Android phone showing apps

Struggling to manage your data usage on Android? With all the apps we download from the Google Play Store and streaming services we watch shows on, it’s easy to rack up high data usage. However, it may not always be your fault.

If you’re not connected to Wi-Fi, scrolling through apps, hopping on video calls, and downloading files can take a significant toll on your phone bill. What’s worse, apps running in the background can sneakily use data and some of these could be malicious, including Android malware such as SpyLoan.

Not to worry, as there are plenty of ways to reduce high data usage on your Android and stop unsuspecting Android malware from using data to steal your information.

This guide will help you reduce your data usage on Android and show you how to protect yourself from malicious apps using the best antivirus software.

How to check for your data usage on Android

It’s important to know how much data your Android device is using. Furthermore, figuring out which apps are contributing the most to high data usage will let you know if you should limit their data and if there’s a suspicious app taking up too much.

Here’s how to check your data usage on Android:

  1. On your Android, swipe up to access your app drawer and open the Settings app.
  2.  Tap Network and Internet.
  3.  Choose SIMs and select your active SIM.
  4.  Tap App data usage.
  5.  Here, you can check how much mobile data usage individual apps use.
App Data Usage Settings on Android

How to reduce data usage on your Android

While many mobile carriers offer users unlimited data plans, there still may be a usage threshold that limits the amount of data you use. Moreover, many Android owners may be unable to afford this plan, opting for data limits ranging from 5GB to 100GB.

Going past this limit isn’t ideal, especially if you want to avoid costly phone bills or throttling.

Here are key ways to reduce your data usage on Android.

  1. Enable Data Saver mode

    Data Saver mode on Android 2

    Data Saver mode is a built-in feature in Android that restricts background data usage, preventing apps from constantly refreshing content and consuming data when you’re not actively using them.

    To activate Data Saver mode on Android, go to Settings > Network and Internet > Data Saver. From here, toggle the switch to turn on Data Saver.

  2. Limit background data for apps

    Limit app background data on Android 1

    Many apps continue to use data in the background even when you’re not actively using them. That’s right; even if you’ve left your phone in another room, it can still use data.

    To control which apps can use background data, open Settings > Network and Internet > SIMs > SIM Provider > App data usage. Tap on each app and toggle off the Background data switch for apps you don’t want to use data when not in use.

  3. Set a data limit

    Set data limit on Android

    If you want to cut off data so it doesn’t go over a certain limit, you can set a data warning and data limit of your choosing.

    To set a data limit, head to Settings > Network and Internet > SIMs > SIM Provider > Data warning and limit. Here, you can toggle the Set data warning and Set data limit switches. Choose the amount of GB you wish to limit the amount of data you use.

  4. Download content over Wi-Fi

    Free Wi-Fi signal

    When you have access to Wi-Fi, download content like music, podcasts, movies, and TV episodes from streaming services. This way, you can access them offline when you’re on mobile data, minimizing data usage.

    If you’re connected to public Wi-Fi, be aware that you’re at risk sharing your information to threat actors. These unsecure networks are the usual culprits for malware spreading through Wi-Fi and unknown Bluetooth devices connecting to your Android. That’s why it’s best to use antivirus software (more on that below).

  5. Disable auto-updates

    Auto updates on Google Play Store on Android 2

    Apps are constantly updating to fix bugs and introduce new features. While updates are necessary, especially for security, they can consume significant data. To prevent automatic app updates over cellular data, open Google Play Store > Menu (profile icon in top-right corner) > Settings > Network preferences > Auto-update apps. From here, choose Over Wi-Fi only.

  6. Use antivirus software to check for malicious apps

    Norton 360 antivirus on Android phone

    If a suspicious app you’ve downloaded is taking up way too much data, it’s likely to be malware. These infected apps often use data in the background to steal information or cause damage to your Android device.

    The best way to get rid of malware on Android is to use the best antivirus software.

    Many free malware removal apps will dispatch malicious software on your device, but it’s a good idea to make sure these tools are trustworthy, as hackers can also disguise these apps on the Google Play Store to deploy even more malware.

    The best antivirus apps come with a suite of security features that can eliminate viruses, malware, ransomware, spyware or any malicious software that burrows into your Android. Some antivirus software, such as Norton 360 (from $19.99/year), offers security subscriptions specifically for Android, making it a more cost-effective option for those who only need Android protection.

    We also recommend free apps from known cybersecurity companies, including Avast OneAVG and Malwarebytes Mobile Security. These will detect and remove malicious software on your Android. 

Signs of malware on Android

High data usage due to a malicious app won’t only take up a lot of data but can also steal important information, such as your email, passwords, and banking information.

There are many signs that your Android device is infected, including:

  • Your device is slower than usual and crashes frequently.
  •  Your browser is slower than usual and crashes frequently.
  •  Browsing through websites takes longer.
  •  You need to recharge your device more often.
  •  Apps take longer to load.
  •  There’s an unknown app or software on your device you didn’t download.
  •  Pop-up ads appear more frequently.
  •  Your Android is overheating.

Check for unfamiliar apps

With over 3 million apps on the Google Play Store, it’s common for Android users to download dozens of apps for different use cases and eventually forget they are installed. Unfortunately, hackers exploit this by hiding malware-infected apps in plain sight. Once an app is installed, threat actors can update apps to change the icon image and title or hide the app on your Android’s home screen.

Scroll through all your Android apps in the App Drawer and check for unfamiliar apps you don’t remember installing.

Check your battery life

Malware is known to use your Android device’s resources in the background, making it harder for users to detect malicious activity. On a mobile device, this can deplete its daily battery life. If your Android’s battery life is running out sooner than expected, it’s worth checking Battery settings to see if an app is causing the issue.

Head into Settings > Battery > Battery Usage to check if any unfamiliar apps are consuming a high amount of your Android’s battery life.

Watch out for pop-up ads

While pop-up advertisements are inevitable in apps and browsers when scrolling through websites, seeing too many is concerning.

If an app or website keeps redirecting you to different web pages and installing

Darragh Murphy
Darragh Murphy is fascinated by all things bizarre, which usually leads to assorted coverage varying from the mischievous world of online security to washing machines designed for earbuds. Whether it's connecting Scar from The Lion King to two-factor authentication or turning his love for laptops into a fabricated rap battle from 8 Mile, he believes there’s always a quirky spin to be made. When he's not checking out the latest devices and all things tech, he can be found swimming laps, watching terrible shark movies, and trying to find time to game.  Previous Editor at Laptop Mag and News Editor at Time Out Dubai, specialising in food culture, nightlife events, gaming, tech and entertainment.

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