How to stretch and optimise your mobile data during social isolation

Store-3 regularly receives enquiries and questions from visitors looking for help and advice about how to optimise mobile data usage and manage their contracts. This question seemed especially relevant:

“My mother is self isolating for three months, and so she doesn’t have to limit her facetime and whatsapp contact with the family she is interesting in upgrading to the Unlimited data deal on your site. What do you suggest?”

As Social isolation disrupts our daily routines and habits staying connected is more important than ever. More and more people are relying on their mobile devices to stay in touch, order essential supplies and keep track of news and essential updates.

A lot of people are discovering that their current data allowance isn’t enough, or are trying to make sure loved ones have enough data to stay in touch.

 We sell Three contracts, but don’t worry if you aren’t on that network – these top tips are relevant for everyone.

What are the options?

Adding a Bolt-on is the quickest and most flexible option because it allows you to customise your existing contract.

Data Bolt-ons
All networks have a range of products that you can use to add temporary capacity to your mobile contract. These Bolt-ons or extras might cost more if you rely on them for a long time but for a few months they could be perfect.

Adding a bolt-on is the best slution for most uyers. To see which bolt-ons are available check with your network. Three customers can access this information using the My3 app or by logging onto the Three.co.uk website. Don’t forget that Add-ons are time limited (30 days), and usually auto-renew each month.

The customer who was trying to could upgrade their current 1GB plan to 7GB for £8 per month, or £24 for a 3 month period. There may be ways to save a couple of pounds if you really need to, but for peace of mind and flexibility his is the simplest and easiest option.

Don’t use mobile data at all
If you are trying to make sure an elderly or vulnerable relative can stay in touch why not check with a neighbour to see if they can share their Wi-fi password?
This isn’t a long term solution, and a wi-fi signal may not reach that far but if it is possible then in the current situation most people should be pleased to help if they can.

Contract upgrades
If you have had your contract for a while you may be able to switch plans to a better plan. If your last plan included payments on a handset then you can certainly save money by switching to a SIM Only plan, and you could also snag more data at the same time.

You should be aware that most networks have different prices for new and existing customers. If you want to keep your phone number then you should always make sure a deal is suitable for upgrades.

Get a new contract
The best deals are available to new customers, so switching network may be an option. Three offer 12GB data for £10 a month, including Go Binge access for unlimited streaming on selected services.

A new phone contract is a long term commitment so if you are trying to secure access for the next few months it may be more cost effective to use Bolt-ons to temporarily upgrade your existing contract.

What else can I do?

In addition to supplementing the amount of data you have to use, you should also optimise how it is used.

Review your spend-caps
Spend caps help manage your bills by making sure you don’t accidentally spend more than you want when your contract allowances have been used up. A £0 spend cap could get in the way of making an essential call when you really need to, so make sure there is at least a small overspend enabled on your account Even £5 should be enough. This is especially important if you are preparing a mobile contract for the elderly or vulnerable.

Reduce your background data usage
Android, IOS and apps like WhatsApp often perform backups and updates in the background, which can all add up. If you are comfortable altering the settings on your phone or you have access to a teenager then just a few minutes of tinkering could save hundreds of MegaBytes of data for when you really need it.

Switch to the Facebook Lite Messenger (Android)
If you are using Android Facebook messages are handled by a separate app, which is available in two flavours. The standard version gives you access to all the features, while the “lite” version provides the essentials and works hard to reduce the amount of data you use. Well worth switching to if you want to stretch your data as far as it can go.

Monitor your usage
Android and IOS both include tools that measure your data usage. You can tell your phone when your billing period starts, and set alarms to alert you when you get close to your monthly allowance.

How are the Networks helping?

Three and other networks have made access to all NHS websites free. Calls to NHS 111 are also free, though don’t forget to only call if you are in true need – it is very busy at the moment.

Could the Networks do more?
With a little planning you should be covered, but there is always more that could be done. Free access to NHS websites is a great step but it would be great if access to all .gov.uk websites became free. Networks could also make selected contracts available to new customers available to existing or “upgrade” customers as well, or temporarily reduce the cost of the more flexible 1 month rolling contracts.

Great - I'll give my network a call

Steady on there before you  jump on the phone. It doesn’t matter which network it is, it is safe to say they all have limited call staff in their call centres at the moment.

If it is possible to complete your order online or using the app your network provides that is the best way. Please leave the line free for people who don’t have other options.

Our suggestions

If you are currently using another network or a Three Pay As you go contract, then these 3 SIMO contracts may be of interest. We like them because they combine a low monthly payment with a high data allowance and the Go Binge perk for unlimited media streaming.