How To Make Android Apps Update Via WiFi Only

Latest versions of Google Play Store allow you to force all Android apps to update over WiFi only, saving your expensive mobile data allowance.

Older versions never had a global setting to make your apps update via WiFi only. Therefore, if you had set automatic app updates on, those updates would often be downloaded via your mobile connection when you were out and about…

If you have a lot of apps (especially games or maps) which update frequently, this could use up a big chunk of your precious monthly allowance and turn out to be quite costly.

An easy way to preserve your mobile data for your own use is to force all apps to update via WiFi instead (assuming you have access to a wireless network of course).

Thankfully, Google Play Store added this essential functionality – and it continues in the current version today. If you have not already changed settings to take advantage of app updates via wifi, read on for a simple guide.

To Make Android Apps Update Via Wi-Fi Only

Open the Google Play app then press the Menu button and then Settings. In the General Settings you should see options similar to those below:

Android apps update via wifi only

  • Tick ‘Auto-update apps’ if you want apps to auto-update (recommended).

Note: in newer versions of Android, this is already turned on by default – just tap on it to display an option to ‘Update via Wifi only’ or Update at any time (including your mobile data)

  • Select ‘Update over WiFi only’ to force apps to update over wifi in future, not your mobile connection, thereby saving mobile data usage.

That’s it! From now on, updates to apps should never be downloaded unless you are connected to a wifi network – so they can’t use up your data allowance :-)

Updated 2019

A reader noted that even if this setting is turned on, if you lose your wireless connection it may still be possible for some updates to be downloaded using your mobile data…

Here is what I think happens – the checking for updates can only start whilst you are connected to a wireless network. So far so good. The checking finds several available updates and queues them up for subsequent download one at a time – which is still ok.

The problem arises if you then move out of wireless range (e.g. leave home) before all those queued updates have actually been downloaded – they may then be downloaded via your mobile data connection.

It appears that the ‘Update over Wifi only’ setting only controls the “checking” for updates, not the actual downloads themselves. Therefore, if your wifi disconnects after auto-update finds some updates, the downloads may then continue using your mobile data (3G/4G) because they are already queued up.

If you find this is a frequent problem (e.g. you always switch your phone on just before leaving the house), there are two solutions:

1. Disable ‘Auto-update apps’ until you’re definitely in wifi range with a good signal (see how to improve Wifi speeds), then enable it and wait until all updates are completed. Then disable it again – this works but is not an elegant solution…

2. Turn the phone on for longer (e.g. 15+ minutes) before you leave the house – so that any new updates found will have time to fully download and install.

11 thoughts on “How To Make Android Apps Update Via WiFi Only”

  1. I just came across this same issue with my Galaxy Note Edge. Plugged my phone in last night to charge, with only 3GB of data used, woke up this morning to 9.5GB used. I had the “Download on Wi-Fi only” setting checked, so I am assuming the Wi-Fi in my house cut out last night. So 6.5GB of updates on mobile data in one night. Needless to say, I unchecked the “Auto-update apps” setting. Don’t need any more of that. If anyone finds a solution to this wide spread, rather major issue, or hears of an upcoming update to fix it, let me know.

  2. I have a Galaxy S3, and this setting doesn’t seem to work (at least not all the time). This morning I restarted my phone and then immediately left my house. As I backed out of my driveway I just checked the temp in my weather widget and saw that an app update was downloading. It was just gReader, which is pretty small, so I didn’t care. I checked it at the traffic light and saw that I no longer had wifi and the download had resumed on 4G. I checked at the next light and saw that it had downloaded an update for Angry Birds Star Wars. I didn’t have wifi at any time when that downloaded started, when it finished, or in between, and that app is sizable. Not long ago I got a text from AT&T saying I’d hit 65% of my data usage, and I almost never get that, even sometimes in the last few days of my billing cycle. I checked my usage and saw I had 75MB this morning at the time I was in my car. So this setting doesn’t quite work right, apparently.

    • @Jay – either your S3 is not respecting this option (it should as it’s a standard Android setting) or else the checking for updates completed whilst still in wifi range and queued up several updates for download one at a time.

      The setting controls the auto-update “checking” rather than the downloads themselves i.e. if your wifi disconnects after auto-update finds some updates, the actual downloads can continue on 4G because they are already queued up – if this is a frequent problem see my answer to comment 2, it’s not an elegant solution but does work (or leave the phone on for a few minutes before leaving so they have time to download)

      • Yeah, that makes sense. I had decided I wouldn’t restart right before leaving the house anymore, so hopefully that would prevent this behavior. If I had written that code I would have checked the wifi status before each update downloads, and stop any current downloads if wifi was lost. That’s just me, though. :)

  3. I’ve done this before, but nothing worked. I bought an unlocked phone on Amazon, it’s a Samsung Galaxy Wave Y (Young). I’ve found out how to connect wifi networks to the phones memory so that I could receive picture messages and access apps, but I can’t use the apps, download new apps, or send picture messages. You seem to be the most helpful on solving thes kind of issues, I would really like this problem solved, it’s such a hassal when I really want to download apps for social media cites. Please help!!!!!!

    • @Carnation – not really sure what you mean but perhaps try a factory reset or avoid non-google play markets if using 3rd party apps?

  4. I wonder if the wifi connection drops because you move out of range or because the Nexus S is infamous for poor wifi reception?

    Anyway, only suggestion I have is a bodge – untick ‘Auto-update apps’ until you’re definitely in wifi range with a good signal then tick it and leave until all updates complete then untick it again…

    If you suffer frequent drops, some people report that it improves with a new wireless N router, especially if you currently have wireless G. Also, maybe worth checking if there is interference from other wifi networks –

  5. Its almost perfect… if the download starts and the wifi connection drop it will still download on 3g. ( i m on nexus S) anyone has an idea on how to prevent that?

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