The next big technology boom is expected to include wearable mobile devices ranging from Google Glass to Galaxy Gear (Samsung's smartwatch), all of which will drain data [source: Meeker and Wu]. Knowing this is right around the corner — and in some cases, here already — it's a good idea to get in the habit of tracking data consumption on mobile devices.
Some mobile service providers offer e-mail or text notifications when you've approached or surpassed data thresholds, and you can set these alerts by logging into your account. AT&T, for example, will send an e-mail when a customer is nearing a data plan limit; the message also includes a reminder that customers will be billed at $20 per additional 300 MB (as of October 2013). Customers can check data consumption for other devices as well, by dialing *DATA# for a text outlining current data usage or downloading an AT&T customer app. Verizon and Sprint offer similar services. And, of course, you can see how much data you are using — and being charged for — on your monthly bill.
You can also check your mobile device to discover how much data you're pulling.
iPhone/iPad: Go to Settings/General/Usage. There, you'll find sending and receiving data usage. Just be sure to reset these statistics every month (or week, depending on the time period you're measuring) [source: Korcz]. You can also see which downloaded apps are memory hogs.
Android smartphone/tablet: Go to Settings/Wireless & Networks/Data Usage. You can not only see how much data you are using, but you also can set warnings and limits to avoid overages [source: Egan].
Third-party apps are another option. 3G Watchdog, My Data Manager and Onavo Count monitor usage and allow you to set data usage warnings. It's also a good idea to hop onto WiFi networks rather than exclusively relying on your data provider's network. This can allow you to play Candy Crush or Snapchat to your heart's content — all without costing you precious data charges [source: Fitzgerald].
Author's Note: How much data do I have?
As someone who regularly bumps against data limits, I knew this article would be interesting to research. What I didn't expect to discover was a way to set data limits so I don't have overages. Setting a data limit (and preceding warnings) is remarkably simple. If I wasn't so excited about it, I'd be embarrassed that I didn't do it sooner. I was also surprised to learn that a number of apps I've installed are using data — even when I'm not using them. It will be interesting to witness the inevitable collision of increased consumer needs for bandwidth increasingly bump against the limits set by providers. Perhaps a discussion of the merits of free, nationwide access is in order.
- Eagan, Matt. "How to Set a Data Usage Limit on Android Phone or Tablet." Tech Advisor. April 24, 2013. (Oct. 10, 2013) http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/how-to/google-android/3443819/set-data-usage-limit-on-android/
- Fitzgerald, Drew. "How Much Smartphone Data Do You Really Need?" The Wall Street Journal. Aug. 1, 2013. (Oct. 11, 2013) http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2013/08/01/how-much-smartphone-data-do-you-really-need/
- Gruener, Wolfgang. "What is Average Data Use and Why Should You Care?" Tom's Guide. March 17, 2011. (Oct. 11, 2013) http://www.tomsguide.com/us/dsl-service-cable-service-internet-service,news-10514.html
- Korcz, Kristy. "How-To: Check Your iPhone Data Usage." Pop Sugar. Sept. 14, 2012. (Oct. 10, 2013) http://www.geeksugar.com/How-Check-Your-iPhone-Data-Usage-8647400
- Meeker, Mary and Wu, Liang . "2013 Internet Trends." KPCB. May 2013. (Oct. 10, 2013) http://www.kpcb.com/insights/2013-internet-trends
- MobiThinking. "How Greedy is Your App." April 25, 2013. (Oct. 10, 2013) http://mobithinking.com/blog/greedy-apps
- PC Help Center. "How To Find Out How Much RAM My Computer Has and How Much it is Using." March 29, 2005. (Oct. 10, 2013) http://pc.net/helpcenter/answers/amount_of_ram_in_computer
- Yu, Roger. "Cable Companies Cap Data Use for Revenue." USA Today. Oct. 1, 2012. (Oct. 10, 2013) http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2012/10/01/internet-data-cap/1595683/