Donna writes, "I share a data plan with my family. I'm the biggest user of data, but I'm also the least tech savvy. I do very little downloading! I mostly just check emails. If someone sends me a link and I open it, am I downloading? Sometimes I use my iPhone as a hotspot for my laptop. Is that downloading? Why am I using so much data?"
Any time your phone gets information over the Internet, Donna, that counts against your data plan. This includes reading an email, opening a link from that email, and using your phone as a hotspot so your laptop can connect to the Internet.
In fact, that last one is one of the most data-intensive activities you can do with your phone. Your laptop is a powerful machine that can request a lot of data in a hurry, especially if you have more than one website open at a time. All of the images, ads and videos on those sites are being downloaded through your phone’s connection, which can eat up a lot of data really fast. This is why most websites offer lightweight versions that are optimized for browsing on phones and mobile devices.
Other activities that can use a lot of data include streaming music through apps like Spotify and Pandora, downloading podcasts, and even sharing those vacation pictures you snapped with your friends on Facebook or Instagram. If you do a lot of driving, navigation apps like Google Maps and Apple Maps can also use a lot of data downloading directions and maps.
The sneakiest drainers of data plans we've found are free games. While you downloaded basically all of the data for those games when you first got them from the app store, that didn't include those annoying little ads you see while you're playing them. Those ads are downloaded while you're running the app, chewing up your data plan in the process.
It may seem like everyone is after your data plan, but luckily there is a way to stop them: Wi-Fi. When your phone is connected to a wireless network, it uses Wi-Fi to download things instead of your cell data. We recommend turning off your cell data and using Wi-Fi any time you're at home or work. If you don't have a home wireless network, you may want to consider setting one up. This will cost some money, but it will almost definitely be cheaper than paying overage charges to your carrier.
Also, all wireless providers offer a special phone number you can call or text to see what your current monthly usage is. Find out what yours is and take advantage of it before you get slapped with fees!