Though mobile carriers may make it easy to check your data usage, they typically only report the amount of data used rather than showing a breakdown of which apps and services are using it the most. Without a proper understanding of what’s causing your phone to devour so much data, you could inadvertently rack up costly data overage charges. Instead of purchasing a higher-tier data plan to solve the problem, you may be able to identify the cause of high phone usage and address having it reduced.

Apps and Widgets

While apps may be incredibly useful and entertaining, some chew through data more hungrily than others. Apps that constantly update themselves in the background will use your data allotment without warning. This is also true for any widgets that you may have set up, especially if they check sports scores, stock prices or the weather. These widgets update their information regularly, and their data usage can really rack up over time. If you are concerned about using too much data, you may want to alter app and widget settings when possible to reduce their data consumption.

Social Networking

Services like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr are all designed to easily enable the sharing of pictures, videos and other content with friends. Unfortunately, those pictures and videos are sometimes several megabytes in size each and viewing them on your phone can quickly tear through your data plan. If you do not have an unlimited plan, you may want to judiciously limit usage of these services until you’re on a Wi-Fi network.

Mobile Gaming

In terms of both download and play, games can often eat up enormous chunks of data. Before downloading a game, check its listing for the file size. If the game is bigger than a few megabytes, you may wish to download it via Wi-Fi instead of 3G/4G to preserve your data allotment. Note also that games with online multiplayer modes also consume a lot of bandwidth, so if data is a concern, you may want to play these games on Wi-Fi connections only.

Multimedia

Downloading movies and music can definitely gobble up your data in a hurry. To help alleviate this, services like Netflix, Pandora, Hulu and Spotify allow users to stream multimedia content to their devices at a much-reduced data rate. Unfortunately, these services still consume sizeable chunks of data when used beyond moderation. Users without unlimited plans should limit their usage of these services while using cellular data rather than Wi-Fi.