How to stop “disappearing data”

Many South Africans complain that their mobile data “disappears”, and often blame cellular operators for stealing their airtime.

The reality, however, is that data does not just disappear – users are consuming data at a faster rate than expected.

Faster networks, high-definition videos, automated app updates, and an increased use of social media all contribute to higher mobile data use.

Vodacom has created a manual for Android mobile users to assist them in managing their data, and avoid “disappearing data”, as detailed below.


Restrict background data

Many apps will transfer mobile data in the background, even when the app is not in use.

Background mobile data usage is one of the main reasons your data usage is high. Restricting background data on your smart device will reduce usage.

Go to Apps > Settings > Data usage > Cellular data usage > Disable the Background data option.

If you wish to keep background data on, you can choose to disable it for certain apps only.


Disable auto updates

Automatic app updates may be enabled on your device, but you can prevent your device from automatically downloading app updates.

Set apps to update over Wi-Fi only using:

Go to Apps > Play Store > Menu > Settings > Auto-update apps, and select Auto-update apps over Wi-Fi only.


Require authentication

You can prevent accidental purchases from the Play Store by turning on the authentication option.

This means that certain information, such as a password, must be entered to make a purchase.

Enable password or authentication for app purchases using:

Go to Apps > Play Store > Menu > Settings > Require authentication for purchases, and tap For all purchases through Google Play on this device.


Wi-Fi Assist

One of the biggest contributors to mobile data usage is a feature called Wi-Fi Assist on iOS and Smart Network Switch on Android.

It allows your smartphone to use mobile data when your Wi-Fi signal is poor.

Users can disable Wi-Fi assist using:

Go to Apps > Settings > Wi-Fi > Menu > Advanced > and tap Smart network switch.

If presented with a “Smart network switch” prompt, tap OK to continue.


Data warnings

Android allows you to track your data usage and disable your data connection when you’ve reached your limit.

Set a data usage warning or limit with:

Go to Apps > Settings > Data usage > Settings > tap the Data limit switch to enable > tap and adjust the Data limit and tap Set.


Data roaming

When travelling outside Vodacom’s network coverage, data roaming allows you to use data services on other carriers’ networks. Disable this with:

Go to Apps > Settings > Connections > Mobile networks, and disable the Data roaming option.


Wi-Fi hotspot

Users should turn off their Wi-Fi hotspot functionality if they are not using it and their other devices are connected to available hotspots.

Go to Apps > Settings > Connections > Mobile hotspot and tethering, and disable the Mobile hotspot option.


Content quality

Streaming high-quality music and video over mobile data can quickly add to your mobile data usage.

It’s also a good idea to download music or podcasts over Wi-Fi before playing them, instead of streaming over your mobile data.

Disable high-quality streaming in YouTube using:

Go to YouTube and tap on a video to begin the playback. Tap Menu > Gear, and select your preferred quality.


Compress your data

Users have the option of using an Internet browser which compresses data.

This lets you load lighter versions of web pages, resulting in data usage savings.

Browsers such as Opera Mini use a data compression tool.

Opera Mini also has a feature which shows you how much data is being used during browsing.


Social media apps

Facebook and Twitter are constantly introducing new features, which can use more data.

One of these features is the Autoplay functionality, which plays videos when you scroll over them.

Stopping auto-playing will prevent your device from quickly using data.

Disable the Autoplay feature in Facebook with:

Open your Facebook app > tap Settings, and disable the Videos play automatically option.


Cloud services

Many mobile devices automatically synchronise data to the Google cloud service.

Fortunately, there are settings that can be altered to save you mobile data.

Transfer files over Wi-Fi only using:

Go to Google Drive > Menu > Settings, and enable the Transfer files only over Wi-Fi option.


Now read: Disappearing airtime? Unsubscribe all WASPs

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How to stop “disappearing data”