Keeping track of your device’s data usage is of concern to everyone who is on a data contract with their mobile provider. In the contract you’ve signed there was a specification of how much data you are allotted per month, which can sometimes be alarmingly low. If they decide you have abused your data connection or exceeded your allowance, you get hit with monumental charges. This isn’t nice, of course, but they will use the ‘you agreed to it when you signed the contract’ argument.
By monitoring your data usage and identifying which applications are heavy users, you can reduce the risk of going over your data threshold. Onavo is an application which claims to do a good job of this for you, but is it as good as advertised?
Which App Is Doing the Most Damage?
Onavo’s best and intended function is to serve as a visual representation of your data usage, and it accomplishes this in a number of ways. When you’ve set up Onavo with your data plan, the first option on the landing screen is ‘Data Plan Advice’, which looks like this:
I get through quite a lot of data each month, which makes me thankful for my fairly large data allowance.
These bar charts help to give you a better understanding of how much data your device gets through per week. Rather than a single bar that moves up as your data usage increases over a month, several bars show the amount of data used each week. This helps you see your ‘busiest’ data week. By pressing Menu, you can switch to a monthly or even daily view, if a weekly view isn’t what you are after.
Onavo goes one step further than other data monitoring applications, with a feature called App Watch. Within this, your applications are ranked according to data usage, and receive an ‘Onavo rating’ based on the amount of data used by each of them. The ‘Onavo Rating’ is nothing more than a needle on an unmarked scale to show how severely the application is using your data. As you can see in the screenshot below and to the left, the most data intensive service is given a red needle by Onavo, and the second most data intensive one is given an orange needle. The scale itself is meaningless and doesn’t do any more than give you a rough idea of which application is the most risky to your data cap.
What is of use is the layer of information hidden underneath App Watch in App Profile. This is accessed by tapping on any of the services shown in App-Watch, and shown here as the screenshot below and to the right. The bar graph here shows data usage for an individual application or service, unlike the bar graph in ‘Data Plan Advice’ which only showed graphs representing the phones traffic as a whole.
You may be surprised which applications are the ones using the most data, I definitely was.
Yet another feature that sets Onavo apart from other data monitoring applications is the three widgets they offer you. Regardless of why you are using Onavo, one of these well-designed widgets is bound to be of interest to you.
Using the screenshot below as reference, the first widget shows how much of your allowance has been eaten so far in that month. If you are on a small data allowance, this would be good for your most active homescreen pane. That way you are always aware of how much data your phone is getting through, and can decide whether that YouTube video is worth watching on the move, or if it’s better to wait until you get home.
The second widget, Live Data Usage, is more of a novelty; it will show your most recently used applications and how much data they got through during their use. Tapping on an application name when it rolls around will take you to that application’s App Watch page within Onavo. You can then continue examining the data usage in more detail.
The third widget is basically a shrunk down version of App Watch for your home screen. Like its in-app counterpart, it shows an application or service’s data usage for that month. However it only serves as a waving flag, and you have to tap on it to obtain more detail.
These are some very useful widgets indeed.
Other Nifty Features
When you first start up Onavo, you get to define your data cap and its renewal dates. (I know a lot of other applications also do this but there are still some which don’t, so I thought it worth mentioning.) Onavo will also block your data usage when you reach 99% of your data cap, or any other limit you specify.
Like most data monitors, Onavo has an ongoing notification feature to quickly show you how much data you have eaten through. It’s very useful if you don’t have much room on your home screen for the big widgets, or are just not a fan of them. The Ongoing notification feature sits quietly, and when you pull down to your notification pane it will say how much data you have used, usually along the line of ‘You’ve used 25% of your 3GB plan’. If you are getting close to your data caps, these statuses are likely to be warnings.
This is a separate application designed to shrink your data usage through compression. When first run, it asks for your permission to create a new VPN tunnel on your device. If you agree to this, all web traffic sent from your phone is first compressed. They claim it can seem to increase your data allowance by up to five times, and that seems to be the general consensus in the app’s reviews. I am unable to test it on any of my devices, unfortunately – I think it may require Ice Cream Sandwich, and my phone hasn’t received this yet.
All the good things I have seen said about it led me to put this mention of it here. If you find you like the regular Onavo application, this may be something to try out too.
Onavo could do with including a touch more detail here and there, but it is otherwise a very useful application, sure to be of use to anybody who has a data cap on their mobile contract.
To top it all off, this lovely application is completely free. The only ad is one provided by Onavo themselves on the landing screen of the application, asking you to share Onavo with others.
The AppStorm rating for Onavo couldn’t be anything less than 9/10. It has a useful purpose, and does a great job of serving it. If you have a data cap in your contract and want to be sure you don’t breach it, give Onavo a try.