Secret smartphone data savings tips

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation
CHICAGO (WLS) -- You could be wasting money and smartphone data without even knowing it. The I-Team found several ways to save data and it's as easy as adjusting the settings on your smartphone.

Many carriers are doing away with unlimited data packages and what you may not know is that your phone could constantly be pumping out wasted data.

The I-Team found some secret ways to save data and money.

Charlotte Day may be throwing money away on data.

"I just kept going over the usage every single month," said Day.

But if you dig into the settings of your phone you can save dollars in your wallet.

When it's on, "Wi-Fi Assist" uses cellular data to boost a weak Wi-Fi connection on iPhones, but tech experts say that's one of several data suckers.

"The carriers have realized they can make a lot of incremental money off of our habits," said Brad Spirrison of Participate Learning.

Spirrison showed the I-Team a few simple things you can do to save data and money on both iPhone and Android phones.

First, turn off the options for "Use Cellular Data" and "App Updates." This stops apps from automatically updating and eating up your data plan. You can wait until you're on Wi-Fi for those updates. For how to stop apps from using cellular data on an Android, click here.

Second, if you really don't need all of those push alerts, you can stop apps from refreshing in the background.

"On an iPhone, when you hit 'General' you are going to see 'Background App Refresh.' From here it gives me the ability to remove all of that," said Spirrison.

There is the option to turn off "Background App Refresh" for all apps or just pick certain ones to turn off.

You can also turn off features within each individual app. For example, on Spotify you can opt for "Normal" audio quality instead of "Extreme" quality. The extreme audio quality on the app eats up more data.

On Facebook, data savers can turn off auto-play of videos, unless you're on Wi-Fi.

For iPhone users, there's the option to turn off iMessage and still send texts and pictures through your carrier's cell phone signal.

"There's nothing wrong with a good old fashion text message SMS," said Spirrison. "A green text is old school but you will probably save a lot of money along the way."

According to the financial site, NerdWallet, customers from the largest carriers paid at least $600 million in data overages in 2015.

"The average user, when they do go over their data, they go over 1.7 gigs. So, that's about $25 in overage fees on average," said Daniel Tonkovich of NerdWallet.

So how much can you save if you follow all of these tips?

"Easily $15 a month. If you are a power user maybe $30 a month," said Spirrison.

The easiest way to save on data is to download one of several apps which can help you manage it or send alerts when you're about to go over your data limit.

Many of the phone carriers also have added built-in monitoring features to their own apps to help manage data usage.
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