Is Your Smartphone Bill About to Explode?

Category: Mobile

Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T have implemented new tiered pricing plans that could result in hefty overage charges for mobile data users. Here's how to track your data usage and avoid a big surprise in your next bill...

How to Track Smartphone Data Usage

Are you using your iPhone, iPad, Blackberry or Android device to watch videos on Youtube or Netflix? Do you listen to streaming music, hang out on Facebook, play online games, or use the GPS navigation on your mobile device? If so, you may need to start monitoring your data usage, to avoid a big jump in your mobile phone bill.

As mobile data usage explodes, carriers are implementing tiered pricing plans to squeeze more money out of the heaviest 3G and 4G data users. Unless you are "grandfathered" by your current contract, the unlimited "all-you-can eat" data plans are a thing of the past. Verizon's $30/month for unlimited data is out, and the new tiered data plans range from $30/month (2 GB) to $80/month (10 GB). You'll pay an extra $10 for every gigabyte of data by which you exceed your monthly allowance. AT&T offers similar rates and penalties. For now, at least, Sprint is the only major carrier that still offers an unlimited data plan at a flat monthly rate.
Smartphone Data Plan Pricing

Check with your mobile service provider to ensure that you know the details of your current plan. Be sure to take note of your data limits and the price tag for exceeding them. You can also use Verizon's Data Usage Calculator to estimate how much data you will use in a typical month.

Apps For Monitoring Data Usage

To avoid expensive surprises in your mobile phone bill, you can use apps that track your data usage and warn you when you are about to exceed your plan's limit.

DataMan for Apple iOS is an iPhone and iPad app that keeps track of wireless data usage in real time. You can set it to warn you when you have reached a specified percentage of your plan's monthly cap. It can even divide your plan's cap into daily allowances and warn you when you are about to exceed one of them. You can also tell DataMan to turn off your device's radios when you reach your cap. DataMan can be programmed to reset your data cap on a specified date. The free version is ad-supported, but the Pro version costs only $1.99 in the Apple App Store.

Stats, for Android devices, can do a lot more than just track data usage. It can also track your incoming and outgoing voice calls, the number of minutes used, how many text messages you've sent, and how much data you've used on 3G versus WiFi networks. You can tell it how many minutes and bytes of data are in your plan, and Stats will alert you as you approach those limits. You can fire up Stats at any time to check your usage; if you see red numbers, it's time to slow down. The free version is ad-supported while the paid version costs just $1.32 in the Android Marketplace.

Mobile Data Alerter is a free app for Blackberry 4.2 and above devices. It monitors your WiFi connection, mobile data connection, and how much data you have used while roaming outside of your carrier's coverage area. It can be configured with your monthly data cap, and an audible alert will sound when you approach that limit.

Download Meter, for iPhones and iPads, can help you get a handle on which of your mobile activities is eating up the biggest chunks of your data allowance. For example, it can display how many bytes have been used uploading and downloading YouTube videos. You can set counters for specific time periods (work hours versus leisure time), applications, and locations to see what the patterns of your data usage are. It also distinguishes between WiFi and cellular data usage. Download Meter costs $1.99

3G Watchdog is an Android app that, combined with another app called APNdroid, will actually turn off your mobile device's radios when a user-defined data limit is reached. You can also manually toggle data connection access on or off using APNdroid. Look for these freebies in the Android Marketplace.

Do you have something to say about mobile data plans, pricing, or monitoring? Post your comment below...

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Most recent comments on "Is Your Smartphone Bill About to Explode?"

Posted by:

Droid user
13 Jul 2011

I use the Android app Phone Usage to monitor my phone usage.

Posted by:

Steve Guard
13 Jul 2011

I use 3G Watchdog on my HTC Legend. It's a brilliant (free) app and very easy to set up.

Posted by:

18 Jul 2011

Hey Bob! Do you know of any pricing changes in the works for unlimited talk/text/web companies MetroPCS, Cricket, or Straight Talk? At the moment, it would seem like one of these would be the way to go unlesss one desires to be bound by contract to Sprint.

Posted by:

15 Jan 2012

Have you compared DATAMAN to ONAVO for Android data usage

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