Facebook is eating my data plan; what should I do?

Published Oct 1, 2015, 9:25 pm IST
Updated Mar 27, 2019, 3:35 pm IST
Facebook’s automatic video playback will exhaust your data plan sooner

Facebook is one social media networking platform, which has successfully got almost every individual hooked onto. With numerous updates, Facebook has managed to make the website portal, as well as the mobile app, feature-rich and user friendly. However, recently, things have taken an ugly turn for mobile users. The new Facebook updates now automatically plays videos by default.

Data is a very important element for every smartphone user. Apart from regular phone and texting bills, a smartphone user has to opt for a data plan. Using 2G is the cheapest, but opting for high-speed 3G and now 4G data plans are even more expensive. Usually, you can avail of a few data plans depending on the mobile carrier. While some offer 1GB, others offer 2GB to 6GB in variable price ranges. This is the FUP (fair usage policy) where you pay as you use after you have exhausted the limit of your data plan. For example, when you exhaust the 1GB of your FUP, you end up playing for every 10KB of data you receive or transmit. This amounts to huge telecom bills if you weren’t aware of your exhausted data plans.


Whether you send data or receive, it is all counted. From regular texting on WhatsApp to checking out your emails and Facebook posts, every byte of data is accounted for. So if you are fond of using your smartphone data to check out what your friend is posting on Facebook, or if you are so enthusiastic over send your friends a selfie or a video, you are accounting for every byte you are sending out.

While few apps such as emails, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. take up a lot of data transactions because of the photos, GIFs and videos that come through, Facebook wasn’t as heavier earlier. Similar to Tumblr and Twitter, now Facebook is also forcing its users to watch the video (be it ads or a post), even though he or she did not want to see it or did not click it. Facebook has pushed a new update feature to the mobile—automatic video playback. This new feature does not look like a welcome change by many. We have users stunned when they reported back to us that Facebook's videos were playing automatically without them clicking on the play button. Pretty similar to the YouTube website where the first video on the YouTuber’s page plays automatically. While some users were happy with the feature, others complained that they did not want the auto play feature to eat into their data plans.


If you are on a Wi-Fi internet network, this may not be a big concern. But again, what if you are using a limited plan broadband connection? Or what if you are using a network with a few too many users?

For now, the videos don’t play audio by default and the audio turns on only when the video post is clicked. Nevertheless, the video auto play is enabled by default, and you have to turn it off manually.

However, you can choose to opt out from the automatic video playback feature. Simply head to the app, then to Menu and choose ‘App Settings’ from the list. Under the settings, tap on ‘Videos play automatically’ and you will be greeted by another menu to choose from. This will include ‘On’ where videos will play automatically on data or Wi-Fi, ‘Wi-Fi only’ will allow videos to playback only when connected on a wireless network and ‘Off’ to disable it altogether. You can click on the videos to play it if you want to watch the clip.


To further save on your data costs, you could choose other options from the settings menu. You can turn off photo syncing, contacts syncing and also Facebook Chat if you don’t need them. Then head back to the menu system and tap ‘Use less data’ and turn on the feature. This will also help saving data downloads by compressing the images and optimizing it for the mobile screen size.

As far as saving data on Facebook (at least) we would suggest that you keep your notifications off too. Every notification you get on your phone forces you to check out the post, which consumes important data and battery life. Well, unless you are absolutely sure that receiving the message and looking at the post is very important.


Apart from the new feature, for a while Android users have also been complaining that Facebook is updating their app almost every day. Each update is almost 50MB in size, eating into their data plans. And if this continues, Facebook updates itself will exhaust a 1GB data plan in a matter of 20 days, that too only for app updates. Now imagine updating Facebook almost every day and then checking out some viral videos that list up on your app.

So what is Facebook up to? It is a stunt with net neutrality? Or is it a forceful move to promote Internet.org? Is Facebook trying to promote certain mobile and telecom companies by giving Facebook data for free? In the move to make the Internet, more affordable Facebook seems to be causing more harm than good to those who are with other telecom Internet service providers.  


(Just for your information: on an average, a smartphone user consumes data amounting to almost 800MB to 1GB on Facebook itself. This is an estimated average for 30-days of Facebook's use)

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