Feature Friday: Mobile Data Usage Tracking

Sometimes an app can be a feature that is missing from the OS, or a feature that isn't well implemented in the OS. Flashlight apps are a great example.

Another example are apps that track mobile data usage. If you have unlimited mobile data, you might not care how much mobile data you are using. That's my behavior when I am at home.

But when I travel, I am either using a prepaid mobile data card (which is what I am doing now – 1GB for 48 krone/$8US), or using a mobile roaming package from my US carrier (my wife and kids are on a 800MB roaming plan from ATT Mobile).

In either case, it is critical to know how much mobile data you are consuming, per day, per week, per trip, and per plan term.

My favorite app to do this is called My Data Manager and it is free and available for iOS and for Android.

My Data Manager has three tabs to show you how much data you are consuming on your carriers's mobile data network, how much data you are consuming by roaming on other networks, and how much data your are consuming on wifi. It also shows you what apps are consuming the most data for each tab.

You can set up your mobile plans in the app so you can see how you are doing for the current plan term.

I have been in europe since Monday morning (four days now) and I have consumed 128MB on my prepaid 1GB danish sim and I have consumed 155MB on wifi. I haven't had to roam since I have a local data sim. My wife and kids have similar data usage except that they are all roaming on other data networks and are well within their 800MB cap.

If you have a cap on your mobile data usage or if you are roaming on other data networks, I highly recommend getting My Data Manager to keep track. Mobile data is expensive when you go off plan or above plan. Keeping track gives you peace of mind and that's a valuable thing.

#Blogging On The Road#mobile

Comments (Archived):

  1. William Mougayar

    I’m exactly in the same boat & will try this asap. In London I purchased 500MB for 5 pounds (7.5$) but had no idea about my consumption. When I called to inquire, T-Mobile said they couldn’t tell me, but that I would receive a Text message when I reach the limit. Now in Lebanon, I’m about to insert a SIM card with 500MB for 19$ & knowing my consumption between home/public wifi & carrier will be important. Mind you, on these local pre-paid plans, you can’t exceed your limit because you get cut off until you top it up. 

    1. Donna Brewington White

      That seems strange that your carrier can’t tell you your usage. And seems like they could just as easily send a text prior to reaching your limit as after! Some apps address a problem that really shouldn’t exist to begin with.Shoot! I was just typing that I was within the first two comments for three days running (given Fred’s European schedule) when @54f5ef266edad6c976c4a95fa6b48c7f:disqus ‘s comment came through. Had to delete. That’s what I get for procrastinating.BTW, what are French hours?Edit: Cool — just noticed the new way Disqus displays mentions. That great.

      1. William Mougayar

        I’m on GMT +2 hrs, ie +10hrs from PST now.Yes, good idea on the warning emails. I get that from Rogers when I reach 80% & 90% of 6GB, and they have an App called My Account that tells you your usage continuously, voice, data, text, roaming, etc. But when you a local SIM, that’s when that 3rd party app makes sense.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          French hours question referred to a comment from yesterday.

        2. awaldstein

          William…if you are commenting on AVC the same amount while on vacation as at work…stop!You need to step away from the laptop and go to Chateau Musar and taste and post pics on your new Tumblr of their cave and vineyard.

          1. John Revay

            Yes William – please go off grid and enjoy your time away!Travel safe my friend!

          2. William Mougayar

            Slowly winding down and planning for that. As if all of AVC is on slow mo, in sympathy with Fred’s vacation schedule.

          3. ShanaC

            And people wonder why I have an obsession with visiting national parks. They are generally off grid!

          4. Abdallah Al-Hakim

            I would be very interested in pics and comments about Chateau Musar!! I second @awaldstein:disqus idea

          5. William Mougayar

            I just counted 40 wineries now, most of them small & artisanal producers.

          6. awaldstein

            We get very little distribution of the small ones here. Many I bet are natural in their orientation.There’s a growing fanbase led by Frankly Wines in TriBeCa and bolstered by the NY Times wine writer Eric Asimov.

          7. Abdallah Al-Hakim

            I visited Ksara (http://www.ksara.com.lb/) winery last year. It is one of the big ones in Lebanon (at least that is my understanding) – they had cool caves where they stored the wine

          8. Donna Brewington White

            You have a new Tumblr?I’m proud of my latest post — The Piano Guys doing Coldplay’s Paradise (“Peponi”) in Swahili! Amazing! http://donnabrewingtonwhite…Edit: Nvm — I found it. Nice. I see Arnold’s influence. 🙂

        3. ShanaC

          Go away! Enjoy your vacation!

      2. John Best

        It’s a great new feature, definitely one of my favourite recent updates.You nearly had the honour again, motorway disruption due to accidents and weather delayed my commute. 🙂

    2. fredwilson

      Let me know what you think William

      1. William Mougayar

        I’m trying both & noticed the Android has nice graphics which the iPhone doesn’t.

  2. John Best

    It’s such an obviously useful and necessary feature, its a wonder it’s not natively available on the OS, or through the carrier. Telling you that you’ve hit your limit is a little like getting a text warning you about a bridge being out, as you drive across it.I know I can get my data usage from my carrier’s website, but that’s because I have an account, which with a roaming SIM is not likely to be something that travellers will indulge in.Thinking about it, why don’t carriers offer a number you can text to find out how much of your plan you’ve used, rather than having to wait for a text from them. A freephone number would be even better.Loving that you’re well into the swing of the holiday timezone. 🙂

    1. jason wright

      It’s certainly not the Seth Godin school of marketing.

      1. testtest

        just came across this article from a few days ago, which is apropos, after yesterdays post about seth:http://saltydroid.info/soni…it’s by salty droid, who outs scammy info-marketers. seth gets a few mentions: in the post itself and in the comments. such as” I recognized immediately that Kennedy was a f*****g scumbag. Godin, I thought was legit up until a few months ago.”and”What made me question Godin? His interviews with Brian Clark, quoting one of Dan Kennedy’s books, etc…If you’re running with these guys or lending them credibility, you’re part of the problem.”

    2. JimHirshfield

      You can text your carrier for usage. They don’t make it widely known. Not in their best interests.

      1. ShanaC

        GRRR, that is something that should be widely known.How do you find out what number to text?

        1. JimHirshfield

          Evidently you can text *data# to ATT.

        2. Dale Allyn

          AT&T informed my daughter of this feature, but she really grilled them when she bought her iPhone. She was watching every penny and had a limited need (but an important one) for upgrading from a feature phone. The rep gave her the text for data usage info. Now it’s not as much an issue for her, but I just wanted to share that AT&T did provide it during a phone call to purchase the phone and plan.Edit: stupid sentence structure fixed (sorta)

          1. ShanaC

            and what if you are not on AT&T?

          2. Dale Allyn

            I don’t have an answer for that, as we now have all of our phones on AT&T (for better or worse). I suppose a call to the carrier or a web search on checking current data usage via text for your carrier. It should be printed right on the bill, posted on the website, etc., but that would be too thoughtful.

  3. LIAD

    Onavo.com is another great app in the same vein.Not only does it show you data usage broken down by type (email/web/apps etc) so you can see exactly where your allocation is going, but it also provides magic compression technology which shrinks data usage by 5x.There’s a great screen in the app which shows how much data they’ve saved you. They probably raised VC on that slide alone

    1. fredwilson

      The compression thing is slick

    2. William Mougayar

      I tried too. Thx

    3. Matt A. Myers

      Going to try this once I get a new phone – hopefully very soon.. Thanks.

      1. jason wright

        what will you be getting, and why?

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Probably an iPhone – and because if you want a phone with data, in Canada, you basically have a minimum charge of $50 per month; Nice oligopoly going on here.. Otherwise I’d go for a decent Android-powered one. I’ve not had the opportunity to play with any though. Google really needs to open up Android stores next to all of the Apple stores or premium resellers if they want to take a bigger chunk out of the market.

          1. jason wright

            This last week I read a review of the Samsung Galaxy S3. Its complexity has put me off.I may wait on the iphone 5 and see what it has to offer.

          2. Matt A. Myers

            The ‘Home’ button on my current iPhone is broken, and so it’s not very fun to use; I’d wait the 4-5 months for the iPhone 5 too to see.

          3. fredwilson

            its the complexity that i like. control and power come with complexity

          4. Matt A. Myers

            Hmm.. The weight behind this review may sway my opinion to investigate the Galaxy S3 … Thanks for making this a harder decision @fredwilson:disqus ;P

          5. jason wright

            I’ll have to think about that.Some time later….I’ve thought a little (it’s a good distraction).Complexity, and power and control. So those who ‘fail’ complexity lose power and control relative to those who ‘succeed’. Is that hierarchy in the making?

    4. Abdallah Al-Hakim

      just downloaded Onavo to android. Looks very slick!!

    5. Chris Kong

      Tried to download. Too bad it’s only 4S and the latest iPad on Verizon for now. Seems very useful for me.

  4. jason wright

    125MB of usage = $1 in the first 1GB. What’s the cost after the first GB?Roaming has been a financial horror story for some unsuspecting consumers travelling within the EU. Incumbents!

    1. fredwilson

      Mine is prepaid so it runs out at 1gb

      1. jason wright

        So you don’t need the app?

        1. fredwilson

          I still do because I don’t want to run out

  5. Rohan

    On the iOS you can just reset statistics under settings..Isn’t it as simple as that? Doesn’t Android have that?Sorry if I’m making an obvious faux pas

    1. fredwilson

      Android has some stats to but this is way better than what comes native in both OSes

      1. Cam MacRae

        It’s not really free though, is it? Seems that you’re paying with your “usage analytics”.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Well, Disqus isn’t free then either, nor is anything else really… My replying to you isn’t free either, I’m getting your time/attention and anyone elses’ who is reading this. I could have pumped this badboy with subliminal messages.. 😉

          1. Cam MacRae

            Of course disqus isn’t free, but nowhere in the post does it say it is free.My point, after you join several (non obvious?) dots, is that “way better” is a function of many things, cost and privacy being two of them. In light of the realisation that My Data Manager is not in fact free, you may choose to evaluate the native stats more favourably.

          2. Dale Allyn

            If using an iPhone and any iCloud features, do you feel like you are providing “usage analytics” and more? I’m not pushing back at you, as I’m very much in favor of user privacy and make many decisions in favor of paid services/products over free for the privacy alone. In fact, I wish that more services/products were subscription based and not free. I typically prefer to pay over “free so we can track you” options. Just curious how far the consideration of such issues go with you and others.

          3. Cam MacRae

            I’m an edge case.My iPhone is set not to send usage data to Apple. I don’t use iCloud. I won’t use an ad supported app.The “free” services that I use have to provide me with sufficient benefit that I determine the relationship to be skewed to my favour. Gmail, twitter, and disqus fall into that category; Facebook and 99% of everything else do not.

          4. Dale Allyn

            It seems we occupy a similar position “at the edge”. I think I’m a bit lazier regarding my litmus tests, but do opt out of numerous (most) services for the same reasons. E.g. I have a couple of gmail accounts, but much prefer my self-managed e-mail (POP and IMAP); and I almost never visit the gmail web UI (it sucks IMO), using gmail via Apple Mail. Also won’t use an ad-supported app.I also often prefer the quality of products which are not free, and am happy to pay for ad-free services. I like to support good companies (exhibiting compassion for the user, etc.), but feel disappointed if a paid version is not offered in lieu of an analytics-supported “free” version.(Edited for clarification.)

          5. Matt A. Myers

            So it’s an issue only because they are taking advantage of using the word free? Isn’t Disqus technically then also taking advantage of just offering it, without announcing the benefit they get from it – the data they receive / collect, etc?Native usage stats potentially go back to the provider too, no? I’m not sure on if and which do that though.

          6. Cam MacRae

            It’s not an issue. Fred said the app was free, I just pointed out that that’s not entirely correct.

  6. Jonathan Werbell

    I am traveling too at the moment and have been tracking my usage with the iOS cellular tracking feature. I just reset every time I leave the US. To do it, you go to Settings -> General -> Usage -> Cellular Usage. Its a bit of a pain to check since its so deep in the menu structure. More importantly I have usage alerts set up with AT&T – so AT&T emails me as I near my data limit and once I pass it. That has been the most useful tool since its the easiest to deal with (no alert, you are okay). Not sure if the alerts are available on all plans or just corporate ones – and it was a little bit of a pain to set up (a bit mysterious within AT&T that they offered such a service). But once we got it working, its been great.

  7. Joe Yevoli

    Along those same lines, I’ve been using an app called Carat. It’s designed to help improve you battery life. it runs in the background for a few days, and collects data on which applications drain your battery the most. http://www.iphonefaq.org/ar

    1. ShanaC

      thank you

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Anything like this for Android I wonder? I will try this on my husband’s and kids’ iPhones. But I’m the one who needs it. Samsung Galaxy S2 has horrible battery life.

      1. Joe Yevoli

        I don’t know, but from what I hear, on certain phone there definitely should be!

  8. RichardF

    Nice tip Fred. #downloadofthedayRoaming is just free money for the carriers. It’s ridiculous, particularly in Europe that the carriers are allowed to behave in such an outright oligopolistic manner.I hope I see the day when the carriers are disrupted.

    1. panterosa,

      think big – free wifi, no minutes! globally.

  9. feargallkenny

    i gave up on international data roaming plans last year. I found that Tracking usage and arranging a plan before with your carrier, stressing about usage and then cancelling the plan after the trip was just too much hassle. Instead I just relied on wifi every few hours when I could get it.

  10. Michael Elling

    At $8/gig pricing is not bad. Does your family’s roaming plan have a surcharge for international? What is speed of access via cellular vs Wifi? Do you notice a difference? Wonder if MDM could track and report that simultaneously as well.

    1. fredwilson

      The kids roaming plan is specifically for international

  11. JimHirshfield

    Get a lot of flashlight app pitches? I hear valuations are frothy.

  12. kidmercury

    well it looks like all lebron jokes must come to an end. i’m deeply saddened by this, i was looking forward to at least 5 more years of laughs at the expense of the heat. i regretfully admit they earned it, lebron did the opposite of choking and spoelstra sadly did not provide any opportunities for humor either.

    1. Tom Labus

      They crushed OKC.See ya next year!!

    2. johndefi

      OKC should be even better next year. Heat/OKC could be a nice rivalry for a few years with OKC potentially taking over.

      1. fredwilson

        Jordan had to go through the PistonsLBJ had to go through the CeltsKD will have to go through the Heat

        1. bijan

          i love how on avc we can go from data plans to the nba.it was an awesome series. it’s easy to get upset about the refs but all in all it was a blast.

        2. JamesHRH

          True dat.Golden era? LBJ, KD/RussW, Rose, Old Kobe…..and what about Kyrie Irving & John Wall?

    3. fredwilson

      Game 6 against the Celts is when the new LBJ showed up. He was terrific from that game on and is now a champion.

      1. K_Berger

        Totally. Well played, LBJ.

      2. kidmercury

        #truth (unfortunately)

      3. JLM

        .As predicted, cake walk.LBJ drove, scored or kicked out. Miller, Battier, Chalmers, Bosh applied 3-pt dagger.The Heat will be a force to reckon with for the foreseeable future..

        1. JamesHRH

          There was very little indication that M, B, C would hit the 3s.I think LBJ’s attitude affected those names.Well played 😉

      4. JamesHRH

        Did you see this?http://www.youtube.com/watc…Top flight.@JLM:disqus @kidmercury:disqus @TomLabus:disqus @K_Berger:disqus @anandp:disqus

        1. anand

          Very classy

    4. falicon

      random fact: Spoelstra’s dad, Jon, is probably my favorite author (he’s only put out a few books, but every one of them is a must-read multiple times type of thing) -> http://www.amazon.com/s/ref

      1. kidmercury

        i just bought success is one wish away — it’s selling for only $1. thanks for the tip!

        1. falicon

          Nice! I have an autographed version of that (but it came that way, sadly I didn’t get it in person)…it’s a super quick read, and mostly common sense that I had already grepped from life itself (his marketing books are a bit more interesting)….but I still enjoyed it and def. keep it in mind when I’m feeling beaten down by any of my struggles…

    5. JamesHRH

      Most amazing is that the thing that caused so many issues last year is what will propel him to multiple championships: his orientation towards team play.Once LBJ took over & imposed his will ( it appears now that he was reticent to do so, because, down deep, he does not want teammates to feel bad while he dominates – remember how hard he worked to have inferior Cav teammates feel good?) & DWade deferred, they were unstoppable.2 weeks ago, if you had said that Bosh, Miller, Chalmers & Battier would dominate over Harden, Ibaka, Sefalosha & Perkins, I would have laughed at you.LeBron made those guys better – that’s the hallmark of greatness. He is, as of now, Magic’s attitude combined with Jordan’s athleticism.Now, every free agent – Terry, Nash, etc – is thinking Miami. The road to an NBA title goes thru South Beach for the next 6-8 years.As a footnote here, he will, over time, make Jordan look like the pretty bad guy that he was, just by winning while giving a damn about how others feel.

      1. K_Berger

        You know, coming from Chicago, we don’t stand for gratuitous Jordan hating. :)LBJ has better passing skills, but when it comes to the drive to win or the desire to be the man, he’s still got a ways to go to catch Jordan.

        1. JamesHRH

          Noone matches MJ for aesthetics or pure competitive drive.That pure cometitive drive is, innately, a selfish thing.LeBron seems to want to make others part of the awesome, which has too trump pure competitiveness (even if it raises others to your level).We are picking between 1 & 1A on the all time non-center list here, to be clear.

      2. kidmercury

        i don’t know if the heat have 6-8 years. wade is already 31. this trio has 4 years left tops in my opinion. moreover, i think the heat don’t stack up well against a team that has a powerful front court, doubly so if they play polished, organized basketball rather than relying on pure athleticism. heat spurs would’ve been interesting, i could see the spurs taking that one.

        1. JamesHRH

          LBJ has 6-8 and the cast of characters can revolve.Admittedly, finding another DWade is a challenge – special cat.

      3. JLM

        .Jordan is better. Even better for his times.LBJ may catch him, but never surpass him. LBJ has a better supporting cast than Jordan ever had.Could be wrong.I just hate it could not go 7..

        1. anand

          Agree 100%. The NBA rules are much more relaxed than they were in the Jordan era. Now there’s no hand check rule and they allow zone defense. Basically the rules are designed nowadays for high scoring 100+ point games and quality defense, etc. has gone down the drain. And Jordan played better than anyone – Lebron, Kobe, etc. with a more challenging set of rules and tougher competition (yes, the NBA was a heck of a lot more competitive in the 80’s and 90’s). Besides Pippen, Jordan had no other player to win 6 titles with, so yes, LBJ definitely had a better supporting cast.

          1. JamesHRH

            Sorry, Anand – but if anything, LeBron would flourish even more in the ’80’s, where his size and strength would be unstoppable.And he would be a terror on D.Fun question – could he have guarded MJ? Someone should spend 100s of hours figuring that out!

          2. anand

            @jameshrh:disqus I’d say LBJ’s more like Magic and we know Jordan beat Magic’s Lakers in 5 games in the ’91 Finals. Between LBJ and Magic, I’d give Magic the slight edge mentally. LBJ still hasn’t proven mental toughness he needs to be considered among the elites. Put together a repeat or three-peat..then we’ll see 🙂

  13. Koslow

    Test. my other comments didn’t show.

    1. Cam MacRae


      1. Koslow

        Am I not allowed to quote a CNN article and put the link to supplement my comment? It got deleted again after being published for a few minutes…Either a Disqus issue or someone really doesn’t like what I have to say lol

        1. Cam MacRae

          That’s allowed. It’s probably sitting in the moderation queue (or got auto flagged as spam).

  14. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    Is there anything called “off-the-grid day” in your dictionary? I doubt it is not there for many in fredland.

  15. johndefi

    I’m currently shopping for new plans (T-Mo current customer) and data usage is the primary differentiator between them. Knowing how much I regularly consume is key information that is not easily available to trend via their site. I’m assuming they just want to make it a little tougher in hopes of getting customers to “over buy.” An app like this is great…thanks!

  16. ShanaC

    Why is the rest of your family on roaming considering we’ve discussed how doing what you are doing is cheaper? By a lot!

  17. Elia Freedman

    I got this nice little email from AT&T yesterday telling me I am approaching my data limit. But it doesn’t tell me how close I am. Thanks, AT&T! And of course to use their app I have to enter my password each time, a real pain on a smartphone since it isn’t as nicely integrated as 1Password is on my desktop.Thanks for the app, Fred. I’ll check it out.

  18. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    I have been using a very simple app for android ‘network trafic counter’ which only displays data usage between cell and wifi. It works pretty well but doesn’t have the fancy features mention in the post and comments below. I will check them out

  19. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    this post illustrates once again the strength of social conversations. I just downloaded two new android apps – one mentioned by @fredwilson:disqus in this post and the other mentioned by @liad:disqus. The impulse to download these apps comes from the degree of community engagement on AVC

  20. Bernardo Carvalho

    Nokia will ship “Nokia Counter”, a mobile data traffic monitoring tool, on their Windows Phone devices. I think it’s the first manufacturer to take that step and it’s a great idea. http://www.engadget.com/201

  21. Eric Leebow

    When I was visiting Israel earlier this year, I checked out the Bootcamp Ventures pitch event, and there was a company presenting a device you attach to your phone that eliminates roaming called Cell-Budy, yet it was not available at the time. Seemed like a complex product to actually develop, yet it might be out by the end of the year. Perhaps this is something to look into. I think if someone solves the roaming problem a lot more travelers would be more enthusiastic about using their mobile when traveling abroad.

  22. george

    I have the unlimited data plan, and I must say, it has spoiled me. I know carriers are moving away from these typesof service plans but habitual behavior is hard to break. The ecosystem needssome behavioral conservation (dependency is growing) but I think we need toapproach this from both ends; carriers should do more to pool resources, build better global networks, and offer reasonable prices – if you travel overseas, you can expect to pay what I term, the import duty to use your phone.The App will definitely help…

  23. Josh Shvartsman

    Android 4.0 (“Ice Cream Sandwich”) has this built in – Settings – Data Usage. If only the OEMs/carriers will roll it out en masse…

  24. Mark Essel

    As a wifi only phone “carrier” I’m immune to such concerns. Yet there are moments when I long for a mifi/portable data node.

  25. signal boosters

    It is well that an app can be featured, so you can track the mobile data usage. Such kind of apps are very helpful to identify the usability of your mobile phone data.