Smartphones have become more Internet-centric over the past year owing to the social networking fad and other Internet connected apps. Most of us have a data plan with limited tariff and speed, and surpassing the limit means hefty charges and eventually paying inflated data bills. This may not apply if you have an unlimited plan. However, those who want to utilise every byte of their data plan frugally can do so using the various data tracking and monitoring apps available for smartphones running on leading mobile platforms like Android, iOS, Blackberry and others. These apps send out alerts so that you stay within the data cap, monitor the way you consume data and even point out apps that have been guzzling data.

Android
Google offers its own data monitoring feature for smartphones running on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich or later. This nifty utility provides a graphical presentation of your data usage, displays data used by each app and helps set a limit. However, ICS hasn’t yet made it to too many Android devices, so third party data monitoring apps could come to the rescue of such users. Moreover, ICS users can also lay their hands on these apps, as they are worth a try. 
 
3G Watchdog – Free, Rs. 153.10 (for the Pro version)
Yes, it's like literally having a watch dog with its eyes glued to your mobile Internet usage to ensure that you don’t exceed the limit. On installing the app, you will have to first key in your data plan, i.e. the data you are allotted to use, which can be in KB, MB or GB. Then you can also type in the time period, i.e. per day, week or month, making it highly configurable. You can then control the data usage and the app shows the data you’ve been consuming in percentage too (example – 30 percent of data used). If you are nearing the consumption, you can set alerts to keep the usage within limit. You will find a notification icon that can be hidden if required. Using the icon you can tweak the counter table to show only those parameters that you wish to view, such as total allowed data usage, your daily, weekly and monthly usage, and also the amount received and sent. There's also a daily and a global consumption history to see at a glance how your consumption is going. For quick access, there is a homescreen widget in two sizes. Although we think that the free version is sufficient, the 3G WatchDog also has a paid Pro version with some advanced features like data usage prediction, 5 widget styles, usage by application and more.

Watchdog nfor your data

Watchdog for your mobile Internet data

Onavo – Free
Onavo for Android lets you set your data plan limit for the month and alerts via notification status when you are nearing the limit. But what sets it apart from others is its efficiency at monitoring apps that are sucking data and are not actually important or required (collating data may be important for some apps that you use everyday like Gmail, but it may be utterly useless for other apps that you hardly use). Onavo neatly presents all such apps using data and even colour codes them to pin point the app that has been sucking a lot of data. Another handy feature is that Onavo lets you restrict such apps to Wi-Fi only (it will download updates only with Wi-Fi) or even uninstall them with the press of a button. Eventually, you will also end up saving your battery life. Along with this, one can easily set data cap on roaming too. Moreover, it presents statistics showing how you have been using data over a week, month and even a day. If you opt for “Onavo Extend” for Android, it will offer additional benefit by compressing data that is being fed to your phone. Considering that ICS onwards Android has its own built-in data usage function, the free Onavo Extend may seem a better companion for Android phones running on ICS+ operating system.
 
My Data Manager – Free
My Data Manager is a simple, free app with all the handy features that should matter to anyone trying to fit the mobile Internet usage with their desired bill amount. It monitors and displays the data you use on mobile connection (3G and EDGE), over Wi-Fi and even while roaming. You can set the data cap and receive notifications as you are nearing the limit. You can view the data consumed by day, week or month and also oversee the data you’ve been using in the previous billing cycles. It even tracks the data usage of apps that require Internet connection, such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter, clearly showing how much data each of these apps has consumed in Mb as well as overall percentage wise. All the usage can be seen over a graph, which also shows the connection type (3G, EDGE, Wi-Fi) downloading most of the data.

iOS
iOS also has its built-in data usage feature (Settings > General > Usage > Cellular Usage). But the ability of its home brewed application is limited only to 3G/EDGE, and it won’t calculate any data consumed over Wi-Fi. This is a huge drawback and here begins your hunt for a full-fledged data monitoring system. Needless to say, the App Store offers a slew of options to choose from, and we have picked the three must-have data usage apps.

DataMan – approx Rs. 52
DataMan runs in the background to calculate the amount of data consumed via 3G and Wi-Fi. All you need to do is key in your monthly data plan and set alerts for monthly, weekly and even daily usage. It gives you an overview of how you have been using data, so you can clearly see how much data you have consumed over Wi-Fi or 3G. As you are about to reach the limit, the app will send out an alert. It works for iOS devices running on version 4.0 and above. The Pro version of Dataman brings in additional goodies like Badge Notifications, App Watch, Hourly Report and more. However, Dataman Pro runs on iOS 5.0 and above and is slightly expensive at Rs. 105.

Onavo Extend – Free
Onavo Extend for iOS has all the features mentioned above for Android. One will not need to download an additional app for compressing files separately for iOS as this one app has it all. It is a great option, whether you are using iOS or Android.

Keeps a tab on apps

Keeps a tab on apps

My data Usage Pro – approx Rs. 52
Like most of the other data usage monitoring apps, My Data Usage Pro tracks your usage and alerts you as you near the limit. There are many features that differentiate this app from others. Firstly, it has an intuitive and slick UI. Secondly, the app doesn’t run in the background, which means it doesn’t eat away your battery life. One of the key features is the artificial intelligence algorithm, which learns your usage patterns and adapts to suggest the best daily usage quota limit. It also offers monthly data analysis that helps project your current month's data usage and also suggests patterns so that you don’t exceed the data cap. It uses this special algorithm to show the precise data usage, negating the need to continuously run it in the background. The “Since Last Run” feature helps find apps that have been hogging excessive data unnecessarily.
 
BlackBerry
The Blackberry App World isn’t as vast as Google Play or Apple App Store, but it throws in several good app options in various genres. We really liked the Network Traffic Control for data monitoring and controlling.

Network Traffic Control – Free
This is a simple, easy-to-use app that keeps a tab on the data usage via radio and Wi-Fi separately. It clearly differentiates between traffic sent out and received, displaying the total usage per day as well as per month. The over-usage alarm can be set to notify that you have exhausted the amount set for the month/day. Once you have passed the desired limit, an over-usage icon will keep showing up on the homescreen. The app is capable of automatically tracking network on device reset and runs in light-weight mode in the background. The app offers compatibility with GSM/ GPRS and UMTS BlackBerry phones, and monitors the data usage over EDGE, GPRS, 3G and Wi-Fi networks.

Your traffic monitor for Blackberry

Your traffic monitor for Blackberry

Symbian
If you still use a phone that runs on the Symbian OS, then the Nokia store has a couple of handy apps that will let you track your data usage and save on those monthly data bills. Do not expect too many bells and whistles though. Nevertheless, these apps are straightforward and provide decent usage.

Internet Tracker – Free, Rs. 20 (for the Pro version)
This app keeps a track of the mobile data used over 2G, 3G and WLAN for each day. It can separately keep a tab on the data used on roaming. Just like most of the data monitoring apps, you can configure a monthly data limit (MB or GB or even unlimited) for Access points (AP) like 2G and 3G. It has easy setup options and offers popup alert notification as you are nearing the data limit. Moreover, the app will display your mobile Internet speed. It also displays apps accessing each Access point along with your phone's IP, gateway, broadcast and DNS address. The lite version is limited to 25MB tracking for each AP, so the reasonably-priced paid version should be a better option.

Internet tracker for Nokia

Internet tracker for Nokia

Data Counter widget – Rs. 5
It can’t get simpler than this. The Data Counter widget will allow you to view the amount of data you are consuming on 2G/3G and WLAN, directly from the homescreen. And yes, you can also set up a warning that will alert you once you near the maximum limit set for the month. This app is very simple and straightforward,.

Windows Phone
The Windows marketplace is still growing and doesn’t bring to you the best of options in monitoring the data usage yet. But if you own one of the latest Nokia Lumia phones, then you are sorted, as Nokia offers its exclusive data monitoring app. For others, here’s an option.

Bundler – Rs. 55
This is a decent option for Windows Phone 7 users. Bundler lets you optimise the usage by allotting specified data for the month. Basically, just like most of the apps, you can set the data limit for the month in MB or GB. It will show you the total data, the data you have consumed so far and also indicate if you can increase the data usage for the day. Here again, it’s a simple app without any fancy features but is decent at monitoring and controlling data usage.

Bundler of joy

Bundler of joy

Irrespective of the mobile platform, data usage apps are pretty handy considering how we have been moving towards a more Internet connected world where handsets aren’t just for making calls. What are your views about these apps? Did any of your favourite apps make it to the list.

Main Image Credit: Getty Images

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