Get Organized: How to Keep Track of Your Data Usage (2024)

If you've been hit by heavy overage fees on your data plan for your mobile phone, tablet, or Chromebook, or if you've considered changing your plan but don't know which one will work best for you, it's time to start keeping track of your data usage.

Here, I explain how to monitor your data usage, including what you need to know before you start. I also recommend an app for iOS and Android that punches some numbers for you and sends you alerts when you're creeping up on your data cap.

If you have a rollover data plan, you might want to see if your phone service provider offers an app or text-message alert system for keeping track of your data, as the calculations aren't so straightforward (although some people think rollover plans are a fishy proposition anyway). Even more complicated are sharable rollover data plans. Again, see if the carrier offers its own data-monitoring tools. Those will serve you best.

No matter what device you have or what data carrier you use, there are two things you need to do before you can monitor your data usage effectively:

Look up how much data you get each month.

You can often find your monthly data allowance online when you sign into your carrier account, and sometimes it's listed on your bill, which might be in your email if you get paperless statements. Some carriers have an app that will tell you, or a dedicated messaging address that sends your monthly data allowance alongside how much data you've used in the current month anytime you text it.

Find out when your bill cycle begins and ends.

It's not a given that your monthly data plan begins on the first of the month and ends on the last day. Similar to credit card billing cycles, your phone data plan might reset on what seems to you like a random day. Look up your billing cycle dates in the same places you looked for your data allowance.

How to Monitor Data Usage on an iPhone or iPad

iPhones ( at Amazon) and iPads ($445.00 at eBay) have data-usage tracking built into the Settings. Find it in Settings > Cellular and scroll down until you see Cellular Data Usage.

Get Organized: How to Keep Track of Your Data Usage (2)

If you've never looked at this running meter before, it's not going to show you anything of use because it displays lifetime cellular data usage, unless you've pressed the Reset Statistics button way at the bottom of the page (which you clearly haven't if you've never looked at this page before).

Here's the deal. This meter is only useful if you remember to check it regularly and remember to reset it the day after your billing cycle ends. That's a lot of manual work, and chances are you'll forget.

A better solution is to use an app, and I recommend My Data Manager (free; and it's the same one I recommend for Android users). It's not perfectly automatic, but it's very good. You have to manually enter key information about your billing cycle, billing dates, and data cap (all those things I said you should look up a few paragraphs ago). Once those figures are in place, however, My Data Manager will monitor your data and alert you at various usage intervals, like when you've gobbled through 50 or 75 percent of your allotment.

Get Organized: How to Keep Track of Your Data Usage (3)

I like that this app gives you good insight into which apps are consuming the most data. One feature I particularly appreciate is the forecast usage, a guess at how much data you will use based on prior usage. My Data Manager supports shared plans, too, for both family plans and small business groups.

Tip: In Settings > Cellular, you can disallow apps from using cellular data, meaning they'll only be able to reach the Internet when you have Wi-Fi. If you know, for example, that streaming Spotify gets you into trouble each month when you exceed your plan and get hit with overage charges, you can turn off data for the Spotify app and therefore prevent yourself from the bad data-usage behavior.

How to Monitor Data Usage on an Android Phone

When it comes to writing about Android phones, I always have to make the disclaimer that not all Android phones work the same way. Depending on which phone you have, which version of Android it's running, and the carrier you use, some features may or not be available.

I had a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 for a while with a Verizon plan, and within the Settings, I was able to turn on an alert when my data usage reached a certain point each month. I could control the date the meter reset and increase or decrease the alert level by sliding my finger up and down. This page even showed a graph of my data usage to date for the month over time, so I could see if I blew through a lot of data on a particular day.

Get Organized: How to Keep Track of Your Data Usage (4)

If your Android phone or tablet doesn't have controls in the Settings for monitoring data usage and receiving alerts when you get close to your cap, try My Data Manager - Data Usage (free), which is the same app I recommend to iPhone and iPad users. It's not perfectly automatic, but it's very good. You have to manually enter key information about your billing cycle, billing dates, and data cap (again, all those things I said you should look up at the beginning of this piece), but once those figures are in place, My Data Manager will monitor your data and alert you at various usage intervals, like when you've gobbled through 50 or 75 percent of your allotment.

I like that this app gives you good insight into which apps are consuming the most data. One feature I particularly appreciate is the forecast usage, a guess at how much data you will use based on prior usage. My Data Manager supports shared plans, too, for both family plans and small business groups.

How to Monitor Data Usage on a Chromebook

Unfortunately, monitoring data usage on Chromebook that has a SIM card really requires that you go directly to the carrier for information.

If you use Verizon Wireless in the U.S., you can get to your Verizon account from the Chromebook's Settings, which is marginally better. Go to Settings > Internet Connection and clicking Mobile data. If you have a Verizon account set up for the Chromebook, you'll see Network options. Select that, and a dialog will appear that lets you log into your Verizon Wireless account.

Additional Resources

  • How to Save Money on Your Cell Phone Plan
  • How to Improve Your Phone's Battery Life
  • Tips for Keeping Your Chromebook Safe Online
  • Fastest Mobile Networks (U.S., 2014), independent test results showing U.S. carriers with the best 4G and 3G connections

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Get Organized: How to Keep Track of Your Data Usage (2024)

FAQs

How can I keep track of my data usage? ›

Open your phone's Settings app. Internet. Next to your carrier, tap Settings . At the top you'll see how much total data you use.

What uses the most data on a cell phone? ›

Activities that use a lot of data
  • High definition video streaming (900MB per hour)
  • Video conferencing, like FaceTime® and Skype® (480MB per hour)
  • Standard-definition video streaming (240MB per hour)
  • Online interactive gaming (60MB per hour)
  • Streaming music (30MB per hour)
  • Downloading movies and large data files.
May 20, 2024

How do I manage my daily data usage? ›

To monitor daily data usage on Android, access settings, go to Connections or Network & internet, tap on Data Usage, and review Billing Cycle and Data Warning options. Set limits to receive notifications and control mobile data usage.

How do I find out what is draining my data? ›

To see how much cellular data you've used, go to Settings > Cellular or Settings > Mobile Data. If you're using an iPad, you might see Settings > Cellular Data instead. Scroll down to find which apps are using cellular data. If you don't want an app to use cellular data, you can turn it off for that app.

What uses most data on Wi-Fi? ›

Some of the most data-intensive things you can do include: Streaming audio or video, either on the web or through an app. Downloading large files like music or videos. Loading image-heavy websites.

How do I stop my phone from using so much data? ›

Go to your phone's Settings and tap Cellular. Next, tap Cellular Data Options. There, you can toggle on Low Data Mode, which pauses any automatic updates and background tasks.

Why am I being charged for data when using Wi-Fi? ›

Some third-party apps are designed to consume mobile data even with Wi-Fi connected. Some third-party apps, such as online banking apps, may still consume mobile data even if they are connected to a Wi-Fi network. This issue occurs on all Android phones and cannot be resolved by changing the settings on your phone.

How many hours does it take to use 1GB of data? ›

How many hours will 1GB of data last for?
ActivityTime duration with 1GB*
Browsing the internet16.6 hours
Listening to musicSpotify 92.5 hours (24kbps) 23 hours (96kbps) 13 hours (160kbps) 6.9 hours (320kbps)
Watching Netflix1 hour (standard definition) 0.3 hours (HD) / 18 minutes
3 more rows
Jul 20, 2023

How do I maintain my data usage? ›

10 Effective Tips for Saving Mobile Data and Reducing Data Usage
  1. Understanding Your Data Plan.
  2. Monitoring Your Data Usage Regularly.
  3. Disabling Auto-Updates for Apps.
  4. Utilizing Wi-Fi Whenever Possible.
  5. Restricting Background Data Usage.
  6. Limiting Streaming and Downloading.
  7. Compressing Data and Images.

Why is my data finished so fast without using? ›

Some apps continue to consume data in the background even when you're not actively using them. Processes such as syncing, updating, or refreshing content led to unexpected data usage. Review App permissions and adjust app settings to control the quality of content they download and reduce data usage.

Why is my phone using so much data all of a sudden? ›

Many applications run in the background, constantly syncing data, refreshing content, and checking for updates. Similar to background app refresh, having location services constantly turned on could also unknowingly consume more data than required.

Can mobile data usage be tracked? ›

Like an ISP, phone companies track your internet history because they monitor network traffic. Phone providers and ISPs do have strong security measures in place to protect your privacy and limit access to your data.

How can I track what devices are using my data? ›

One way to monitor internet usage is through your router or modem. Many routers and modems have built-in tools that allow you to see how much data each device on your network uses. To access them, you'll need to log in to your router or modem's web-based interface.

How do you tell if you have unlimited data? ›

To find out if you have a data cap and how much data you've used this month, you can head to your ISP's website or app and sign in to your account. Look for a dashboard or tracker for your data usage to see how much you've used that month.

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