How much data do I have?

How Much Data Do You Use on Your Mobile Devices?

To save on data use, only watch TV shows on your smart phone through WiFi.
To save on data use, only watch TV shows on your smart phone through WiFi.

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.

Related Articles


  • Eagan, Matt. "How to Set a Data Usage Limit on Android Phone or Tablet." Tech Advisor. April 24, 2013. (Oct. 10, 2013)
  • Fitzgerald, Drew. "How Much Smartphone Data Do You Really Need?" The Wall Street Journal. Aug. 1, 2013. (Oct. 11, 2013)
  • Gruener, Wolfgang. "What is Average Data Use and Why Should You Care?" Tom's Guide. March 17, 2011. (Oct. 11, 2013),news-10514.html
  • Korcz, Kristy. "How-To: Check Your iPhone Data Usage." Pop Sugar. Sept. 14, 2012. (Oct. 10, 2013)
  • Meeker, Mary and Wu, Liang . "2013 Internet Trends." KPCB. May 2013. (Oct. 10, 2013)
  • MobiThinking. "How Greedy is Your App." April 25, 2013. (Oct. 10, 2013)
  • 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)
  • Yu, Roger. "Cable Companies Cap Data Use for Revenue." USA Today. Oct. 1, 2012. (Oct. 10, 2013)