Sometimes Android apps go rogue. It happens. It will either be an app that decides to download large amounts of data when you’re not looking at it or an app that just keeps refreshing in the background and eating into your cellular data plan – 10, 20, 30 MB at a time.
When you come across something like this, your first instance might be to just delete the app. But what if it’s something you actually need? I recently found that the New York Times app used up 320 MB cellular data in the background just refreshing its content. Now I certainly don’t want to delete the app but I would like it if it stopped eating my lunch (an expensive one at that), thank you very much.
So here’s what you can do.
Block or Control App’s Data Access with NetGuard
NetGuard is a totally free and open source firewall utility that doesn’t require root access to control data usage for apps (many other utilities do). The way it does this is by creating a VPN connection and tunnelling all its data through that. The app promises that it never looks at your data and as it’s an open source app, and supported by a thriving community, I’m inclined to believe it.
When you launch the app and flick the switch on the top, you’ll be asked to enable VPN access for the app.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll be presented with a list of all the apps you’ve installed.
Besides the app name you’ll see two icons – Wi-Fi and Cellular.
This is simple enough. Tap the Wi-Fi icon and that particular app can never access the internet connection when it’s on Wi-Fi. Tap the Cellular icon and the same applies for your phone’s data plan.
But this is Android so we can go deeper.
Tap the app’s name and a whole new menu will show up with lots of options.
The most important of the option here is “Block when roaming” option. For when you’re roaming, this will come in handy.
Disable Background Data Access for Apps
If you just want to disable an app from using data while you’re not using the app actively, you don’t even need an app. Android can do this all on its own. You should know that this feature only restricts background access when you’re connected to cellular data. When you’re on Wi-Fi, the background data refresh will work as normal.
Go to the “Settings” app, and select “Data usage”.
Now select the app in question.
You’ll see an option here called “Restrict background data”. Enable it. On Android N devices, this option shows up as “Background data” and here you’ll need to disable it.
If you find yourself using a lot of data, you should make sure that Google apps are set to download updates manually, and not automatically. You can do that by going to “Settings” from the Play Store app, select “Auto-update apps” and choose “Do not auto update apps.”
You can also try using an app like Opera Max, that also uses a VPN to compress data on the fly. When watching videos, you can see as much as 50% reduction in data used (based on my testing). Another good thing about Opera Max is that it will also help you disable data access totally for a particular app.
Download: Opera Max