Samsung galaxy 4 and data use - way too much
June 19, 2013 7:04 AM   Subscribe

My daughter just got the Samsung galaxy 4 last month. It is using up data like a bat outta hell. I mean really fast. I told her to switch to wifi (like I do with my S3) whenever possible. I'm sure she has a lot of apps and of course she texts as much as any other twenty something year old. Thing is, she says that she can't send/receive texts and phone calls when she is in wifi only mode. We are with Verizon. Is this normal? What can we do?
posted by sandra194 to Technology (25 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Here are some things that might help:

1. Turn off the GPS.
2. Go through settings for each app and turn off sync for apps which don't need it. For example, the Google Play store is probably set to update apps automatically - that eats data. Turn that option off.
3. Facebook also uses a hell of a lot of data. Try turning off background sync for it, so it only updates when she's looking at it.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:09 AM on June 19, 2013

Not sure about the specific phone, but you don't want her to switch to wifi only mode --- just to turn wifi on. Wifi only mode will turn off the cellular radio and, yes, stop her fon receiving calls and texts.

It sounds like her frustration at not getting texts leads to her turning wifi off and burning through data. If you just turn wifi on without turning the phone part off, this would probably be less of a problem.
posted by suedehead at 7:11 AM on June 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

WiFi only disables the cellular radio so texts and calls won't work.
On stock android you can see your data usage broken down by app under settings, Data usage. Samsung touchwiz should have something similar. That should give you an idea of what is using up the data. Use the data hungry app less on cell data.

What do you consider "a lot"? 1-2 GB is probably normal.
posted by TheAdamist at 7:15 AM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

On my iPhone there's a separate on/off setting for "cellular data" which does not affect voice or text functions. I leave "wifi" turned on all the time, and leave 'cellular data' turned off unless I'm away from home and need to check email or something. Voice and texts work just fine regardless. Do android phones not have equivalent settings?
posted by jon1270 at 7:18 AM on June 19, 2013

I get data alerts from verizon saying that she has used 90% of her data allowance for the particular billing cycle
posted by sandra194 at 7:18 AM on June 19, 2013

What is her data allowance? Without knowing that we can't know if she's using abnormally large amounts of data or not.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:19 AM on June 19, 2013

Set app updating to wifi only. Does she have anything that auto uploads her pictures? Google plus does this (possibly facebook too) set that to wifi only as well.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:21 AM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you want to make sure Google Play auto updates are set to wifi only in the settings of that particular app. Open up Play Store, hit the settings button on the bottom left of the phone (the three straight lines) and set it to update with wifi only. I ran into this problem when I first got my S4 too, because it installed and auto-updated all my apps from my previous account on my Galaxy S2, and that took up a hell of a lot of data. It was a one-time kinda thing though, so it might just get better naturally in the next month, but it is still wise to update your apps only through wifi just in case.
posted by Grither at 7:22 AM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Under Android Settings > Data Usage you can view data usage by application and time of day. You can also set warning and limit levels.
posted by odinsdream at 7:24 AM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

What can we do?

Like others are saying, make sure wifi is enabled, but not in wifi only mode.

The obvious solution here is to stop micromanaging her phone use, and make it clear that if she goes over her data limit, any fees that get added on top come out of her pocket. You may be surprised how quickly the problem gets solved once it becomes her problem.
posted by phunniemee at 7:40 AM on June 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

Oh, even though you guys are on Verizon, this little data usage calculator from AT&T is good for helping visualize the things you actually do on your phone.
posted by phunniemee at 7:41 AM on June 19, 2013

Texting doesn't use much data at all. The culprit is usually streaming video.
posted by acidic at 7:51 AM on June 19, 2013

I use something called Onavo Count to restrict high data usage apps to wifi only. It also tells me where I'm using my data. I can switch things over if I for some reason need to stream video over cell, but it avoids any accidental usage. I never turn my phone to wifi only and have never gone over the limit, or even come close.

She should also make sure that anything that auto-downloads (podcasts, updates to apps) is set to go on wifi only.
posted by jeather at 7:56 AM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

When my Samsung Galaxy Note was update to the latest version it had the option to backup various things - including pictures to dropbox. If she has that enabled and takes a lot of pictures, I imagine that would eat a lot of data but as odinsdream and TheAdamist have said you can see which apps are using data and how much in settings->data usage
posted by missmagenta at 8:00 AM on June 19, 2013

I get data alerts from verizon saying that she has used 90% of her data allowance [...]

This isn't meaningful; 90% of a 1GB allowance is completely different than, say, chewing through 90% of 5GB. The former wouldn't be unexpected on a 4G smartphone and might indicate an unrealistically low data limit, while the latter might signify an actual problem.

As a datapoint, I am not an especially heavy data user (no streaming audio/video ever), I have an oldish phone (SII) on a pseudo-4G (T-Mobile) system, and have WiFi most of the day. I burn through a GB/month pretty easily.

Looking at data consumption, the biggest users are Google+ (probably due to photo synching, which can be disabled), Facebook, Google Play (this is even with only-update-on-WiFi selected), Chrome, and Maps. Disabling background updates to Facebook might help a bit, but there's not a huge amount of slack in there.

You can set a mobile data limit (Settings / Data Usage / check the mobile data limit box and set the warning and limit levels conservatively) which will keep the phone from exceeding a cap. WiFi usage won't count towards this, and once the phone hits the cap SMS will continue to work.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:03 AM on June 19, 2013

I use an app for Android called 3G Watchdog. It keeps track of data in a pretty standard way that I can get from my service provider, but it comes with a widget I can place on my home screen to let me toggle 3G/4G on and off because I see no point in my phone syncing various apps when I can't look at them/am looking at them on my laptop and wifi is unavailable. There are a lot of apps that do this.

Seconding making sure app updates and photo uploads are set to only occur on wifi.
posted by itsonreserve at 8:24 AM on June 19, 2013

You could always make her pay for her own plan.
posted by danep at 8:39 AM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a note 2 and the UI will be quite similar to an S 4.

If all I do is turn wifi on or off, I can still call and text. Looking at the UI I don't see any "use wifi only," and the only way I'm aware to do that would be to enable airplane mode, and then specifically turn on wifi. It should definitely be possible to be on wifi, and still receive texts / calls. Ensure that she's not doing something silly with airplane mode.

This could potentially be a hardware issue, but this should be something you can get fixed under warranty - it's certainly not a design mis-feature.

From the main settings app, the third option from the top is data usage. Selecting that, if I scroll down, I get a per-app usage info. If you don't get that, there are other apps (I use 3G watchdog on my and my son's devices) that will do that in case your options are different.

While google play was set to only auto-update on wifi, my son was still immediately installing stuff recommended while on the playground / bus, and went through his quota quickly. Showing him that, and showing data usage charges, which he'd have to pay if both Lady nobeagle and I used our full quota's (family data plan lumps our quota's together) certainly opened his eyes (in fear). It would be about his full weekly allowance at his then current usage.

If you're going to turn off data after it hits quota, don't use the main android system to do it. I had this configured for my son (his phone's an original galaxy S on CM10), and the notification that comes up is simply "data has been disabled. Click to re-enable" , and I'm betting that you can guess what he did without thinking about why. 3G watchdog (the app I use), uses color, and better description so he knows, "Oh, I've blown through my quota" instead of just seeing something that looks like a minor nag.

If you show your daughter what she'll pay for going over (and hold her fully responsible), she'll quickly warm to the idea of not going over quota. Or she'll consider it worth the cost, and that's her economic choice ; it's a good time for her to decide what she wants to spend her money on. But it's also a really good time to teach her to not waste money and feel that she needs to be constantly throwing money to the cell phone companies.
posted by nobeagle at 8:52 AM on June 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

There are a few apps that let you track usage of cellular data at the app level so you can see what the culprit is. I haven't used it, but Onavo Count seems well reviewed. Some others listed here.
posted by exogenous at 9:03 AM on June 19, 2013

I use Juicedefender - does a couple of things - only turns data on at set intervals, keeps my battery going, and only turns wifi on in locations it learns that wifi is useful. Overall it probably cuts down my background data usage by a few orders of magnitude and it saves me from having to worry about recharging it very often.
posted by iamabot at 9:03 AM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Texting doesn't use much data at all.

In fact, SMS texting piggybacks on an existing data control channel that your phone is constantly using. Enormous amounts of texting would have zero impact on your data usage. The provider may meter SMS by the message otherwise, but it's not part of your "data package" quota.
posted by odinsdream at 9:16 AM on June 19, 2013

For texting you could set up Google Voice which send texts through wifi. Does Verizon have Wifi calling? T-Mobile, my carrier, automatically detects bad cell reception and will route over wifi if available. It works VERY well and allows me to call perfectly from the inside of my metal office coffin, which was impossible with AT&T.

As others have suggested, you should look at her data usage in the settings. It should be able to tell you what's used the most. I bet it's some sort of streaming video or photo uploads being sent via cellular network. You could also bump her up to the next tier of data and have her pay for the difference until she gets it under control.
posted by dozo at 9:31 AM on June 19, 2013

"99.9% of new mobile malware detected in the first quarter of 2013 is designed to hit Android phones", according to a report released by online security firm Kaspersky Lab.

Anything else; iOS, Windows, Blackberry, Symbian, etc is safer. Check the phone for an infection.

posted by Leenie at 9:52 AM on June 19, 2013

The biggest culprits of data are streaming video and streaming music. She needs to ensure that whenever she does both of those, she does it on WiFi. No more looking at skateboarding dogs on YouTube when she's out and about.

If you turn WiFi on, then the phone will always prefer WiFi to mobile data. I would recommend keeping it on all the time. Yes, it'll mean that the phone will have to be charged every night (and possibly during the day) but it's the price you pay.

For app updates, ensure that the phone doesn't download them over mobile data. Apps should only ever update over WiFi.

For email, ensure that attachments are not automatically downloaded. She only needs someone to send her a 2MB file and the very act of receiving the email and opening it will mean she's now 2MB down.

Look at 3G Watchdog, it can track her quota and the data used (whilst ignoring WiFi). It'll also tell her if, at the rate she's going, she will burn through her quota before the end of her billing cycle.

Failing all of that, make her pay for the extra data used. She'll quickly decide her priorities!
posted by mr_silver at 4:13 AM on June 20, 2013

You guys!!! Thanks for the all of the info!! And I totally agree with the make-her-pay-for-extra data advise. She has an internship this summer so she has the money to do it. I told her that last night and she looked at me like I had 2 heads and a tail--yeah, whatever--but she gets the message. She started going through her apps and changing any auto updates. She and I both will download 3G watchdog.
posted by sandra194 at 6:24 AM on June 20, 2013

« Older Ironing out a suit issue   |   Game of Violence Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.