Unless you sign up to an all-you-can-eat mobile data contract, you’re probably going to run out of data at some point.
And while that might be problematic for a satellite broadband customer, whose line speed is instantly throttled back, smartphone users immediately drop onto pay-as-you-go data.
However, each extra gigabyte of additional data tends to be comparatively expensive when added to existing contract costs.
That may come as an unwelcome shock when your next monthly statement arrives, particularly if your bank account isn’t generally awash with spare cash.
Fortunately, it’s possible to pre-empt unwelcome surprises by periodically monitoring your phone usage.
In fact, there are two main ways of checking data usage – through the handset itself, and via your network operator’s website or mobile app.
Checking data usage through your account
Each of the UK’s major mobile networks has its own apps and intranet sites, where people can log in and check their statements or adjust billing data.
For example, Tesco Mobile customers log into their My Account website through a desktop browser, before heading to the Tariff and Bundles sub-section.
Information on usage since the last bill was issued is published here, alongside details of each customer’s existing tariff.
Contracted mobile data allowances are also listed above lozenge buttons enabling the purchase of one-off data bundles.
These last until the next billing date, with costs ranging from £2.50 for a 500MB data bundle to £35 for 50GB.
Logging into the Tesco Mobile smartphone app leads users straight to the Usage page, where key account data is listed above an Add Bundle button.
If billing periods typically end with a reliance on top-up data, it may be advisable to renegotiate the wider contract.
Other companies adopt slightly different approaches (such as O2 calling additional data ‘bolt-ons’), but the principles of mobile data management remain comparable on every network.
Checking data usage on your smartphone
Smartphones are designed to make monitoring account information as easy as possible.
This is how to check data allowances and recent consumption on the two main operating platforms:
On Android, go to Settings > Connections, and choose Data Usage from the menu.
This will display how much mobile data has been used that calendar month, though bear in mind your network contract may start and end on a different date each month.
It’s also possible to view WiFi data usage throughout the last four weeks, restrict certain networks or set data usage warnings when the pre-paid data quantity is running out.
On an iPhone, go to Settings > Mobile Data, and scroll down to the Mobile Data sub-heading.
This lists both total data usage and the amount used while roaming. If WiFi networks are being utilised, the latter is generally a fraction of the former.
These statistics may be reset at any time, while turning off mobile data is as easy as sliding a button.