Surprising data-draining apps (and how to lessen the impact) for cell or Wi-Fi

By adjusting settings on the most popular apps, you can save data and improve your online experience.

Mobile apps can use a surprising amount of data, but there are ways to keep it in check.

By now, most data-conscious users know where to look when their data usage starts to climb. Streaming, gaming, and automatic updates are typically the first places to look for data usage. While those areas are the most likely suspects and remain the first items to review, there are a few “accomplices” that may fly under the radar when evaluating data usage.

A few popular apps on your phone or tablet may cause more of a data impact than expected, which could spell trouble for any data-limited plan on your phone. If your phone is connected via Wi-Fi to your Viasat service, you should be in better shape. Even on one of our unlimited plans, though, going past a certain amount of data in the course of the month can slow things down — so it’s still a good idea to keep an eye on usage.

Fortunately, nearly all of these apps will have a way to counter the impact which could help keep your data usage under control.

Snapchat

Snapchat is a fun app used to send friends photo and video messages — often using visual and voice effects. While the messages and videos may disappear after viewing, the data used does not! Some users may be very surprised with how much data such a quickly used app can consume. You can review the impact used on your device by following these steps:

iPhone

  1. Settings>Cellular
  2. Scroll down to the apps to see your app impact.

    Enabling Travel Mode in Snapchat

Android

  1. Settings >Data Usage
  2. Scroll to the apps to see the impact.

The reason this app and others like it can use so much data is that the app caches all your friends’ stories and the discover/advertised content — whether you view these items or not.

You can significantly reduce the impact by going into the app and following these steps

  1. Go to your Snapchat profile and select “Settings” (indicated by a gear icon)
  2. Scroll to the Additional Settings section and select Manage
  3. Toggle Travel Mode ON

This will only load the stories and content you select as opposed to allowing the app to cache all the data.

Music streaming apps (Spotify & Pandora)

With apps like Spotify, you can bring your favorite artist’s entire catalog with you on the go and spin more tunes than a radio station. With a paid membership, you can download albums or playlists for offline listening. If these songs are on heavy rotation, this may save data. Downloading playlists and albums for offline listening will vary in data usage by length (approximately 115 MB- 150 MB/hr), but that’s not the only way these apps will use data.

Varying the playback quality of the music you listen to under your settings will impact your data both on and off of a Wi-Fi connection. You can toggle between Normal, High and Extreme to minimize the impact of listening to your favorite tunes.

On a similar note, Pandora will have an audio quality setting under Advanced that can toggle the quality of music.

Podcasts

A good rule of thumb is that a podcast can use up to 1 MB per minute, so it’ll take some time to take a considerable bite out of your data — but the subscription settings can quietly consume even more data.

By default, many podcast programs will let you subscribe to a show and will automatically download new episodes as they come in, whether you listen to them or not. This is a great feature if you routinely listen to a show, but the data adds up.

By downloading the individual shows as you wish to listen to them, you may save quite a bit of data. You can also change how many episodes are saved in settings. If you only keep, say, the three most recent, that’s a data-saver.

Instagram

Photos alone won’t use a lot of data, but much like Snapchat, Instagram can leave a large impact due to caching videos and data.

To reduce the impact of data, use the following steps:

  1. Switching to Use Less Data on Instagram

    Go to your Instagram profile

  2. Select the gear icon to open the Options screen
  3. Select Cellular Data Use and toggle Use Less Data

This will reduce the number of items cached and will in turn use less data.

Facebook and Twitter

Data saver mode on Twitter

Facebook and Twitter are the two biggest social media platforms, so it should come as no surprise that both can leave a wake of data usage behind.
But you can soften the blow with a few simple steps.

For Twitter’s app, just tap on your profile and toggle the data saver on. This will restrict auto-play videos and will display lower resolution images.

Facebook requires a little more work. One of the best ways to cut down on data both mobile and desktop alike would be to disable video from auto-playing.
Here’s how to do this on your phone:

  1. Select the menu icon at the bottom right of the app (indicated by 3 horizontal lines)
  2. Select Account settings
  3. Select Videos and Photos
  4. Disable autoplay

Another tip to consider regardless of app is to simply ensure no apps are running in the background when not in use, as some will be buffering and caching data.

These tips should help slim down data consumption on your devices, whether connected to your Viasat Wi-Fi or on-the-go using your phone’s data plan.

Disabling auto-play on Facebook
Brad Bagby
About Brad Bagby 4 Articles
Brad Bagby is a member of Viasat’s Corporate Social Care team based in Denver. He focuses on helping Viasat's residential internet customers with quick responses on social media as well as the Viasat Internet Community. In addition to also penning freelance features for various blogs, he enjoys home-brewing and practicing the art of “dad reflexes.”