Android 7.0: Data Saver will prevent overages on cheaper plans

SIM cards
SIM cards

We all like new features and a better way to do things, but when they can save us some money we might just like them a little more. That's what Google is aiming for with the new Data Saver feature in Android 7.0 Nougat.

For many of us, especially if we bought a less expensive Android, the amount of money we spend on data will quickly become more than we paid for the phone that's using it. When we use too much, especially when we didn't realize it was happening, it becomes even worse because the companies who provide us with a connection like to charge plenty of money for going over your monthly allotment. Not paying attention to apps sucking up data behind the scenes is fairly common in today's mobile landscape, and with Android 7.0 Google is looking to fix that.

More: The best cheap Android phones of 2016

Let's see who catches the 5G

Data Saver in Android 7.0 isn't like the current data usage setting in Marshmallow, nor is it like Sony's Stamina mode. Rather than just a cut off when a certain user-set amount is consumed, or stop all background usage completely on every connection, Data Saver kicks in anytime you're on a metered (read: not unlimited) data connection. If you are, it limits apps and background process to a set amount of data, influencing how often they can dip into it. When you're on an unmetered connection (no data cap) it allows apps to do everything they were programmed to do. Changes to the ConnectivityManager API in SDK version 24 (that's Android 7.0) include a way to check if the device is on a metered connection, when anything about the connection changes and if Data Saver is enabled.

Data Saver works for any cellular data plan, including prepaid services

Data Saver works for any cellular data plan, including prepaid services. That means it will also work if you're traveling abroad and buy a pre-paid local SIM card.

We may want to let certain apps do what they need even when the Data Saver setting is applied. Those apps can be put on a user-created whitelist. Apps on that list are allowed to freely use data when running in the background.

Also, some apps just won't work if they can't get connected. For the developers of this sort of app (think something like Facebook Messenger) they can request to be whitelisted by using a bit of code in their app. If Data Saver is enabled, the app will let the user know that it needs to be whitelisted (developers, make sure to include an explanation, please!) and direct the user to the whitelist settings. They can still say no, but they need to know that an app won't work without a connection.

The whole system is opt-in through the network settings in Android 7.0 — and developers will have to enable the feature, too

This means developers will want to make some changes to how they run in the background. As users, we'll be more willing to whitelist an app if it can limit background data usage to just essential services like direct messages. Developers can also shift to using Google Cloud Messaging (introduced in 2013) for easier-to-manage push notifications while having the rest of their app use the standard data connection.

The whole system is opt-in through the network settings in Android 7.0. If you have an unlimited plan from Sprint or T-Mobile or are holding on to a legacy plan from another provider, you can just ignore it. Likewise for things like a company phone where 24/7 connectivity is more important than the bill.

Data Saver is one of many new system-level features coming with Nougat. Together they make Android 7.0 one of the best updates we've seen in a while, and will be the groundwork for even more great features in the future.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • How long before Verizon and AT&T demand that this be removed from devices they sell? Posted via the Android Central App
  • LOL Posted via the Android Central App
  • Haha, oh you know it....
    That 5g status looks really good, it's gonna be a while still, but when it arrives it's going to be yuge Posted via the Android Central App
  • Made me lol.....then made me mad..because it's probably true.
  • Hah, so true!
  • Verizon is evil dude lol Posted via the Android Central App
  • ATT blocked Windows Phone Data Saver App for years. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yup sad ,funny ,but tru ..unlimited data for life .but im on sprint so i barely use it because ive yet to get good lte coverage and im in marietta ga lol Posted via the Android Central App
  • They don't have to "demand" anything. Android is open source. They'll just remove it on their own custom versions.
  • It would be nice if current apps that have the "Restrict app background data" setting set to on would actually abide by the setting. Since I'm a Project Fi user I turn off all the unnecessary apps to save data while on cellular and a few still use background data even though this setting is on. Most show up as restricted, but a couple still use background data anyways. Two that come to mind that ignore it is Instagram and CityMaps2Go Pro which is odd since it is supposed to be used without a cellular connection.
  • This is really one of those no-brainer things that should have been in the OS for years. It seems like it would be beneficial to have this turned on for all cellular users, if for no other reason than to save battery while the phone is idle.
  • It actually has kinda been around for years, just with no whitelist as far as I know and an annoying persistent notification that "Background data is restricted, tap here to turn it back on".
  • So far it seems to be pretty decent. Before I updated to the preview though I would just turn off my data when I wasn't using it,which stopped working after the update. Posted via the Android Central App
  • One way to save a lot of data is by disabling automatic updates for apps in the playstore, not only will it save you data, but also space. Seriously, some apps (like YouTube) don't even tell you what they are changing or "updating" when you read the information, and them when you open those apps, nothing seems different, neither in appearances or performance :S Posted via the Android Central App
  • Samsung has had this for years. No reason for updates. Posted from Nexus 6
  • That uses the Restrict background data APIs in Android. This is different. The new API will detect if you're on an unlimited connection and not restrict data, or restrict it when you don't have unlimited. That means everyone can and should turn it on and keep it on all the time. Even if you swap SIM cards regularly. Also, apps don't have to abide by the restrict background data setting, but will be blocked from using data with the new APIs.
  • I was trolling, every time a major update comes out Samsung guy says we have had this for years. My point is under the hood stuff is actually more important than cosmetic features. Posted from Nexus 6
  • Lol you're like me. I'll freely admit when I've been caught trolling.
  • Gotcha. Troll on dude!
  • I recall being on the 2 GB per month data plan, then the 5 GB per month. AT&T is now offering 20 GB family shared as one of its lower tiered plans. I'm wondering when they're going to be "generous" again and bump us up to 40 GB for the price of 20. Android and IOS apps have changed significantly over the past few years in terms of size. So have users' habits of data consumption. (I did some research for a work project and discovered that out of 192 million active social media accounts, 88% of them are accessed on mobile.) In a few years, streaming in 4k will be the standard and our phones will be gobbling up gigabytes daily.
  • When 5G comes out and we're getting 500/1000 Mbps what kind of data caps are AT&T AND Verizon gonna have? Posted via the Pokemon Central App
  • By then, it will be AT&V. And they will rule the world. Posted via the Android Central App
  • AT&V lol Posted via the Android Central App
  • Those"cheaper"plans are actually more expensive Posted via the Android Central App
  • "developers will have to enable it. too" Well there goes this feature out the window. What "data mining" app developer is going to enable this?
    Facebook is a good example....not in a million years This will only be enabled by apps that are currently transfering little to no data in the background
  • For their apps to work. If they don't do anything, it just doesn't work if you choose not to whitelist it.
  • Not sure I understand Jerry, so by whitelisting an app, it will probably give it full reign of data or reduce data or up to the developer on an app by app basis?
  • My understanding is all apps will be affected by this regardless of their updates as the OS handles this. Now, if its an app like WhatsApp which requires constant data connection, their developers can update their apps to include a message of some sort to let the user know that the app is currently not whitelisted and you may not receive messages when Data Saver is ON. If you want uninterrupted messages, please whitelist the app in Settings.
  • This. Exactly my thoughts.
  • Curious if this will affect battery life as it 'controls' data flow of apps? Will this be a trade-off if it does save data but use more battery?
  • Well, since it reduces data consumption, it should save battery instead.
  • Anybody know what phone that is in the pic? The red carbon fiber back? Posted via the Android Central App
  • The sim card slot is on the right side. What phone has it there? Maybe the Note 7 or Nexus? It would make sense if it were the new Nexus as it will be released with 7.0.
  • It might be an older Droid. Droids are the only ones I remember with a red fiber back.
  • Misleading headline. Data Saver won't "prevent" anything. It may make it less likely that you'll go over your plan cap, or make it take longer before you go over your cap, but it most certainly won't prevent you from doing so.
  • Funny, talking about Android 7.0 using a picture of the DROID Turbo 2014... Posted via the Android Central App
  • This can help those on very low data plans. I used to use AirVoice 250 minute plan. I had to root so i could run a firewall and only let certain programs access cellular data. I didn't mind if hangouts and messenger but I didn't want Facebook or chrome or other things to access data if I wasn't on wifi. A further upgrade to this new feature would be to allow saved settings or profiles. For my firewall, I had profiles for when I occasionally wanted to browse the internet or use facebook or maps while on cellular.
  • When is it coming to the Note 7?
  • How about rather than prohibiting use of data, just switching it to the unlimited 2g speed? Would this be possible with any app?