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What’s the Difference? Wi-Fi vs. Cellular Data

By Mint Fox

Originally published October 14, 2021


Last Updated April 14, 2023

Mint Fox at a cafe with the title What's the Difference between wifi vs. cellular data

Ah, the age old debate- to use cellular or not to use cellular. The answer is pretty simple if you can remember a few tricks. 

The main difference between Wi-Fi and cellular data (also called “mobile data”) is how your device is connecting to the internet. Cellular allows you to access the internet, apps, Twitter, Instagram, Google, or your email pretty much wherever you’re located. You just need to have a phone plan with a data allowance and be in range of a cell tower. Wi-Fi, on the other hand, only connects you to the internet when you’re near a router and are connected to its network. We can get into all of the science-y stuff another time, but that’s basically all you need to know for now. 

In this article

When Should I Use Wi-Fi vs. Cellular Data? 

You may want to use Wi-Fi if your cellular signal isn’t strong and you need a faster connection. We’d suggest using Wi-Fi when you’re watching Netflix, YouTube videos, our owner’s movies, or playing video games – these activities can use a lot of your precious data. It also might be a good idea to turn on Wi-Fi when you’re at home, school, or your workplace. Cellular also drains your phone’s battery faster than if you’re on Wi-Fi. Long story short- use Wi-Fi whenever you trust the network. Save your data and your wallet.

Does Wi-Fi Use Data? 

Nope. When you connect to a Wi-Fi server, you’re conserving data. Since we’re in the golden age of the internet, most homes, workplaces, stores and coffee shops have their own Wi-Fi networks you can connect to. This is why most people don’t need as much data on their phone plan as they may think. This is especially true for those that are paying hefty bills to big wireless for unlimited data plans. 

Since there’s been an uptick in remote working, now might be the perfect time to assess how much data you actually need. If you’re connected to Wi-Fi most of the time, you might want to switch to a more inexpensive, lower data plan. With Mint’s Unliminted program, you can start with our Unlimited Plan* and we’ll tell you if you could be spending less based on your data usage, and even suggest you switch to one of those plans.

Okay, now back to the question at hand. The only time you might be using data when you’re connected to Wi-Fi is if you have the “Wi-Fi Assist” feature turned on. Basically, if your Wi-Fi signal is weak, Wi-Fi Assist will automatically prompt your phone to use cellular data to help speed up your internet connection. 

This could happen if you’re in a room of your house that doesn’t get a fantastic Wi-Fi signal, or if you’re on a crowded network in a public place. 

How to turn off Wi-Fi assist 

If you’re worried about exceeding your data allowance, you can turn off the Wi-Fi Assist feature like this: 

  1. Go to Settings on your device 
  2. Click on Cellular 
  3. Scroll down to the very bottom 
  4. Toggle off the “Wi-Fi Assist” feature 

If you have a lot of data on your phone plan, you might want to keep this feature on to ensure a lightning fast connection. 

how do I turn on wi-fi on my phone

How Do I Turn On Wi-Fi On My Phone? 

Turning on Wi-Fi on your phone is actually pretty simple: 

  1. Head into the settings app on your phone 
  2. Hit the Wi-Fi icon. (It’s usually located pretty close to the top.) 
  3. Choose your network. You probably should only click on networks that you’re familiar with, just to be safe. 
  4. Enter its password. 

Boom. You’re free to roam the web as you please. 

When should I use cellular data

When Should I Use Cellular Data?

Cellular data is extremely useful if you want to access the internet on the go. You should turn on cellular if your Wi-Fi connection isn’t strong, or you’re worried about whether or not a Wi-Fi network is secure. With Mint, you get premium wireless on the nation’s largest 5G network, so you can access reliable cellular data when you’re on the move.

How Do I Turn On Cellular Data? 

Most phone models have a quick access panel you can access by swiping down on the home screen. To turn on cellular data from there, you’ll just need to make sure the Cellular Data icon is turned on. Also, you can turn on cellular data from the settings menu: 

Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data**

You’re now good to go. Whether you’re on the train commuting home, itching to listen to your favorite podcast in the car, or dying to upload a game day selfie from the stands, cellular allows you to access the internet from wherever. 

With all this knowledge comes the power to choose how you want to connect. Whether you’re a data conservationist or a hard-core streamer, we have a plan for you. If you need help sorting through how much data you need, we’ve got you covered. Check out our article How Many MB in a GB and How Much Do I Need?

*New activation & upfront payment for 3-month plan req’d. Taxes & fees extra. Addt’l restrictions apply. Unlimited customers using >40GB/mo will experience lower speeds. Videos stream at ~480p. See terms.

**Pro tip: If you want to track how much data you’re using on each app, you can see all of that information under your device’s Cellular Data page. 

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