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How to Maximize Your Prepaid Data Plan

by on 04/09/2013 - 10:15 pm

Categories: Mobile Phones, Prepaid Carriers

So much for SMS and voice calling, data has become the new wireless commodity. But like all good things, data comes at a hefty price, especially if you use it more than you need.

Although a lot of prepaid plans advertise unlimited data; most carriers impose a cap that drastically reduces your internet speed after a certain threshold. To get the most out of your data, you need to be able to use it wisely.

Here are some tips on how you can maximize your prepaid data plan.

Use Apps to Monitor and Manage Your Data 

There are dozens of apps online that help monitor your data. These makes sure you never go over your budget or your data cap for the month. Apps like My Data Manager and 3G Watchdog allow you to set data limits for yourself on a daily, weekly and even monthly basis. Other apps like Onavo even help you monitor which other apps you own are hogging bandwidth. If you happen to have a smartphone, this is practically one of the first things you need installed if you’re planning to use data on the go.


Don't Stream Video 

Youtube is the ultimate eater of all data; and all you need to do is a bit of arithmetic to know just how bad it can get. A 5 minute 480p (standard resolution) video on YouTube is about 20 MB on average.

On T-Mobile’s $30 30MB web plan (which comes with 1,500 minutes or text messages), that’s immediately a third of your monthly allotment of data. But even on an unlimited data plan like the Simple Mobile’s $40 unlimited calling plans, you’re only really given 250MB of 4G speed. Net10’s $50 30-monthly plans give you up to 1.5 GB of unrestricted speeds, but that’s still not enough to keep you watching cats all day long.

If you do the math, that’s just 375 minutes of cat videos, spread across 30 days, which only amounts to literally 2 and half cat videos a day. And that’s assuming you don’t do anything else online.


Beware of Loopholes 

While prepaid plans are comparably cheaper than their postpaid counterparts, there are still prepaid plans that start off cheap but end up extremely expensive if you aren’t careful.

Take Verizon’s Pay-As-You-Go plan for instance, which only charges you when you use your phone, for texting, calling or data. At 99 cents a day for unlimited internet, it sounds like a deal. But that’s 99 cents a day for any amount of internet use. Even if you just check your mail for the day, that’s immediately 99 cents. If you check your mail everyday, it’ll cost you over $29 a month without voice or SMS charges. Make sure you know your monthly usage and get a plan that suits your needs.


Don't Use LTE

As of right now, only Sprint allows LTE usage through its prepaid MVNOs, so this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. But while AT&T and Verizon have been pretty mum about their prepaid LTE plans, T-Mobile has been very vocal about its intention to roll out LTE services for its prepaid subscribers. Either way, LTE is an enormous jump from 3G, and is an easy temptation to send your data usage soaring through the roof. 

While there is nothing inherently wrong with LTE (since a file with take as much MB to download through either 3G or 4G), it’s hard to not find yourself clicking around the web more than you should.


Update Your Apps Manually

Apps are pretty small, ranging from a few hundred kilobytes to maybe a couple of dozen megabytes. While it isn’t recommended that you download apps on the fly, it isn’t uncommon to need an app on the go. However, it’s important to be able to set all your apps to update manually instead of .


Send Texts Not Instant Messages

Most prepaid plans come with unlimited voice calls and text messaging; but hardly any come with (real) unlimited data. Instant messenger apps like Skype, Whatsapp and Viber are great ways to stay in touch with friends, family and co-workers, but if you’re on an unlimited text plan, it’s best that you save your keystrokes for SMS. Instant messages are only a couple of kilobytes in size, but they do tend to add up if you’re using it as your main point of contact. Make the most out of your SMS services and send texts instead.

The trick is to discipline yourself while using your internet on-the-go. Switch to Wifi hotspots as often as you can and only stick to the essentials when mobile.

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