Cellular Data vs. Wi-Fi: What’s the Best Way to Connect?
Accessing the internet is easier and more convenient than ever. Gone are the days when you needed a computer, modem, and dedicated phone line. In 2021, some 4.32 billion people used mobile devices to go online. These wireless connections can be made using either cellular data or Wi-Fi.
While both offer instant access to the internet, knowing when (and where) to use each can help spare you from frustration … not to mention an expensive cellular bill!
In most cases, it’s best to use Wi-Fi with your Golden West internet service instead of cellular data. You’ll enjoy a faster internet connection, will use less battery power on your mobile device, and won’t have to worry about exceeding your data limit.
Cellular Data and Wi-Fi Connect Differently
Mobile phone and tablet users have two options for connecting to the internet: cellular data and Wi-Fi.
Cellular data is included with mobile phone plans. The amount varies depending on your particular contract. Wireless devices connect to the internet using cellular data transmitted by cell towers managed by mobile phone carriers like Verizon and AT&T.
Wi-Fi, by contrast, is essentially a short-distance signal generated by a wireless router that connects you to the internet using your Golden West service or that of another provider. A Wi-Fi network serves a specific location, such as your home or work, as well as many public businesses and facilities.
While both will get you online, the type of connection you use will impact you in several key areas including security, connection speed, and the cost of your monthly cell bill. Each has its pros and cons.
Pros and Cons of Cellular Data
Because cellular data utilizes cellphone towers, it comes in handy when you need to connect to the internet but aren’t near a router. As long as you’re someplace where you can get a strong enough cell signal, you can go online. If you’re ever unsure how you’re connected to the internet, your device will display bars with 3G, 4G, or 5G when using cellular data.
Cellular data offers greater range and, compared to public Wi-Fi, a more secure connection. The downside? Accessing the internet this way can be slower and eats into your monthly data allotment. Unless you have an unlimited data plan, you risk incurring steep overage charges, which can lead to an unpleasant surprise when you receive your cellphone bill.
It’s best to use cellular data when:
- The Wi-Fi network is public or not secure.
- The Wi-Fi network is slow, or your connection is weak. (If you experience this with your Golden West Wi-Fi, call 1-855-888-7777 for technical support anytime or use the chat feature at goldenwest.com.)
- Your online activities are limited to something simple, like checking email or scrolling through social media feeds.
- You have plenty of monthly cellular data left.
- You are away from home but still in your home country.
Keep in mind, certain applications use more data than others. If you’re driving a long distance and using Google Maps, for instance, you might quickly deplete your data.
Wi-Fi is Almost Always a Better Choice
In most cases, it’s best to use Wi-Fi with your Golden West internet service instead of cellular data. You’ll enjoy a faster internet connection, will use less battery power on your mobile device, and won’t have to worry about exceeding your data limit. While Golden West provides secure Wi-Fi setup with its service, public Wi-Fi connections are often not secure and should not be used to look at sensitive information, such as online bank accounts.
You can turn Wi-Fi on and off under “Settings” on your mobile device. You’ll also find a list of available connections there. If you frequent a particular public spot — such as a neighborhood coffee shop — you can save the network, which enables your device to log in automatically whenever you are within close proximity. You’ll know you’re connected via Wi-Fi when your device displays a Wi-Fi icon.
It’s best to use Wi-Fi when:
- It’s your Golden West Wi-Fi network, or another secure Wi-Fi network. (A secure network requires a password for first-time access and shows a lock next to the network name.)
- You need a faster internet connection.
- Your phone has a strong Wi-Fi signal.
- You are streaming or downloading videos and music.
- Your cellular data plan is limited.
- You are traveling internationally.
One thing to remember: once you move out of range of a Wi-Fi network, your phone or tablet will switch to cellular data automatically. You might want to save those funny cat videos for when you have access to Wi-Fi through your Golden West internet service. Cute as they may be, you don’t want to end up with an extra high cellular bill next month!
Sources: Some information for this article was provided by online articles from Statista.com, WilsonPro.com, WonderOfTech.com, Verizon.com, and ActionTech.com.