How to monitor and limit your data usage on an Android phone

Although many data plans are advertised as “unlimited” these days, most actually have a cut-off point at which your data stream will radically slow down. If you don’t want to pay the premium prices that “unlimited” plans charge, then it’s even more important that you don’t exceed your maximum data allowance or you’ll incur heavy penalties. Either way, it’s wise to monitor your data flow—not only to make sure you’re staying within your limits, but also to find out if you need to reconsider your current data plan.

It’s not difficult to do this with tools built into recent versions of Android or a third-party app. Here are a few strategies you can try. (Note: These instructions are for a Pixel 6 running Android 12. Your phone’s interface may vary slightly depending on the make, model, and OS version.)

Set a data limit

You can set your phone to alert you when you’re approaching your data limit before the end of your monthly billing cycle. You can even set a limit beyond which your phone will not consume data.

  • Go to settings
  • Go to Network & Internet > Internet and tap the gear icon next to your carrier name
  • Above you can see the amount of data you have used so far in your current payment cycle. Scroll down and select Data Warning & Limit.
  • Tap on Mobile data usage cycle. This allows you to set the day your account begins its monthly cycle. Your current cycle is probably set to sync with your wearer’s, but if you want to change it, go ahead and then stick it on Sentence.
  • Switch Set data alert At. You can then enter the data limit – say 4GB – you want for your phone.

On the same page you can toggle Set data limit At. This will turn off your mobile data completely when it reaches the limit you set.

Use data saver mode

Unless you have a much older version of Android (older than 8.0), your phone should come with Data Saver, which kicks in when you’re not connected to Wi-Fi and ensures that apps and services that aren’t actively used are shut down , win not be able to stream data in the background. It can slow things down a bit, but if you’re worried about exceeding your data limit for the month, it can come in handy.

It is very easy to turn on and off data saver mode.

  • Go to settings > Network & Internet > data saver
  • Switch Use data saver At

There may be certain apps that you want to allow to use background data even when data saver is turned on. For example, you may want to receive Twitter notifications no matter where you are.

  • On the Internet page, tap Unrestricted Data
  • Scroll down to any apps you want to enable to use background data even when data saver is turned on. Turn them on.

Limit data usage to specific apps

The data saver mode is useful, but it can also be irritating if it restricts apps too much. Instead of turning it on and specifying which apps shouldn’t be restricted, you can decide which apps are using the most data and just restrict them.

Again, these instructions will work for a Pixel 6 running Android 12; Your mileage may vary based on your specific mobile device.

  • Go to settings > Network & Internet > Internet
  • Scroll down and select Data usage outside of the mobile operator

When using data without a carrier, you get a list of data-hungry apps.

Select specific apps for details and opt out of background data usage.

Select specific apps for details and opt out of background data usage.

You’ll get a list of all the apps that have used data in the last month and how much they have used. (You can change the time period to display by tapping the time period at the top of the page.)

To see if an app is using background data, tap the app. You get details on how much data the app used; You can also toggle the use of background data on or off and decide whether you want it to continue to have unrestricted data usage when Data Saver is enabled.

Update Mar 23, 2022 2:20pm ET: This article was originally published on August 22, 2019 and has been edited to reflect OS updates.