Thursday, June 03, 2010

Android Data Diet (Part 2)

Yesterday, I described how I curbed my Nexus One's appetite for tasty (but pricey) mobile data. But what's a diet without a scale? I still needed a way to monitor just how much data I was using and warn me or, better yet, stop me if I used too much.

Cue the apps.

As I mentioned yesterday, Android doesn't do this out of the box, but fortunately there are at least a couple of great, free monitoring apps available. I tried NetCounter and 3G Watchdog. I think NetCounter has a really nice UI, and it provides the ability to monitor both mobile data and Wi-Fi, but I ended up choosing 3G Watchdog for its excellent quota features.

You can use it to set a daily, weekly, or monthly quota, and then have it warn you when you exceed a given percentage of that quota. Moreover, you can have it shut the mobile data right off if you exceed another given percentage.

I have set an extremely low daily quota of 2 MB, with a warning at 50% and auto-disable at 99%. I'll keep this setting until the end of the billing cycle -- recall from yesterday that I've already exceeded my data limit for the month and am now paying for each meg I use. The idea is to try to keep below 1 meg a day (which only costs me five cents), and cut myself off at 2 megs. That should keep my extra data fees for the remainder of the month under a couple of dollars.

So far, this approach is working: With the changes to my settings that I described yesterday, I'm finding it easy to stay well below 1 meg most days, and on the couple of occasions where I have exceeded 2 megs, auto-disable has worked like a champ.

Once my monthly data usage resets, I'll re-enable auto-sync and my Facebook and Twitter updates, and I'll increase my daily quota to something like 40 MB. That should give me plenty of room to stay connected and use lots of data when I want to, but will prevent any further disastrous 450 meg days.

By default, 3G Watchdog permanently adds a notification indicating the current state of your data usage relative to your quota. I find that quite intrusive, but fortunately it has an option to disable the notification. I did, and added its attractive little widget to my home screen instead. Even that may not stick around once my data diet month is over.

You can install 3G Watchdog by scanning the following QR code with an Android device (or just by touching it if you're reading this on one):

Finally, I should point out that to use 3G Watchdog's auto-disable feature, you'll also need to install another app: APNdroid. It's a handy little app that simply disables mobile data by appending a suffix to your active APN. It also has a widget that can be placed on the home screen for easy access.

Here is the QR code for APNdroid:

Thanks to Richard Fruet and Martin Adamek, the creators of these great apps. They're life savers...or at least money savers!

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