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Mobile data: on or off? When and why to change your phone’s settings

By Daniel Mariscal

Originally published February 28, 2024


Last Updated March 22, 2024

Mobile data: on or off?

The cornerstone of any phone plan is mobile data (AKA cellular data), the wireless communication service that allows your phone to connect to the Internet without relying on a Wi-Fi network (AKA watching TikToks in the car). 

You probably know how much mobile data you have, but do you know how often it should be turned off? And why? Whether you’re a 5GB Wi-Fi Wizard or Unlimited Streaming Machine, let’s review our cellular data on or off cheat sheet.

In this article

What happens when I turn on mobile data?

The advantage of turning on mobile data is that you can access the Internet anywhere. That’s because your phone can use cellular data to establish an internet connection instead of using Wi-Fi. The information transmitted by your data is measured in bytes. When you turn on cellular data, bytes are used for everything from real-time app software updates to GPS recalculation notifications (whoops).

Mint Fox holding up a phone next to copy reading How To Turn On Cellular Data

How to turn on cellular data

Turning mobile data on for either Android phones or iPhones is really easy. Just put your green vs blue SMS politics aside for a sec:

How to turn on mobile data on iPhone

  • Open the Settings App 
  • Tap ‘Cellular’
  • Select ‘Cellular Data’ and toggle the slider to on

How to turn on mobile data on Android phones

  • Swipe down from the top of the home screen to get to the control panel 
  • Tap ‘Data Usage’
  • Swipe to ‘On’
List titled When Is Turning Off Cellular Data Recommended with various reasons to turn data off

What happens when I turn off mobile data? 

When you disable mobile data, you can’t connect to the internet unless there’s a Wi-Fi network available. But when it’s turned off, you will conserve your monthly data allotment. It seems obvious, but turning it off when there’s Wi-Fi available is the best way you can cut down on your usage. Leaving it on all the time can lead to more fees from your carrier (not us though).

When is turning off cellular data recommended?

To make sure your next wireless bill doesn’t byte you in the…wallet, let’s review when you should turn off cellular data.

When you need to save data

If you’re scraping the bottom of your monthly allotment and there’s still a week left, use Wi-Fi networks whenever possible.

When you need to conserve battery life

If your remaining 20% needs to last, disabling mobile data will dramatically extend your battery life. Push notifications are surprisingly big percentage drainers.

When apps work overtime

If mobile data is on, your apps are updating all. the. time. Even when not in use, apps are constantly using it due to background app refresh.

When roaming fees are a thing

When you’re overseas, say bonjour to Wi-Fi networks to avoid heavy roaming charges from your carrier.

When it’s time to focus

If you need to live in the now and there’s no Wi-Fi network present, turn off mobile data to disable push notifications – your followers can wait.

How to turn off cellular data

Switching your setting to “off” is really easy for both Android phones and iPhones:

How to turn off mobile data on iPhone

  • Open the Settings App 
  • Tap ‘Cellular’
  • Select ‘Cellular Data’ and toggle the slider to off

If you want to take a deeper dive into iPhone data usage, we got you covered. 

How to turn off mobile data on Android phones

  • Swipe down from the top of the home screen to get to the control panel 
  • Tap ‘Data Usage’
  • Swipe to ‘Off’

If you want to learn more about Android data usage, we got stuff on that too. 

Should I turn off mobile data when on Wi-Fi?

There’s no need to turn off cellular data when you’re on a Wi-Fi network. Even if you leave it set to ‘on,’ your phone will connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi. But once you cross out of range, your phone will switch back to data if it’s enabled. Step outside and see for yourself – just look both ways first.

List titled When Should Cellular Data Be On Or Off? recapping the article

Let’s recap: When should cellular data be on or off?

  • Turn it on to connect to the Internet when no Wi-Fi network is available
  • Turn it off to conserve it, battery life, roaming fees and your sanity
  • Your phone is smart enough to connect to Wi-Fi, even if mobile data is still on

Knowing when to use your mobile data is the best way to get the most out of your wireless plan…besides switching to Mint. We’ll make sure you never overpay for data you’re not using. Take our quiz to find the perfect wireless plan and even perfect-er savings.

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