To contain your data costs, you can control your smartphone use, but the “smarter” your smartphone, the more likely you will spend more time online and consume more data than someone with a phone that is not as sophisticated as yours.

MTN says consumers who are puzzled because their data isn’t lasting as long as it used to should consider the following:


The transition to a smartphone. There has been an increase in the use of smartphones, because they have become more affordable. When customers transition from a “dumb phone” to a feature phone or smartphone, or when they buy or upgrade to one of the latest smartphones, they don’t always understand how it will impact on their data usage.

Some new smartphones allow apps to function in the background, even when you are not using them. As long as an app is open on the device, it will consume data. Earlier smartphones and smartphone software did not allow this.


LTE/4G handsets. Many of the latest smartphones are configured for heavy data usage and are compliant with new-generation networks, such as Long Term Evolution, otherwise known as LTE or 4G. This super-fast network is capable of high download speeds and heavy data consumption. With these phones, you can simultaneously surf the web, send and receive emails, and interact on social media platforms while downloading and sending high-definition videos using instant messaging platforms. The point is that LTE-compatible handsets use a lot of data when accessing apps.


Automatic updates. Social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram have become an integral part of our lives. These platforms are continually updated to meet customer demands, provide new functionalities and fix bugs, to make them more interactive and user-friendly.

Often, updates to these apps are automatic and use large amounts of data – some can use up to 3GB. Automatic updates are default settings on many phones. To stop automatic updates, go to your cellular data setting and deactivate updates. Do your updates only when you are connected to wi-fi.


Software updates. All of us want to use the latest software so that we can benefit from additional functionalities and have a better user experience. Updates are usually free, but they require a lot of data. For example, iPhone users can update the software on their phones at no cost, but the update will use up to 1GB. Likewise, Microsoft has given Windows users the opportunity to update to the latest version (Windows 10) of its operating system for free. But it requires 3GB.


Photo and video-sharing. Instant messaging platforms have become the preferred mode of communication, and sharing content such as photos and videos is popular. Although instant messaging might appear to be cost-effective, many users are unaware that sending videos and images consumes data bundles, and this can escalate to up to 16MB per message.


Surfing the net. If you often use your phone to surf the net, it can make a big dent in your data, MTN says. Reading articles on websites that have video ads running on the page can consume a lot of data, for example.


High-definition format. Facebook and Instagram have upgraded from standard resolution to high definition (HD). The HD format provides for a high degree of detail in an image or on a screen.

However, it uses more data. As a result, normal browsing on Facebook and Instagram will cost a user more than it used to cost when these platforms were on standard resolution.


Out-of-bundle rates. When you buy a data bundle, you buy access to a fixed amount of data at a lower rate than if you did not have a data bundle. For example: if you had R100 airtime and no data bundle, you would be charged, say, R1 per MB when accessing the internet on your phone. In other words, R100 would buy you 100MB. But if you were to spend your R100 on a data bundle, it could buy you about 500MB of data, because the “in-bundle” rate is lower that the out-of-bundle rate.

If you’re on a contract and you exceed your data allocation, you will be charged for data at an “out-of-bundle rate”.

MTN advises customers to buy data bundles that suit their consumption patterns, and to buy them once they have reached their monthly allocation.