Keeping track of mobile data usage

Being on the wrong mobile phone plan can cost a pretty penny, which is why ZDNet Asia scoured for applications to help users track their mobile usage.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor on

A recent report from the United Kingdom found that many users waste money for being on the wrong mobile phone contract. ZDNet Asia rounds up a few applications that can help users remain aware of just how much of their mobile phone plans they are using.

Comparison Web site Top10.com reported that U.K. residents were wasting about US$1.2 billion a year on the wrong mobile phone contract. It said 55 percent of mobile phone owners never used up their permitted quota of talktime, while 8 percent exceeded their contract allowance and had to pay more.

The Web site suggested that before upgrading their phones or switching networks, users should check their previous bills to better understand their consumption pattern.

Although the Top10.com research focused on voice and text plans, the same situation appears to be happening to data plan subscribers as well. In the United States, Apple iPhone exclusive dealer AT&T scrapped its unlimited data plans in favor of tiered data plans to curb 3G broadband usage.

In a recent interview with ZDNet Asia, a Procera Networks executive noted that AT&T decided to cancel its unlimited data plan after understanding subscribers' data usage. Currently, many of the region's telcos have yet to comprehend how their subscribers' data circulates, he said.

With the rise in number of smartphone users, an ABI Research report said mobile network operators in Asia-Pacific's developed markets are struggling to cope with the exponentially exploding data usage and the demand that this is placing on their networks.

For users, turning off 3G and switching to free Wi-Fi can be a way to cut down on 3G consumption. But for those who need to use 3G, ZDNet Asia scoured the Web to find several applications that can help users keep track of their data usage on the different mobile platforms.

Most phones include a built-in data usage monitor. For example, Apple iPhone users can go to General > Settings > Usage to check on the data sent from the phone. But third-party applications can give a clearer picture of the phone's data traffic.

A quick search of the Apple App Store found several apps dedicated to tracking data usage. Data Usage and Data Genie are two paid apps selling at US$0.99. For Singapore users subscribing to Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel), a free app called iBBOM is available.

For Google Android users, free apps such as 3G Watchdog and NetCounter both have a rating of more than 4.5 out of 5 on Androlib.com.

Research In Motion's BlackBerry users can look at e-office Mobile Data Alerter to monitor their data traffic.

In the same ABI Research report, Indonesia was noted to have one of the cheapest mobile broadband rates in the world, alongside the United Kingdom and France. The country's 4GB data package for the BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) costs as low as US$17 a month, said the research firm.

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