3 tricks to using less data when browsing on Android

If you're looking to save money on your data plan, check out these tips.

You've got access to the world wide Web in your pocket. Now you want to start looking up info and reading sites. Unfortunately, you must keep your data use within your data plan's limit, or having a smartphone could be prohibitively expensive. No problem. Check out these three tips to keep your data usage in check while Web browsing.

Tip 1: Make sure you're on mobile
Most Web sites have full and mobile versions. The differences between the two are their layouts and amount of content. Generally, the mobile version has far fewer page elements to load and is optimized for viewing on a smaller screen. This translates into less data usage for you. Web sites will normally detect if you're on a mobile device and display the content accordingly, but just make sure you haven't slipped into full mode accidentally. You can tell you are in mobile mode by finding "m" or the word "mobile" in the URL, or by scrolling to the bottom of the page to see if there's a link for the "Full site"--indicating that you're currently viewing the mobile version. If you don't see any of those indicators, you're probably viewing the full site and should switch to the mobile version by replacing the "www" in the URL with the letter "m." For example, with CNET, to get to our mobile site on your phone go to http://m.cnet.com, as opposed to http://www.cnet.com for the full site.

CNET's mobile version. Screenshot by Nicole Cozma

CNET's full version on a mobile device. Screenshot by Nicole Cozma

Tip 2: Keep the cache
A lot of task managers and cleaning utilities for your phone love to delete the browser cache. This is not always a good thing, unless the cache is so great in size that it's planning a takeover of your handset. While clearing some application cache files out is not a terrible idea, it does mean that you will need to redownload those images to display them again. If there are sites you visit often, having their images in your cache means your phone can load them from memory, not the data connection.

Save your cache files if you have the space. Screenshot by Nicole Cozma

Tip 3: Switch or improve your browser
Android comes with its own stock Web browser, but that doesn't mean you're stuck using it a particular way--or even at all. You can opt to view a text-only version of Web sites by creating a bookmark to a Web site converter. BareSite and TinyRead can strip images and ads from sites and deliver just the text to your stock browser. Or, you can opt to switch out your browser for Opera Mini (which offers a compression feature for faster loading) or even TextOnly (a free text-only Web browser).

Opera Mini displaying CNET's mobile version. Screenshot by Nicole Cozma

TextOnly (Web browser) showing just the text from CNET's site. Screenshot by Nicole Cozma

What are some of the creative ways you've saved on data usage?

 

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