Calendar iconJun 16, 2023

What is Cellular Data?

What is Cellular Data?

Reading time: 7 minutes

So, you’re paying your cell phone bill and frankly, can’t believe the balance. How did you go 5GB over your monthly allowance? Yikes. That overage fee! In the back of your mind, you realize that cellular data is connected to using the Internet via your cell phone, but you are really unsure how. Let PureTalk help you understand what your cellular network data is and what activities use it up and help you avoid overage fees in the future.

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Cellular data defined

A cell phone connects to the Internet in one of two ways: either by using a WiFi network or by using the cellular data network offered by your wireless provider. Following are the specifics of cellular networks:


WiFi uses radio frequencies to wirelessly transmit the Internet to your devices.

Range: Limited.

Fee: Free. Because your home WiFi uses radio frequencies and not the towers your cellular provider uses, you can use it as much as you want and never face overage charges.

Cellular data

Cellular data uses the same network provided by the cell towers that allow you to make cell phone calls.

Range: As long as you are within your provider’s coverage area, your range is almost unlimited.

Fee: With cellular data, you pay for a monthly cellular data allowance so, if you exceed that allowance you’re charged an overage fee. If you think you might exceed your allowance, it’s wise to monitor your usage over the course of the month.

What activities use cellular data?

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The short answer: Any activity you do on your cell phone that requires access to the Internet uses cellular data if you are not connected to a WiFi network.

That’s it in a nutshell. No cellular connection? WiFi? You’re using your allowance of cellular data.

The more detailed answer: Some activities, like streaming video or making a FaceTime video call, use more cellular data than others. Activities that do not use up as much cellular carrier data include: checking and sending text-based emails, browsing articles on the web, and using turn-by-turn navigation. Activities that do not use any data at all include: making phone calls and sending text messages.

How to manage your cellular data via your cellular provider

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If you receive a paper bill from your provider, the data usage information is most likely on the second or third page of your invoice. If your provider doesn’t include it, you can call or go online to request a more detailed bill. You can also do the following:

Log into your account from your computer and check the Usage tab.

Download your provider’s app and check the Usage tab.

Call your provider from your wireless phone:

AT&T: Dial *3282#

T-Mobile: Dial #web#

Verizon: Dial #DATA

How to manage your cellular data via settings

Cheerful mature woman standing outside talking on her cell.


If you’re always on top of how much cell data that you’re using, there’s less opportunity to be surprised by overages. Once or twice a month, check in and see how you’re doing. To see how much cellular data you’ve used on your iPhone, do the following:

Go to Settings. Tap Cellular then scroll to Cellular Data.


With Android, you can avoid surprises by limiting your data to a certain amount. Here’s how:

Open Settings. Go to Network & Internet, then Data Usage, and Data Warning & Limit. Here you can set the amount of data you want to use for the month.

Smart ways to save on data:

Turn on data saver or low data mode

When you’re not connected to the Internet via a Wi-Fi network, you’re using your data. To save on using it, you mobile users can pause certain functions like background data refresh and data syncs by turning on the Data Saver if you use an Android phone, or Low Data Mode if you use an iPhone. It is easy to do and you’ll be glad you learned how to do it!

On iPhone, select your plan and do the following:

LTE/4G Cellular

Go to Settings. Tap Cellular

Tap Cellular Data Options, then turn on Low Data Mode. 

5G Cellular

Go to Settings. Tap Cellular.

Tap Cellular Data Options, select Data Mode, then turn on Low Data Mode.

Dual SIM

Go to Settings. Tap Cellular or Mobile Data.

Tap one of your numbers.

Turn on Low Data Mode.

On Android:

Open Settings.

Go to SIM card and Mobile Data plan tab.

Tap Data Usage option.

Go to Data Saving option.

Turn on Data Saving.

Stop your apps from “refreshing” themselves

If you’re not on Wi-Fi and you don’t turn on your mobile data usage as saver or low data mode, your apps will keep working in the background collecting information and refreshing themselves while using your data. To prevent this, do the following:

On iPhone:

Go to Settings. Tap general. Tap Background App Refresh. Here, you can choose to have this feature off, available only when you’re on Wi-Fi, or available when you’re on Wi-Fi and cellular data. (Not recommended when you’re trying to use less cellular data usage though!) You can also toggle this on or off for each individual app on your phone.

On Android:

Open Settings. Tap Data Usage. Here you’ll be able to see which apps are using the most data. Decide which app or apps you’d like to restrict, and tap on it.

When you’re home, be on your Wi-Fi

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If you’re reading this on your phone in your home, it’s most likely that you are connected to your home’s Wi-Fi network. But if you’re not sure, or you’re sure you are not connected to it, here's how to turn it now.

Go into Settings. You’ll see options like Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Cellular, etc. Click on Wi-Fi. Then select the name of your network. When you’re done, tap Settings again and return to its main menu. If Cellular or Bluetooth are on, turn them off. Now that you are on your home’s Wi-Fi network, you don’t need them and having them on will drain the battery in your phone.

Connecting to your home’s Wi-Fi network can significantly reduce the amount of cellular data you use. And once you’ve connected mobile device to it as described above, whenever you’re home your device will recognize your Wi-Fi network and connect to it.

 Cellular Data: Best Practices

The best way to stop gong over your data limit is to be sure your phone is always connected to WiFi. On WiFi, there’s no need to worry about overage charges and, because smart phones remember networks they’ve been connected to previously, you don’t need to remember passwords because your phone will automatically see mobile networks and connect to those networks when you are in range. For example, you connected to your best friend’s WiFi when visiting last year. When you return for another visit, your phone will automatically recognize and connect to your friend’s WiFi network.

Take your data management one step further: switch cell phone carriers and save

Did you know….

The average family of four that switches to PureTalk saves $75 a month for a total of $900 a year.

With PureTalk, you get the best cell phone coverage for less and the best unlimited plans – not to mention the most cost-effective, realistically priced unlimited plans – anywhere. You also get the best cell phone coverage in Canada and Mexico and a referral program that can save you big time on your PureTalk service. Beyond that there’s the fact that the average family of four that switches to PureTalk saves $75 a month for a total of $900 a year and, if that’s not enough to help you make the switch, we offer a 30-day money back guarantee. Plus, you can bring your Android phone or iPhone, if you like, and keep your number.

PureTalk’s Family Plans

Did you know that PureTalk offers plans that start at just $20 a month for unlimited talk and text and blazing fast data? We do. And our Family Plans let you choose the right plan for each family member.  You can have any number of lines and choose the perfect wireless plan for each one.  Your family members get exactly what they need, and you never pay for anything they don't.  Whatever your family's size or wireless connection needs may be, you're sure to save a bundle!

Plans for Seniors

Did you know that most seniors use less than 2GB of data per month?  PureTalk offers great plans for seniors that let you pay only for what you – and they – actually want – and nothing you don’t. And with PureTalk you get the same great service and blazing fast coverage while saving money each month. 

At PureTalk, we don’t think you should pay for a data plan you don’t need and aren’t going to use. Switch today and receive great service and blazing-fast coverage while saving money each month.

Don’t wait. Pick a plan now that meets your needs, suits your lifestyle, and helps you save!

Posted 8 months ago