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How To Monitor Your Mobile Data Usage

Avoid overage fees on tiered or metered data plans

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Business people using cell phone at train station
Compassionate Eye Foundation/Steven Errico/Digital Vision/Getty Images

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.

Mobile Apps

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.

Whichever option you choose, monitoring your cell phone data usage can prevent overage fees when: you're on a tiered data plan, may be roaming, or want to avoid extra tethering fees.

More: Find out how much mobile data you need then find the best mobile data plan for you based on these numbers.

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