How to Speed Up Your Browsing and Save On Mobile Data with Brave Browser

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Cover Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

Mobile Data Woes

You've just gotten a text. Is it from a friend? Nope. It's from your wireless carrier and you've just run out of mobile data with ten days left in your billing cycle. We've all been there. You've tried sticking to using only WiFi and perhaps have even prevented apps from using background data -- what more can you do?

Well, what if I told you that there was a way that you could both save on data and speed up your mobile internet? It really is that simple.

Switching to Brave

Studies have shown that online advertisements can consume up to 79% of your mobile data. Think of how much data you could save if you just cut out the content that you didn't want to see to begin with! And bandwidth not wasted on ads can instead be used to load the content that you actually care about -- speeding up your browsing experience! While it's simple enough to block ads on your desktop browser, it's typically much more difficult to do so on the mobile Chrome and Safari that come installed on your phone. This is where BRAVE comes in.

Brave Browser is a new privacy oriented browser that is based on the same underlying engine as Chrome called Chromium. It comes with ad blocking and enhanced security policies by default. This will prevent unwanted ads from wasting your data and saturating your bandwidth. It's available for both iOS and Android and has been my browser of choice for the past few months. Since switching to Brave my phone feels as snappy as it did when it was brand new and I've seen a noticeable decrease in my data usage.

Brave also automatically blocks a lot of the fingerprinting techniques that sites use to identify your device. Things like accessing the motion and light sensors. I haven't really noticed anything myself, but this combined with it preventing a lot of unnecessary ad javascript from running should also help save on battery life. There really aren't any downsides to using it!

What About Content Creators?

You may be wondering about what happens to website owners and content creators that rely on these ads. That's an extremely fair concern. While Brave doesn't block first-party ads (ads that are served on the same domain as the site itself), most sites rely on third party ad-networks. Brave's answer for these sites is a bit ambitious. They've created a new cryptocurrency called the Basic Attention Token (BAT) that powers a new model of advertising. Advertisers buy ads through Brave and users of the browser can opt-in to seeing up to five ads an hour via notifications on their device. This earns BAT tokens which are then anonymously distributed amongst the sites that the user has visited monthly. Users can also opt-out of these automatic donations and choose to donate their acquired BAT to their preferred creators themselves. The number of sites that have signed on to use BAT is still small, but growing. For example, well known sites such as The Guardian news and Wikipedia have signed up to accept BAT as payment.

What Else Can I Do?

If you've installed Brave and made the switch to using it and you're still finding yourself stretched for data and your internet speed feels slower than molasses. There's a few more things worth trying.

Install Cloudflare's Warp VPN and DNS

Installing Cloudflare's DNS and Warp "VPN" can help speed up your mobile internet and potentially even save a bit of data. The Warp VPN tunnels your mobile traffic through Cloudflare's network and uses Google's QUIC protocol which has numerous benefits for lossy networks -- which is exactly suited for most mobile usage. From a security standpoint, it's debatable how much Warp improves things. While you're now encrypting your DNS traffic and keeping your browsing secret from your wireless carrier, it's all available to Cloudflare. Still, Cloudflare might be the lesser evil in this case. If this sounds like something you'd like to try, Warp is available on your mobile app store.

Disable Autoplay and GIF Loading in Apps

If you use various messenger/chat apps you've undoubtedly been sent lots of gifs and videos. Gifs are super inefficient where file size is concerned, so if your app allows you to prevent autoloading of gifs and autoplay of videos this can help a huge amount. This post from cnet includes instructions for how to do this for some popular apps such as Instagram and Twitter. Small tweaks like this can really go a long way!

See If You Can Opt-In To Throttling

Some carriers have an opt-in "throttling" option that can be engaged when you exceed your limit in lieu of being charged for extra data. Verizon, for example, offers a "Safety Mode" that will just restrict your available bandwidth once you've surpassed your data for the month. This can be useful for those cases where you just barely go over the limit and only have a few days left in the billing cycle.

Do Something Else

If all else fails, maybe you truly are spending too much time on your phone. Maybe read a book or listen to a (previously downloaded!) podcast! ?? Or maybe it's just time to bite the bullet and sign up for a plan with unlimited data.

Thanks for reading!

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