How to track your 3G usage on iPhone or iPad


How to track your 3G usage on iPhone or iPad
Quick Mac Tip, 05 June 2011

When you’re out and about with your iPhone or iPad you probably need to keep a close eye on data usage. I was given review copies of XVision’s DataMan Pro and Dataman for iPad which track your usage. Here are my impressions of both apps. I refer to both below as Dataman Pro.

What DataMan Pro does

Provided DataMan Pro is running in the background while you use your iPad or iPhone it watches the data moving in or out.

Once you’ve built up some data check previous usage stats, see a map of where you used the data, and even draw a chart or export a .csv file for analysis.

DataMan Pro can also alert you as you reach various allowance targets.

A small problem with targets

I’ve mentioned to XVision one problem I have and they replied that they’ll consider adding support in a future version.

My problem is that I have 2 devices: an iPhone that has a monthly plan from Vodafone New Zealand, and an iPad in which I use a prepaid allowance via Telecom New Zealand.

While DataMan Pro is designed to track monthly allowances, it doesn’t have a really appropriate set of features for prepaid allowances.

Set up targets

Set usage alerts.

Set usage alerts.

On my iPhone I entered my account roll-over date: the 8th of the month, and daily, weekly and monthly targets for usage.

Vodafone actually allow 3Gb per month at the moment. I would have liked to enter the monthly allowance and have the app automatically calculate the weekly and daily limits for me. It didn’t do that though. Instead I just did the sums in my head.

Because I never get anywhere near actually using 3Gb per month I used a lower limit for my testing.

Then you can set custom alerts: for example, when you reach 50% of the daily or weekly usage.

Be surprised at how quickly data is swallowed up

Over a period of several weeks I tracked my data usage on both iPad and iPhone. One thing that shocked me was how quickly the data disappears. A quick check on Twitter and email could easily swallow up 1Mb or more, without even seeming to do anything.

On the other hand one day at a conference without WiFi I used my iPhone as a hotspot for my MacBook Pro. While I used it cautiously I was pleased to see it used a mere 46Mb, when I’d expected it to be a lot more. See How to share an iPhone Personal Hotspot to iPad if you don’t know how to use the Personal Hotspot feature.

Vodafone usage data.

Vodafone usage data.

I must have restarted my phone on that day and forgot to start up DataMan Pro again as I had to view my provider’s detailed accounts to see the accurate usage. Be sure to always have DataMan Pro running so you can track your usage.

See a history of usage

iPhone data by date.

iPhone data by date.

One area where DataMan Pro excels is in turning your data usage into a visual representation. While my provider’s detailed information tells me how much data and on which date, that’s as far as it goes.

DataMan Pro allows me to see usage by a selected date range, on a map and as a chart.

I’m not entirely sure about the map, though I’m pretty sure any inaccuracies are down to the iPhone itself rather than XVision’s implementation.

The map showed me in various locations I didn’t recall visiting, including one spot in the middle of Wellington Harbour.

Tap on a pin in the map and DataMan Pro displays your usage at that location.

My data usage on a chart.

My data usage on a chart.

Data usage by location.

Data usage by location.

DataMan Pro is a handy app

Dataman warns me it was closed.

Dataman warns me it was closed.

DataMan Pro for iPhone is US$1.99, while the iPad version is US$3.99.

I’m not sure I’d buy it myself, because of my particular circumstances: it doesn’t handle a prepaid allowance, and my other provider allows a very generous 3Gb (at the moment) which I never use up in a normal month.

However, if you need to carefully watch usage, track how that prepaid data is disappearing, or just have an interest in how and where the data is being used then this app is very handy. Just remember to keep it running in the background or you may be caught out.

Recent versions of Dataman Pro and Dataman for iPad do provide a warning if they were closed.

What do you think?

I showed Johnny, the developer, this article before publication and have corrected a couple of inaccuracies based on his comments — mainly to do with the names of the apps. He also said:

DataMan for iPad will soon be updated to have the same features as DataMan Pro for iPhone.

Please note that the location returned by the iPhone’s Location Services is only approximate. Please see: support.apple.com/kb/HT1975.

DataMan Pro is now on 50% sale for a limited time.

How do you track data usage on your iOS device? Tell us about your experiences in the Comments. Could you write a guest MacTip? If so, contact me.

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2 Comments

  1. KiwiGraham said:

    PS. I’ve just realized that Quota now also has functionality to track data usage from your device and show a map of where it happened.

  2. KiwiGraham said:

    I think there is a potential problem if you rely on an app that must always be running in the background to be accurate.

    I use an app called “Quota” by SouthFreo Software which operates by logging into your account at the service provider website. It supports a large number of providers across several different countries and several different product types. (There’s also a lite version which is useful to check that it works for your provider/account)

    Hence in the one app I bring up the status of:
    4 postpaid mobile plans with Vodafone (voice/data/SMS)
    1 prepaid iPad data plan with Vodafone
    1 ADSL broadband plan with Internode
    1 ADSL data & fixed phone plan with Optus
    4 Qantas frequent flyer points balances
    1 RTA e-toll account balance
    1 Amex charge card account balance
    And more….. !!!

    If your provider isn’t listed the developers are amenable to adding more, or if you’re of a technical bent you can define the interface yourself via XML.

    (I’m not related to, or remunerated by, SouthFreo – I just think it’s a great app.)

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