With the growing popularity of smartphones, users who aren't careful with mobile data usage can find the cost running into thousands of pounds. Here are some of the most common mobile data traps - and tips on how to avoid them.
1. The new iOS 9 Wi-Fi Assist on your iPhone
Apple released its latest software for iPhones and iPads, called "iOS 9", including one new feature called "Wi-Fi Assist". The function means users have a consistent internet connection. So, when the Wi-Fi signal is weak, it automatically switches to mobile data. Some users have complained that they have been unwittingly connected, by default, to the internet via the mobile phone network rather than Wi-Fi, and have incurred
Tip: The good news is that if you don’t like it you can switch it off. You can also disable mobile data use for individual apps. (To make either change, go to "settings" then "mobile data".)
2. Converting text messages to picture messages
On some handsets, a normal text message (or "SMS") is automatically converted into a picture message ("MMS"), which you typically have to pay extra for. The problem affects only some handsets, but watch out when you send pictures, or text messages of more than 160 characters.
"Emoticons “can also trigger a switch to MMS. How much it will cost will depend on your contract.
Tip: You can change the settings on your handset to stop an SMS changing into an MMS. The handset should notify the user when the message is converted and networks are working with manufacturers to resolve the problem on newer devices, or offer updates on existing phones.
3. Video play on social media
When Twitter announced its new video "auto play" function in June, it promised a more "seamless" experience. However, being forced to watch a cat hit itself in the face over and over again might not be everyone’s cup of tea, while having your data sapped at the same time adds insult to injury. Facebook and Instagram also have auto play functions.
Tip: You can turn off auto play via the Twitter app (click on "me", then the cogwheel icon, then "settings").
4. Apps that use more data in the background
Some apps, such as graphic-heavy games or data-demanding music and video streaming apps, use much more data than others. Even if your apps aren’t active, they could be updating themselves in the background. You can stop this happening by restricting or disabling background data in your settings. If you do this, your apps will update only when you open them.
Tip: If you’ve got an iPhone, you can check how much data your apps have used (via "settings then "mobile data"). Disable mobile data for individual apps if they’re guzzling too much data.
5. Data roaming abroad
Data charges are capped while you’re in the EU, so you won’t be charged more than €0.20/MB. However, when travelling further afield there are no limits. Orange customers using the internet on their phone in non EU countries, for example, would be charged up to £8/MB. Luckily, all providers must cut off users once they’ve spent €50 on data, wherever they travel, unless they have asked to opt out.
Tip: Download what you need before you go, turn off data roaming and use any free Wi-Fi available at your destination. Or, if you’re a serious data user, buy an international data SIM and a mifi so you can create your own personal secure hotspot and pay local rates; www.dataroam.co.uk