August 13, 2011, 8:05 AM — Chances are, you no longer have an unlimited data plan on your mobile phone. Just a few years back, unlimited data plans were the norm, but now these all-you-can-eat options are rapidly disappearing. AT&T did away with unlimited options last year, and Verizon Wireless followed suit this year, moving to a similar tiered model. And even if you don't have an actual data limit, your so-called unlimited plan may very well come with a speed cap: If you use too much data, you'll see your speeds decrease significantly.
So, what's a data-hungry smartphone user to do? It's more a question of what not to do. Cutting out the following five major "don'ts" is a good way to ensure that you won't run out of data before you run out of month.
1. Become a Video Junkie
It's an obvious but unavoidable fact: Watching streaming video is one of the fastest ways to tear through your data plan. For instance, watching a 90-minute feature-length Netflix movie on your tablet consumes about 225MB of data. If your data plan limits you to 200MB of data per month, you might miss the dramatic conclusion of Death Race 2000.
Netflix isn't the only culprit, of course. Other bandwidth profligates include YouTube, a host of mobile TV and video services offered by carriers such as T-Mobile and AT&T, and video that your friends post to Facebook. Whatever the source of the excessive demand may be, it can wait until you're back on Wi-Fi.
This advice applies to other video apps, as well. A 1-hour video chat can cost you as much as 450MB of data use. Over time, a remote-webcam app that works as a home security camera can eat through the megabytes, too.
2. Let the Music Play
Music, too, can chew up a lot of data. If you let a streaming-music app like Pandora run while you go for a jog, ride the bus to work or walk around town, your data use will climb surprisingly quickly.
In my casual tests, I used Pandora for just 10 minutes over 3G and consumed more than 4MB of data. That level of usage works out to a rate of more than 24MB of data per hour. And at that rate it would take only 8 hours or so to reach a 200MB limit.