Tiered or metered data plans are becoming the norm and unlimited data access becoming less common. By monitoring your mobile data usage, you can stay within your data plan and avoid overage fees or throttling (crippling slower speeds). This is especially important when traveling outside of your wireless carrier's normal coverage area, because the data usage caps are lower than (and, thus, easier to go over unwittingly). Here are a few ways to keep tabs on how much data you're using.
You can download an app for your smartphone to track data usage and, in some cases even turn off your data before you get to a pre-defined limit:
- For Android, there's the popular 3G Watchdog, which shows a status icon in the notification bar, comes with a widget, and also displays a detailed usage report. PhoneUsage is another option, which also monitors calls and text usage in addition to data. Both these apps come in free and pro versions.
- For iPhone users, DataMan ($1.99) tracks your data usage in real time every 10 minutes, alerts you as soon as you exceed your data cap, and also has geotagging capabilities. Consume is a free iPhone app that tracks usage of not just your mobile phone but rewards cards and other items, and it works internationally, with unlocked phones as well.
- In BlackBerry App World, there's Data Monitor ($2.99) that has very customizable data tracking features and supports all carriers and devices. The free app Cell Manager tracks your voice minutes and text messages as well as your data usage.
Dial-In for Data Usage
Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint all allow you to check your data usage in real-time by dialing a special number from your handset:
- On Verizon, dial #DATA (#3282)
- On AT&T, dial *DATA# (*3282#)
- On Sprint, dial *4 then 4 again for the option to hear all your usage
Mobile Provider Website
Finally, you can find out how many minutes you're using by logging in to your wireless provider's website and checking your account details.