Background Data Use – What You Need To Know

Your background data use can be your worst enemy or your best friend. As we mentioned in another article that we have on the subject, background data is something that many people on unlimited plans may not think twice about. Yet, if they travel or if they one day find that their coverage speed drops off they may want to look into their background data use a bit more closely. When you’re traveling this type of data use is the silent killer that could leave a surprise for you on your phone bill when you come back home. That’s exactly what we’re going to try and help you avoid in this particular article. At the same time we don’t want to be overly alarming. As mentioned before this is an issue that you deal with in limited capacity for the most part. 

Could background data use be the catalyst that lowers the speed that your network provides for your line? If you didn’t understand this question, let us explain. Even unlimited plans have a set amount of data that you’ll be able to use either per day or per month before your wireless service provider starts limiting the speed at which you can surf the web. Can background data be to blame? At the end of the day, when it comes to data usage everything adds up. Therefore, background data use may just be what puts you over the edge. Before we dive waist deep into that rabbit hole though, let’s introduce the topics that we’re going to be covering in this article. 

  • What Is Background Data Use? 
  • How Much Can It Affect The Way That You Use Your Phone? 
  • Ways To Limit Your Background Data Use
  • Should You Keep The Option on or Off? 
  • Beware of Background Data Use When You’re Traveling
  • Always Check If It’s On or Off  

What Is Background Data Use? 

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Your background data use is going to be the total amount of GB that the phone uses to access the internet on an app that you’re not necessarily looking at through the main screen. For example if you’re not necessarily using any app on your phone and you get a notification from IG or Facebook your phone has to use background data to be able to pull notification and send it to the main screen. This type of background data use is one of the more common instances that take place for most people. As you can imagine the amount of data that is being used up to pull your notifications is usually not absurd.

In a sense though, background data use contemplates any data that is used by the phone to feed the functions of an app, even when you’re not looking directly at that app in that particular time. Sometimes you don’t necessarily get a notification that background data use is occurring; this can be a rather big deal. Particularly, if you’re currently on a very limited data plan. Of course, it can get even worse for people who are operating under a roaming scheme. Data roaming can be really expensive, and to have to pay for data that you’re not necessarily “enjoying” if you will just doesn’t seem to make a ton of sense. 

How Much Can It Affect The Way That You Use Your Phone? 

That really depends on the type of plan that you have, and where you’re using your phone. With many Americans for example switching to unlimited plans the thought of counting up how many GB of data they are using per month isn’t necessarily something that’s top of mind. If you ever find yourself outside of your coverage area though, and you completely disregard your background data use you could come back home to a nasty bill. The issue when traveling may not even just be a price concern that you have to account for. When you’re using your phone through a roaming payment scheme, cost is the main concern. Simply put, in roaming the more data you use the more you pay, and the prices can go way over the top in heartbeat. 

Speed may just be an issue that is way more of a day to day concern. Particularly if you’re not having proper background data use. Do you feel like your phone gets slower at the end of the day? That may come down to the fact that your background data use is pushing you over your limit of high speed data usage that you may have per day. The issue with unlimited plan users is that they feel that they can use up as much data as they want. That’s essentially true, the thing is all of the service providers have speed caps on data usage. If you use too much they’ll dial back the speed at which you can use the web on your phone. This affects apps, web calls, and overall phone usage. 

Ways To Limit Your Background Data Use

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An important thing to consider is how much of your background data use you actually want to limit. We’ve more or less explained some of the reasons behind this, but here it goes again. If you find that you’re going over the daily data usage cap on your unlimited plan then one of the ways that you can limit your background data use is to just make sure that you close apps that you aren’t using. When an app is active in the background it typically uses up more than data that an app that is fully dormant. Even for example if you close Instagram, and you don’t do anything else you’ll still get notifications from the app. It won’t be constantly updating itself  in the background though, which is basically what you’re looking to avoid. 

The other option that you’re going to have is certainly a bit more drastic. It involves going into your settings and literally turning off your background data usage. This makes a lot of sense if you’re traveling or if you’re on a limited data plan. What you’re looking to get out of this is to clearly diminish the amount of data that you’re using in total. There could be a bit of a downside to this. This is something that we’re going to be getting to in the next couple of paragraphs. We would say that these two methods that we’ve described are essentially the two best ways to limit your background data use. 

Should You Keep The Option on or Off? 

When you’re trying to limit data usage in general one of the first recommendations that people will tend to give you is to turn your background data off. It certainly makes sense to do this for a variety of reasons. One thing though, that we want to point out is that you have to think about whether you can afford to do this or not. We’re not necessarily talking about money here. The thing is, when you turn background data use off on all apps you won’t be getting updates from the apps that you are not necessarily looking at on the main screen at any given time. Can you afford to not get text message updates?   

There are certainly ways to get around the problem that we just described. All that you have to do is make sure that you’re checking your phone with some regularity, and open up the apps that you want to get updates from. The problem with this though, is that you may find yourself using up more data since you have to turn over every rock to get updates. Of course, the dilemma that we just described is essentially a worst case scenario. If you really need to save data you may have no other choice but to turn your background data usage off and just respond to updates, and texting through apps whenever you can find the time to get on your phone and open these apps up.

Beware of Background Data Use When You’re Traveling

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Background data use may not be such a complex issue locally. Unless, as we’ve mentioned, you’re on a limited data plan or you spend too much data to the point where your navigation speed is slowing up on you because you’re a liability to the wireless service company more than a client. When you’re traveling though you are almost always going to want to use up as little data as you can. There are two main reasons for this, and they are surprisingly similar to the ones we’ve already talked about. Obviously if you’re using your phone on a roaming pay scheme, using up a ton of data is not wise. Unless you really don’t care about having to pay your wireless service provider a fortune when you get back home. 

Speed caps are the other reason why you don’t want to use up too much data when you’re abroad. Even if you’ve bought the travel pass or a local SIM card to get coverage using your phone as you normally would can lead to you having to pay more money. On most travel pass options that American wireless service companies offer you’ll pay ten dollars a day for “unlimited” coverage. They’re not lying, the coverage is unlimited, but it can drop to 2G speeds after you’ve used up X number of MB in one day. It’s almost like running a pro sports team. You have to know and understand the cap situation to be able to get the most out of your coverage when traveling! 

Always Check If It’s On or Off  

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Is this something that should more or less dominate your daily life? If you’re someone who has an unlimited plan and you don’t really care about your overall data usage then you’re probably not the person who’s reading this article. In most phones once you turn your background data use off it’s not going to come back on unless you reverse the action. If you reset the phone though or let the battery die out and turn it back on we’ve seen certain configurations be altered. Therefore, it could be a good idea to check where you’re at from time to time. Particularly if you’re noticing that you’re losing data speed or that your prepaid plan isn’t lasting as long as it should.   

When you’re traveling we do feel that you have to be aware of your overall data usage. This is certainly one of the elements that you have to account for. In most phones you can search for background data in your settings, and it should pop up exactly at the spot where you can turn it on or off. We’re not going to give out a step by step process on how to do that because it can vary depending on the type of phone that you have. Use the search bar within the phone and make your life easier. 

Background Data Use Conclusion

At the very least you have to be aware of the fact that you’re using up this type of data, particularly when you’re traveling. The last thing that you want is to find out that you had your background data on when you get your next phone that is probably going to be through the roof. Overall we could make the argument that background data use has become less of a topic of interest for people as unlimited plans have become more and more popular. As we’ve mentioned through the article though, there could come a time where you’re going to be looking to save data, and this is a great place to start. 

You don’t have to worry too much about your background data usage on a daily basis. It’s a good idea though to locate where on your phone you’re able to turn it on or off. That way when the time comes you can take that step instead of doing something more drastic like shutting off your phone entirely to make sure that you’re not using up data. We’ve explored some of things that you can do to make sure that you don’t get charged with roaming fees and put yourself in a bad spot moving forward.

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