Yardstick, then and now
Before the advent of smartphones, cellular service providers invoiced us on how much we talked and texted; we had to pick a plan, aka "guess," how many minutes we'll be yapping and how many text messages we'll be tapping out on our cell phones each month. When smartphones began to replace the traditional cell phones, yapping and tapping became free while providers still make us guess how much "mobile data" we think we'll use while the smartphone is connected to the internet on mobile data.
The amount of mobile data we use on our smartphones, while not connected to Wi-Fi, became the new yardstick for your monthly charge. That yardstick can be either a finite or unlimited allotment of mobile data.
I often get asked about what constitutes mobile data usage? The simple way to look at it is anything except making a phone call and texting in a traditional manner. I threw in that adjective "traditional" to keep this answer simple, just like I've been saying the internet is synonymous to the cloud. Otherwise I will have to murk the waters by introducing various methodologies of making a "phone call" using video chatting apps like Google's "Meet," Apple's "Facetime," or the privacy-focused "Signal" app that use mobile data.
Some representatives uses of mobile data usage include: checking email, using the Google Maps app for turn-by-turn navigation while driving, browsing, streaming music or video, attending a video meeting or webinar, playing an online game, checking social media, and others that require receiving/sending from/to the internet.
If you have an unlimited data plan, connecting your smartphone to an available Wi-Fi network, "private" Wi-Fi like at your home (assuming you subscribe to internet services) or "public" Wi-Fi offered for free at libraries, cafes, restaurants, and many other establishments, may only become important if your smartphone seems sluggish in getting information from the internet.
On the other hand, you may want to consider connecting your smartphone to your private Wi-Fi at home if you have a metered - i.e. limited - mobile data plan. Why? When your smartphone is connected to a Wi-Fi network, data usage on the cellular network should be minuscule thus preserving your mobile data monthly allotment for when there is no Wi-Fi in reach. In other words, using a smartphone while connected to a Wi-Fi network doesn't use your mobile data. PSA: when connected to a public Wi-Fi, my recommendation is to refrain from doing anything that risks revealing your PII (personally identifiable information) to nefarious actors.
I hope to see you at our 7th annual Living in the Digital World Senior Expo this Thursday, May 18, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Rocky River Civic Center. We'll have short educational presentations, senior-centric service/product exhibitors, and showcases on practical digital literacy usage. Plus an ice cream social if you have a sweet tooth!
Strategist and technologist with over 30 years of experience in the private sector. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.
As Founder of the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, Tak connects the dots to help people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives while using digital literacy as a tool for seniors to avoid loneliness and social isolation. Please visit EmpowerSeniors.Org for more information!