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:
- 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 :-)
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.