Which apps and services are the worst offenders when it comes to chewing through your data plan?
In the early days of cell phones, it was all about the minutes -- voice minutes, that is, because people used their phones to call each other. (Weird, right?) You had to limit your conversations or suffer the horrors of overage charges.
Today, it's all about the data. Even if your plan is "unlimited," there's almost always an asterisk. After you burn through the first couple gigabytes, your high-speed connection throttles back to something closer to dial-up. (Talk about horrors!) And if you're with a pay-as-you-go service like Ting, unchecked data consumption could leave you in a higher-priced tier when the bill comes due.
Whatever your plan, it makes sense to conserve data. And what's the easiest way to do that? Connect to Wi-Fi wherever and whenever possible. Sure, it takes a few extra taps to connect to a network in, say, a coffee shop or airport lounge, and you make feel like it's not worth the hassle if you've got five 4G bars showing.
Depending on what you're planning to do with your phone, however, it may absolutely be worth it. Here are five of the biggest data hogs you want to avoid (or at least reduce) when there's no Wi-Fi available:
1. YouTube uploads
Just can't wait to share that epic video of your friend wiping out on his skateboard? Or your totally legit Bigfoot sighting? Upload at your own risk: Depending on settings and various other factors, each minute of HD video you shot can be as large as 200MB.
So if you upload just five 1-minute videos per month, that would eat a full gigabyte of your data allotment. Wait till there's Wi-Fi!
2. Video chats
Stop the Skyping! And the FaceTiming. And all the other video calling -- if you want to save data. Though the rate of consumption varies depending on the app you use and resolution of your chat, a Jetsons-style phone call can cost you up to 3MB per minute.
3. Online gaming
Don't worry, Trivia Crack addicts, turn-based games like this and Words With Friends aren't heavy data-users. However, real-time action games like Asphalt 8 and Modern Combat 5: Blackout are a different story, with some estimates pegging their data use at 1MB per minute of play.
4. Music streaming
It's so easy (and awesome) to plug into Pandora or Spotify when you're, say, riding the train home from work, you might not realize what it's doing to your data plan.
What it's doing is killing your cap. If a music service streams at a 320Kbps bit rate, that's 2.4MB of data per minute, or a whopping 115MB per hour. Even if you tune in only a couple times per week, it's easy to rack up big data numbers. Fortunately, a lot of mobile apps let you downshift to a lower bit rate, a very advisable move if you must listen on the go.
Pandora, it's worth noting, never streams at more than 64Kbps on mobile devices, even if you're a Pandora One subscriber.
One other option: if your music service allows it (and most do nowadays), download your tunes (via Wi-Fi, of course) for offline listening.
5. Video streaming
If music streaming is bad, video trumps it by an order of magnitude. Awesome though it may be to binge on episodes of "Black Mirror" or trending YouTube vids when you're on the treadmill at the gym, streaming can swallow as much as 50MB per minute.
That's according to Netflix, which estimates 3GB per hour for HD video. Of course, those numbers can and will vary across different services (Hulu, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube, etc.), but there's no question that video does the most damage to your data plan.
Fortunately, with a little advance planning, you can watch on the go without using any data at all. Consider a service like PlayLater, which allows you to "record" streaming video from the likes of Hulu and Netflix for offline viewing on mobile devices. Likewise, a smattering of YouTube apps let you save videos right to your phone so you can rewatch them later -- no connection required.