Q. What’s the difference between using data and Wi-Fi? I’m confused and I hope you can help.
I was at home on my phone checking Facebook and my daughter scolded me that I was using data instead of Wi-Fi. We share a family data plan and she accused me of hogging our data.
I didn’t want to admit it to her, but I don’t understand the difference. She grabbed my phone (while she was rolling her eyes, as only teenagers can do!), pressed the screen a few times, gave it back to me and said, “There!”
I have no idea what she did, what I did wrong and what I should do next time. Instead of asking her to explain, I figured I’d ask The Wonder of Tech.
Can you explain what’s the difference between using data versus using Wi-Fi? (If you write an article on this, please don’t use my name.)
A. Great question! Many people don’t pay attention to whether they’re using Wi-Fi or data on their phones and tablets. But if when they run out of data at the end of the month or face big cell phone bills, they may wish they had used Wi-Fi more.
Wi-Fi allows your phone or tablet to connect to the Internet via a router. You need to be to be in the range of a router and connect to the network in order to access the Internet.
Cellular data allows your phone or tablet to connect to the Internet via a cell phone signal. You need to have a cell phone plan that includes cellular data and be in the range of a cell phone tower to access the Internet.
When you use your phone to access the Internet, without being connected to a Wi-Fi network, you’re using up the monthly allotment of data your cell phone plan allows. If you have a cell phone plan with a limit on monthly data, you may want to minimize your use of data by connecting to Wi-Fi when you access the Internet (especially if you have a shared plan).
Why You Should Care Whether You’re Using Wi-Fi or Cellular Data
Both Wi-Fi and cellular data allow you to connect to the Internet. But how you connect can make a difference in the speed of your connection, the cost of your monthly cell phone bill and the security of your information.
Many home and business accounts offer unlimited use of Wi-Fi while many phone plans limit the amount of cellular data you can use each month. Wi-Fi is often faster than data, under the right conditions.
When you’re at home, work or other place with a secure Wi-Fi network, you may want to connect to it when you’re using the Internet. If you’re using a lot of data, such as to stream or download videos, you probably should be connected Wi-Fi.
=> Learn more at Streaming vs. Downloading Videos — What’s the Difference?
Note that your phone or tablet may be using your cellular data without you realizing that it’s happening. Apps may update, you may receive notifications, and podcasts may download automatically. All of these use could your data, whether or not you think you’re using it, unless you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network.
If you’re traveling internationally, use Wi-Fi to avoid expensive charges for international roaming. Even if you sign up for an international data plan, charges for cellular data outside your home country can be expensive.
How to Tell Whether Your Phone Is Connected to Wi-Fi
Look for the Wi-Fi signal icon at the top of your screen.
If you see the Wi-Fi signal icon, your phone is connected to Wi-Fi. Check your Wi-Fi and cellular signals to see how strong they are.
In Settings, go to Wi-Fi and make sure it is turned on. You can also see which Wi-Fi network you are connected to as well as any other Wi-Fi network options.
=> Find out more at: The New iPhone Setting You Should Turn Off Now!
When to Use Wi-Fi
In general, you may want to use Wi-Fi when:
- The Wi-Fi network is secure
- You are streaming video
- You are traveling internationally
- You need a faster connection
- Your phone has a strong Wi-Fi signal
- You have a limited cellular data plan and may exceed your monthly limit
=> Check out, Wi-Fi Calling: What It Is and Why You Want It
When to Use Cellular Data
You may prefer to use a cellular data connection when:
- The Wi-Fi network is public or not secure
- The Wi-Fi network is slow
- You aren’t in danger of running out of cellular data for the month
- Your phone’s Wi-Fi connection is weak
and you are in your home country.
Have you ever been confused whether you were connected to Wi-Fi or cellular data? Have you ever been surprised at exceeding your monthly data limit? Do you make sure to use Wi-Fi when you’re traveling internationally?
Share your thoughts in the Comments section below!
* Phone and tablet image (edited) courtesy of Pix1861 via Pixabay and Creative Commons
** Wi-Fi signal image (edited) courtesy of Pix1861 via Pixabay and Creative Commons
*** Cell tower image (edited) courtesy of Clkr-Free-Vector-Images via Pixabay and Creative Commons