle displayed above the graph near the top of the screen.
  5. To see more data usage details for an app, touch its name.
  6. You’ll see a graph showing just this app's data usage for the specified cycle. Below the main graph, a pie chart breaks out foreground versus background data usage for this app.
    • "Foreground" data usage means how much data an app uses when you’re using the app.
    • "Background" data usages means how much data an app uses when you’re not using the app.
  7. To stop background data usage for this app, check the box next to "Restrict background data."
  8. Read the message that appears and touch OK.
Restrict data usage on mobile hotspots

If you use Wi-Fi, you can set your device to restrict data usage on Wi-Fi networks that are mobile hotspots. This will help you optimize your data usage by preventing apps from using background data or large downloads on these networks.

To change this setting for your mobile hotspot, open the Settings menu on your device and touch Data usage under "Wireless & networks." Then follow these steps based on your version of Android:

On Android 5.0
  1. Touch the menu icon Menu in the top right corner of the screen.
  2. Touch Network restrictions.
  3. Turn on restrictions for the networks available.
On Android 4.4 or lower
  1. Touch the menu icon in the top right corner of the screen.
  2. Touch Mobile hotspots.
  3. Check the box next to the Wi-Fi networks that are your mobile hotspots to restrict apps from using them for background data or downloading large files.
Data roaming

Data roaming allows your device to send data over other carriers’ networks when you leave an area that is covered by your own carrier’s networks. You can conserve data usage by turning off data roaming. Keep in mind that using data roaming may be the only way to connect to the Internet in some places.

To turn off data roaming, follow these steps:

On Android 5.0 or higher
  1. Under "Wireless & networks," touch Data usage.
  2. Touch the menu icon Menu in the top right corner of the screen
  3. Touch Cellular networks.
  4. Enable or disable "Data roaming."
On Android 4.4 or lower
  1. Open the Settings menu on your device.
  2. Under Wireless & networks, touch More....
  3. Touch Mobile networks.
  4. Uncheck the box next to "Data roaming."
  5. To turn data roaming back on, simply check the box next to "Data roaming."

Turn data usage on or off

You can turn mobile data on or off in the Settings app. If it's off, you can’t use data over your mobile network and many features of your device and apps might not work correctly. You’ll still be able to use data if you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network.

Steps to turn mobile data usage on or off
  1. On your mobile device, open the Settings menu .
  2. Under Wireless & networks, touch Data usage. If your device has more than one SIM card, you can use the tabs at the top of the screen to control cellular data for each SIM.
  3. Move the switch next to "Cellular data" or "Mobile data" to the On or Off position. If you're turning data off, touch OK. If you turn data on for a SIM card that was not previously active, you need to assign cellular data to that new SIM card before continuing.

Keep in mind that you need to have a SIM inserted in your device to see the mobile data option. If you're using an Android One device, you need to assign cellular data usage to a SIM before adjusting data usage settings.

Elena is an Android expert and author of this help page. Leave her feedback below about the page.

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