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Preventing mobile data use for select apps on non-rooted phone?

I'm going overseas tomorrow, with a travel SIM that supports mobile data - but it will be a precious resource. So I basically want to switch every app to "don't use mobile data unless I specifically tell you". Is there a list of steps I should go through?

I know I can simply "deactivate data network mode". But what I'm concerned about is that when I re-enable it, suddenly a lot of apps are going to want to update, or collect email, or refresh a Twitter feed or something.

It's a Samsung Galaxy Note with ICS.

  • Also check: android.stackexchange.com/questions/7976/… – roxan Sep 20 '12 at 5:48
  • They're relevant, but not the same. My question covers all forms of unprompted mobile data usage, such as app auto-update. – Steve Bennett Sep 20 '12 at 6:11
  • Solution should be the same. – roxan Sep 20 '12 at 8:05
  • I just saw roxans comment and since it links to an answer essentially the same as mine, yeah, that's what you're looking for. Read my answer and you might understand why if you're confused. – pzkpfw Sep 20 '12 at 8:39

To borrow an answer from a previous question I answered, you could use a firewall. By specifying rules for what programs are allowed to access the Internet, even enabling the connection would still block them in the firewall, and they would not access the net. This way, you can block any app except the apps you want to always be allowed (if any), and then unblock apps as needed.

DroidWall - Front-end application for the powerful iptables Linux firewall. Allows you to restrict which apps can access the network.

This app does require root however, but I think it's important to understand that what you're asking about requires low-level system access, so managing this without root is probably not possible.


Settings > Accounts & Sync > Uncheck "Background Data"

This will disable data use for all apps which are not your current foreground application, however a few apps might ignore it.

For further peace of mind, try the Onavo Count app, which keeps track of which apps are using your data, and can be set to force close certain apps of your choosing when they try to use data in the background. It can also be set to turn mobile data off completely when you near your data cap.

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    Are you sure this is enforced on the system level? I thought this option was more of a guideline that certain apps use to decide whether or not to enable push services. – altruizine Sep 20 '12 at 9:07
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    You're right, it's not strictly enforced. I'd start with that, then use Onavo Count to keep track of and disable apps which are ignoring the setting. See my edited answer. – MikeFHay Sep 20 '12 at 9:35
  • Yeah, I use Onavo Count already. I'm a bit worried that by the time I notice that an app is ignoring that setting, it will have used quite a lot of data. Still, it's a start. – Steve Bennett Sep 20 '12 at 11:02
  • @Steve Fair point. That happened with me just this month with Google Reader. But I figure if you're being frugal then the "Data-Hogging" notification Onavo gives should be enough warning that an app is misbehaving. – MikeFHay Sep 20 '12 at 11:13

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