November 29, 2014 11:57 AM   Subscribe

Help maximize my small data allowance!

I have 3GB a month for my prepaid smartphone (IPhone 4, Verizon). Before I upgrade and plan to pay more, how can I get the best out of this limited data plan? I'm looking for websites with lots of information but low data per page, e.g., no images or ads. Of course, there's MeFi, but I would like to hear of other sites (besides reddit). Any text message based info service or game is good too as the plan has unlimited text.
posted by bad grammar to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
3GB a month is plenty unless you're watching a ton of video on streaming endless music on your phone. Are you sure you meant GB? If yes, just use wifi when you can when streaming things, and you should be fine.

If 3GB was a typo, I can't imagine you meant 3MB, because then yes, that's a ridiculously low amount of data in which I wouldn't even attempt the internet with.
posted by cgg at 12:13 PM on November 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I'm currently doggedly holding on to my AT&T "unlimited" plan from the old days, but even watching a goodly amount of WatchESPN on LTE I rarely crack 3 GB. But I do mainly stream at home where I have wifi. If you don't have wifi anywhere...
posted by Fortran at 12:21 PM on November 29, 2014

Get an Instapaper account (free), go to, save the articles that sound interesting to Instapaper, and they will load on your phone without ads or pictures. Shut off the data connection on your phone after downloading so background apps aren't using data.

But yeah, if you really meant 3 GB, that is way more than enough unless you're watching video and streaming audio. Just use the phone like you normally would, and halfway through the month, see where you're at. If you've used more than 1.5GB, then slow down. On Verizon you can set up alerts so if you're about to go over your limit, you can purchase more data.

My ex and I had a month where we only had 3G data, no wifi or cable, and we still only used about 7 GB between the two of us. We weren't consciously trying to limit ourselves and we watched a few movies (standard def) and used Spotify.
posted by desjardins at 12:27 PM on November 29, 2014

Mrs. randomkeystrike and I share a 4 GB plan with two iphones, and I'd say the only thing I avoid doing while on the cellular network is streaming high-def movies. We tether tablets to it occasionally, and rarely a laptop. I don't think we've ever cracked 1 GB. We do have wifi at home and at work that we can get on.

What happens when randomkeystrike jr. #1 and randomkeystrike jr. #2 get cell phones around Christmas may be another matter.
posted by randomkeystrike at 1:41 PM on November 29, 2014

If you're using Gmail, change the way you access your account asap. They've just changed the design and now loading the inbox gobbles up 1.5MB each time, including refreshes.
posted by infini at 1:53 PM on November 29, 2014

Several mobile web browsers allow you to turn off image loading and compress data. Opera is great for that for iPhone. You can also go into your settings and prevent individual apps from using mobile data. You can just toggle on what you need when you're using it.

If you're looking for more data for less money and willing/able to switch from Verizon, reddit is a good resource, especially /r/NoContract and /r/Frugal. I don't know why/how people are saying you have "enough" data. They don't know! I use 5+ gigs/month (Streaming for several services like iheartradio and spotify is not counted a against my allotment on T-Mobile; it's a nice perk, so I usually stream an additional 3 gigs/month. If you get good T-Mobile service where you live, it's a great plan, only $30. There are some drawbacks, and it's kind of hard to sign up for, but it works for me.)
posted by lesli212 at 1:55 PM on November 29, 2014

Connect to wifi. If possible, use an app that lets you turn on wifi when you get home or to work.

Podcasts downloaded over wifi instead of streaming music on the go. Also make sure app updates happen on wifi only.
posted by gryftir at 2:13 PM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hmmm... I wonder if you meant 3G data, and not 3GB. (The iPhone 4 doesn't support LTE). In that case, please don't just take any previous advice (mine included!) about 3 GB being quite a lot of data, if that's not how much you have. OP, if you could confirm exactly how much data your plan has you might get some better tailored answers.
posted by cgg at 3:03 PM on November 29, 2014

If I were you I'd be asking "what do I want to do, and am I not capable of doing it now?" If you're already getting everything you need, why bother? (I'm holding onto my grandfathered VZW Unlimited plan out of principle, not because I ever use more than 500mb per month).

If you want to do more with your phone, start doing more, but keep an eye on your data use through the "My Verizon Wireless" info. Stop using data-intensive apps if you get close to your limit.

Or is the problem that you're already near your monthly quota and you're looking to do more of what you do already? In that case it would be helpful to know what kinds of things you already do.
posted by Alterscape at 3:16 PM on November 29, 2014

3gb is kind of a lot, trust me. i don't think i've ever used that much since i had an old tmobile plan years ago and didn't even have internet at home for a month or so after i'd moved.

i have a 3gb plan right now and don't worry at all about going over. most places have wifi, and i don't try and hold off on doing anything when i'm out and about.

i've never manually disabled images in a browser or anything.

seriously, it's harder than you think to even crack 2gb unless you're streaming netflix.

i'll also note that i'm the type of person who uses their phone a LOT every day, like i use it enough that i often have to plug in mid day. still not a real issue.
posted by emptythought at 4:01 PM on November 29, 2014

Response by poster: I installed My Data Manager to watch how the data flows. Ebay uses a lot of data due to the images. I will check out altering Gmail.

I'm used to a text-only version of the NYT and Washington Post loading on Operette on my old Prepaid LG, so setting up Opera on the iPhone is a good idea.

Yes I said 3GB. Installing apps has seemed to use up data fast.

I am already disciplining myself to use my tablet in the house, where wifi is part of the house access, and not the phone.
posted by bad grammar at 4:57 PM on November 29, 2014

Install apps while you're at home, using wifi.
posted by pompomtom at 5:04 PM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Go to the Cellular Setting and disable cellular data for as many apps as possible. Consider disabling usage for the App Store, FaceTime, and most games.
posted by oceano at 5:16 PM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a 2GB plan and rarely use half of that. I check email and web surf with abandon, and watch dozens of YT videos each month. I wait until I'm on wifi to install programs/updates or watch streaming HD. Just use a little restraint and you should be fine. Turn off auto-update of apps.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:32 PM on November 29, 2014

"hAHAH omg what move to New Zealand and find out what an actual problem is" he said eyeing his 750 MB allowance that is already mostly used up from behind the scenes android bullshit

But really, if you're just surfing and not downloading anything 3Gb is plenty.
posted by Sebmojo at 8:28 PM on November 29, 2014

If your house has wifi, just set your phone to connect to it when you're in range and you'll be fine.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:51 AM on November 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

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