What's Sending Me Over My Data Plan?

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jwkessler

I use an app called XSysInfo on my iPad 2 3G. It gives me my data usage for the month and a lot of other information on my iPad. I assume there is an iPhone version as well.

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Geoduck

Does anyone know of an App that would monitor data usage? Something simple that would give a running total for Cell vs WiFi and could be zeroed periodically. Ideally that could give you an on screen message periodically or when you exceed a predetermined limit.

If there isn't one, here is a good idea that I'm giving away for free. At .99 I'm sure you'd make a bundle.

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app_addict

@Geoduck — Thanks for the next million dollar idea, but it may not be as popular as you'd expect because this feature has been a built-in feature dating back into at least the 4.x series firmware. The problem is that Apple's settings app (in my opinion) is very poorly structured from a logical or practical view, making things like this not-so-easy to find. You'd be surprised at how many people didn't even know you could show an actual battery capacity percentage. It was understandable to me, as it was haphazardly tucked under an infrequently used section, in which it didn't seem to logically fit to begin with.

Now— to answer your question about monitoring data usage. Go into Settings->General->Usage, then scroll to the very bottom of that page to find Cellular Data and tap into that section. Tada!

There is shown the two most important counters for most people: Minutes used in the current period, and Cellular Network Data usage (also of note is tethered usage). For most intents and purposes, this suffices as a general guideline to watch. At the bottom is a reset button which resets the "current period" counters back to zero.

The only drawback here is that you have to remember to reset these counters manually on the first day of your new billing cycle. An alert set in your program of choice each month and 10 seconds should make quick work of that. That way you'll always have a general idea of how close you are to the danger zone!

Also of note is that there is no wi-fi counter, but considering you should be using unlimited/free wi-fi, that seems like more of just a curiosity than a necessity.

On the other hand, if you've got some money burning a hole in your electronic funds vessel (what's a wallet?) then there are certainly programs out there with the exact same functionality in the app store. A quick query on, say, 3G usage should bring some candidates up. The few I have tried at times in all honesty were quite haggard looking and just screamed "amateur developer". Their "selling point" is the claim that Apple's native counters only count certain data and not extra overhead TCP/UDP control packets or this or that; a claim that I, personally think is a bit of hyperbole in their stress of these missed overhead packets, which in reality probably make at most a meg or two difference— insignificant amounts of "leaked" data (if those claims were substantiated in the first place; I can't say that they are or aren't).

You then have other apps that claim their value is that they capture ALL used minutes; ones that iOS misses. For example, third party apps like Google Voice that can proxy through your phone, using up minutes, but not using the native Phone app. Another example is conference calling, forwarding calls to another number still uses minutes under some providers. These apps claim that ANY situation where your minutes are being used, it's got them covered.

You also have another, free option for this, depending again on your service provider. Personally, I'm on Verizon, and they have a free Verizon mobile app to manage your usage. The pros here are: you're getting the figures from an authoritative source, it takes into consideration "shared" accounts, as is my case where 3 people share a single usage quota. The app shows both totals used across all accounts, and your portion of the damages... ;). You also have the benefit of much greater detailing of where it's all being used at by viewing detail reports that can be broken down into counts of how many of those minutes were free night/weekend minutes and how many are billable (which is another inherent shortcoming of the built in counter— minutes are minutes, no differentiation between peak/non-peak use). As far as texts, it will break those down to incoming/outgoing texts, as well as if they are SMS or MMS, etc.

I speak only of Verizon's app; I do not know what other carriers' apps provide, or if they even provide one at all.

In summary, the quick and dirty option is to use the OS's per-existing, yet vague and feature-lacking option. Next up would be the carrier's management app that has three primary benefits over the other choices: 1) Data is collected at the network level, removing any overhead that third-party apps will use, as they demand that they are constantly running to capture all activity; a drain on your battery, and at times on your patience as one such app whined so incessantly if it were ever closed, I couldn't handle its virus-like insistence of staying resident in running memory. Got rid of it. On the contrary, since provider apps can access the actual network-recorded usage from their servers, they can be run on a need/-only basis, eliminating that constant resource draining app 2) As mentioned, you are getting the data as the billing party will be using it. It's what you see is what you get, no guesswork involved. They also auto reset the counters for you at cycle, making that one less thing to have to remember. 3) Finally, most carrier apps give you the "big picture" and include any shared usage. You may have used a very respectable 150 minutes during the month, which the native and third-party apps would reflect. What their failure point would be is not factoring in that your wife used 1,1150 minutes that same month, and you may be 350 minutes over without knowing it!

The single weak point in a carrier's management app and the other two options are that the other two reflect statistics in real-time; carrier stats can, and often are delayed by as much as 24-48 hours, so you're usually not getting current info.

Hope my insights have helped out. If you still need to consider a third-party solution, they're out there, for sure. Just search the app store for relevant keywords. :)

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