How to Throttle Back Your 3G Data Usage on AT&T
AT&T announced this month that it would no longer offer an unlimited data plan to its smartphone users – leaving existing customers and potential converters wondering if and how they can stay below the data cap.
The new data plans are called the DataPlus and DataPro plans, which are capped at 200 megabytes (MB) and 2 gigabytes (GB), respectively. The DataPlus plan costs $15 per month, while the DataPro plan is $25 monthly. An additional fee is added to the bill if you go over your allotted data limit.
According to AT&T, the data caps are more a benefit than not for smartphone owners as both plans are less expensive than the previous $30 unlimited one. But while the new plans might solve AT&T’s network woes, they’re sure to bring confusion and anxiety to AT&T customers.
Noam Birnbaum, president at MacCentric Solutions, a support firm for businesses that use Apple technologies, blames the switch to capped data plans on the hugely popular iPhone, which "caught AT&T by surprise."
“Suddenly they’ve got millions of users trying to push more data through AT&T’s lines than they were prepared for and they don’t have the infrastructure for it,” Birnbaum said.
“So AT&T is playing a catch-up game to build the infrastructure to support all this intense traffic … it’s a problem for them.”
This could be one of the reasons why AT&T decided to nix its unlimited data plan in favor of capped plans.
“I think it’s going to help solve AT&T’s problem because I expect people being cost cautious will scale back some of their more intense usage,” Birnbaum said. “But it’s certainly not going to make people happy because, of course, iPhone users are accustomed to having the Internet in their pockets and all of a sudden that Internet in their pockets may cost them more than it did previously."
Curbing your iPhone appetite
If you currently have the $30 unlimited data plan for your AT&T smartphone, you can keep it. AT&T won't force you to switch. But if you're purchasing a new smartphone, you'll have to pick one of the data-capped plans.
If you do find yourself on one of these capped plans, you can keep from going over your limit by remembering a few simple things. Images, videos and Web surfing suck up the most data bits , while simple text, via email for instance, uses very little.
If you plan to download images and videos, make sure you’re connected to Wi-Fi, Birnbaum said. As soon as you connect to a Wi-Fi network, you get off of the cellular network and any data that you use won't count against your 2GB limit.
Connecting to Wi-Fi for high data consuming activities is the biggest way to stay under the data limit. Anything beyond that is “little stuff,” Birnbaum said.
Here’s a list of ways that Birnbaum suggests to reduce data consumption beyond the Wi-Fi switch.
- Turn off "Push" email alerts, which download new messages to your inbox as soon as they are received. Set your phone so it doesn’t automatically download your email unless you open up the email program. (Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Fetch New Data > Push > Off). Other apps could have a similar setting that synchronizes with servers on timers.
- Change up your apps. Some apps let you transfer data via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth instead of the cellular network. One example is using the Bump app to send contact info (and photos) to friends instead of through email.
- Send baby pics the old-fashioned way. Babies are amazing little creatures but viewing several pictures of these cuties a day can eat up your data.