Shopping for data packages: How much do you need?

RTTR Smartphone shopping guidelines


DETROIT – Every time you shop around for a new smartphone, you should also be reconsidering your data package. Are you spending too much for data that you're not using? If you review your phone habits carefully, you might be able to save some money. Although each person's habits will impact their decisions, there are some basic guidelines and questions you can ask to determine your needs.

Most tech experts generally agree. They say the average consumer can probably get away with a 1 gigabyte monthly data plan for a single device.

"A gigabyte will give you a fair amount of room as long as you don't download a lot of video... or really any video," said Lindsey Turrentine of CNET.

That means your phone will be used for just the basics: talking, texting, web-browsing and emails without large attachments. If your needs include using the device for video calls, streaming media, or big files you'll probably need 2 to 3 gigs per month, possible even more!

"You know, whether or not you think you're going to be traveling more and watching more and more video, then walk into a carrier's store and say: 'Here's the amount of data that I want what's they lowest price that you can get me without potential overages," said Turrentine.

If you're already using a smartphone, review your statements from the past year. What does your monthly usage really look like? Are you ever approaching your limit? If you've paid overage fees, maybe it's time for an upgrade. If you're consistently below 1 gig and you're paying for 2 or 3, you can save money each month.

Unfortunately, there are no "one size fits all" answers for the data decisions you'll be making. Your research may take a little time and effort, especially if you're looking for a family plan that includes a few devices.

The major carriers have data estimators on their websites that can help you make the decision. However, the results can vary as each company uses slightly different methods to calculate usage. No matter what you do, think carefully about taking the "unlimited" options, as that can be much more data that you really need.

Control Your Data Use

If you go with a smaller package, remember there are ways to avoid eating up too much data. Try using video functions only when there's Wi-Fi around. Also,remember many advertisers are using video ads that roll automatically. Those advertisements can take a bite out of your data plan, unless you change the settings on your phone.

"You can go into the settings and you can go into the cellular tab and actually go through each one of your apps and say 'I want this to use mobile data or not'" said Turrentine.

You can also change the settings on your phone to help track your usage each month, to make sure you know when you're approaching your limit.

Bottom line: do some research, know your actual usage, and go wireless whenever possible. Those steps could put you in the road to smaller data bills.

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