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Avoid Big Surprises from Summertime Cellphone Bills

It’s so tempting to watch streaming video – movies or ballgames, for example – on a mobile device when you’re out of town. It’s also tempting to tap into that Internet radio station or music website to hear your favorite music on a long road trip. But there could be a big bill you didn’t expect. Here’s what you can do to control your cost.

The first thing you should do is determine what you need to stream and what type of network can deliver the content for you. Video especially eats up bandwidth, so you may need to be judicious about what you watch if you’re cost-conscious.

Some people stream Netflix videos over the Internet. Others like to stay up on their local sports teams and other programming from their cable-TV by streaming through devices such as Slingbox. Both eat up a lot of bandwidth, which translates to using more data. So, think about whether you really need to watch that movie or TV program.

If you’re streaming on a mobile device, you should take care to watch while connected to a Wi-Fi network. You may need to lower the resolution to lower the data being streamed, but that can be OK when watching on an iPad instead of your huge flat-screen TV. If you’re watching over a cellular network, the data files can add up rapidly and so can your cost.

Some people have portable hotspots that enable them to use Wi-Fi-only iPads, for example, through a cellular connection. Don’t forget that because your device is on a Wi-Fi network, it will do all the things it normally does while on a network, such as download apps, back up to iCloud and any other things you’ve set it up to do. It’s good for getting access, but you need to remember that your device doesn’t know it’s really using a cellular network; it thinks it’s on a Wi-Fi network.

Cellular contracts charge you for the number of gigabytes of data you can access during a month. Your charge is based on an agreed-upon limit, and you pay more if you go over the limit. The amount of data and charges vary from one carrier to another. So, once you have an idea of how much cellular data you’ll need to access, talk to your carrier.

If you need to increase your data plan, it’s good to do it before you go over your limits because it can ultimately cost you much less. Conversely, you may already be paying for more data than you actually use. One of our clients had a plan for 5 GB of data per month but was barely topping out at 1 GB. We had the plan lowered to 2 GB per month, saving our client $30 per month.

You should also be careful to avoid roaming charges, especially if you are traveling internationally with a smart phone or device with cellular connectivity. You should turn off the cellular capability. That capability uses a cellular network to find Wi-Fi hotspots, and you don’t want to be on a network with heavy roaming charges.

We’re more than happy to answer your questions about managing your cellular roaming and video streaming charges. Give us a call at 973-433-6676 or email us with your questions or to set up an appointment.