How to Make Your Technology Budget Stretch Further

It can be difficult to cut back on technology, especially when we are bombarded with advertising for the latest gadgets every week.  Before you make that expensive investment, here are a few ways that you can stretch your existing technology:

1.  Your mobile’s camera:

Most mobile phones (even very basic ones) have built-in cameras, which can be used for much more than sending photos to friends.  A service called Qipit turns the camera into a portable scanner, which allows you to print out the photo later via a website.  You could also scan an actual document and fax it for later retrieval and read-back on your mobile with an app called scanR.

There’s also barcode reader technology, which can help you when it’s time to make a technology purchase. There are several smartphone apps that enable this, allowing users to scan a barcode at the store and instantly do an online price comparison. Aside from traditional barcodes, 2-D barcodes (think digital camouflage, not vertical lines) have become a new trend in marketing, allowing cell phone owners to scan a barcode and get more information about a product or service. These barcodes are even making their way onto business cards.

2.  Mobile Chat:

An alternative to text messages for businesses is instant messaging.  Most of these are free for users, but do require a data plan for internet usage.  Still, for mobile travellers, a data plan is probably cheaper than a texting plan.

3.  VoIP technology:

Using voice over internet protocol can save money on mobile minutes, by allowing you to make free or nearly free calls.  There are smartphone apps available to allow your mobile to work as a VoIP device, so you can make calls at similar prices to traditional computer VoIP calls.  Some of these services do require a data service plan, but this does allow you to make international calls for the cost of using the mobile Web.

4.  Reduce your power usage:

One way to cut costs is to power down devices that you aren’t using.  If you are using a power strip, plug multiple devices into the single strip and flip the power switch to easily shut down at the end of the day.  There are also Smart Strips which can detect when a device is not in use and completely turn it and accompanying devices off.  Power strips also act as surge protectors and can save devices from a sudden jolt of electricity, such as during a thunderstorm. Not having to replace an expensive electronic device is as good as money in the bank.

5.  Digital Meetings:

If that business trip is not really necessary, consider whether a video conference call, meeting online or other method of communication would work instead.  Some businesses even use virtual worlds like Second Life to hold meetings.  If you use a Mac, you can hold video chats through iChat applications for free and Google, Skype, AOL and Yahoo also offer free chatting services.  These free services allow you to be more productive in the office rather than being stuck on a motorway or waiting for a flight.



What is Mobile Data Usage?

The majority of mobile phone contracts provide the user with an internet usage allowance.  However, many users struggle to understand how much 500MB or 1GB converts to in real terms and how much data their normal, everyday tasks use.

You will find that most activities on modern phones will use up data.  The only exceptions to this rule are text messages and phone calls.  It may be hard to believe, but even when you aren’t using your phone, it will be consuming data in the background.  For example, your news app will update itself from time to time and your e-mail account will automatically check for new messages periodically.

Most mobile plans include a limit of 500MB, which is usually suitable for most users.  A typical user will use around 10MB every day (approximately 300MB per month).  However, if your contract is limited to 500MB per month, you should be careful to avoid activities that use a lot of data, such as:

  • Downloading or watching videos (e.g. YouTube, iPlayer);
  • Connecting your phone to a computer via the 3G connection;
  • Using Voicer-Over-IP apps, such as Skype or FaceTime; and
  • Downloading music or listening to online radio

Vodafone have given an idea of the typical values of various activities in the following table:

Email 100 sent/received with no attachments 2.5MB
Facebook 15 minutes, no video streaming 5MB
Google Maps Ten minutes 6MB
YouTube Four-minute music video 11MB
Radio Ten minutes 15MB
Email Ten sent/received with attachments 18MB
Web browsing 100 pages 20MB
Web browsing One hour 26MB
TV 30-minute episode 90MB
Skype video call 15 minutes 540MB

If you are concerned that you may be approaching your data usage limit, or want to reduce your consumption for any other reason, the following tips should help:

  • Use Wi-Fi when you’re at home. Whenever you’re at home, connect to your Wi-Fi network. This will route your data through a home broadband connection allowing you to save your download allowance for when you’re out and about.  You can also connect to free Wi-Fi hotspots when out and about.
  • Refrain from using bandwidth-intensive apps. If you’re not connected to a Wi-Fi network, refrain from streaming music or video content from the internet.
  • Disable automatic application updates. Application updates can use up a large proportion of your monthly download allowance. If you receive 10 app updates per month, this is equivalent to about 60MB data usage. To further restrict data consumption, you can also tick the box for “Update over Wi-Fi only”.
  • Disable bandwidth-hungry apps. On Android, it’s possible to see how much data each app is consuming. To do this, navigate to Settings > Data Usage. Consider uninstalling bandwidth-heavy applications or restricting their ability to use background data.


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