The Best Apps for Monitoring Data Usage
We all use our smartphones for the internet these days. And with apps, videos, and emails all using your data connection, it can be pretty easy to go over that monthly data limit that your operator gives you. Going over your data limit is likely to lead to some hefty phone bills, so it’s not exactly advisable. And if you’ve got a fast 4G plan, your chances of going over that limit are even higher. That’s why monitoring your data usage is a pretty good idea. We’ve got everything you need to know about monitoring your data use right here, as well as some awesome app recommendations…
Table of Contents
Why Monitor My Data Usage?
The main reason most people monitor their usage is simply to save money. Data is the most expensive part of any mobile contract, meaning most of us go for a low limit to keep costs down rather than paying the high fees for unlimited data SIM plans. Break that limit and you’ll either get your internet slowed (or stopped completely), or you’ll have to pay for pricey extra data.
By monitoring your data use (and setting up a few notifications to let you know when you’re getting close to that limit), you can avoid getting surprising bills, draining your pay as go you credit faster than you expected or losing that internet speed or connection just when you need it most.
Doesn’t My Phone Have Data Monitoring?
It certainly does, and it’s probably pretty easy to use. Depending on the kind of phone you’re using, you can access your device’s in-built data-monitoring like this:
Go into your setting menu, select “Wireless and Networks” and then select “Data Usage.” From there you can do all kinds of things. You can see which apps are using data, as well as a history of your data use. More importantly, you can set up your billing cycle and your data limit, as well as set up notifications for when you’ve used up different percentages of your data.
If you’re on an iPhone then go into your settings menu and choose “Cellular” (depending on which version of iOS you’re using, this might also be called “Mobile Data” or “Cellular Data”). From here there are plenty of options, so you’ll need to play around with them, but you should be able to see your data history as well as set up limits for the month.
So Why Do I Need an App?
If you’re serious about data usage monitoring, then an app will give you easy access to your data history, as well as giving you some extra features. It’s also more reliable to have two sources of information, rather than relying on just one. It’s always a good idea to have back up. Plus, and we’ll be honest here, for the most part, apps are easier to use and easier to understand than the settings on your phone.
You don’t HAVE to have a data monitoring app, but we really recommend that you grab one, particularly since most are free. It can’t hurt to have more info, and it definitely can’t hurt to have an added layer of protection when it’s your cash on the line…
Our Favourite Data Monitoring Apps
If you’re looking for a decent data monitoring app, then we have some great recommendations for you. Many of these apps we use ourselves (or since we’re constantly surrounded by mobile techies and users, we know someone who does). We chose our top apps by looking at not only our own experience but also at customer reviews, as well as added features and general performance. So you’re in good hands here, don’t worry!
Data usage is a simple little app, but one that’s one of the most popular data monitoring apps out there. It’s easy to use, and there aren’t many extra features, but that’s not a bad thing. You can check your data usage history, as well as setting limits on the amount of data that you can use, with the app sending you notifications when you get close to your limit. And one particularly nice thing is that you can separate out data used on WiFi and mobile data, making it easy to see what you’re actually being charged for.
The app is an older one, and the interface does reflect that, it’s not sleek and modern. But it does its job very well indeed. Data Usage is a free app, but that means that it’s ad-supported, so you’ll need to put up with a few pop-ups. However, there are no in-app charges at all, so you won’t need to pay for any extras.
- Super simple to use
- Completely free
- Allows separation of WiFi and Mobile data
- Free means ad-supported, so you’ll need to be okay with showing ads
- Not many extras
- Older design
DataMan Pro is one of the few paid apps on this list, and it’s an iOS-only app, unfortunately. But if you’re in a position to deal with both those things, then this is one of the most powerful data monitoring apps out there. You get a ton of features, including the ability to set data limits for just an hour at a time (so you know how much you use on your lunch break), and plenty of notifications. It shows real-time forecasting, so you know how much data you’re likely to use this month as a whole, and the app even makes smart suggestions about how to cut down on your data use.
This is kind of a pricey app, so it won’t be for everyone. And not everyone needs this kind of in-depth reporting either. But if you’re truly serious about controlling your data use on your iPhone, then this is the app for you.
- Super detailed reporting
- Intelligent suggestions to cut down on data use
- Ability to control data use by the hour
- Paid and pricey
- iPhone Only
- Probably more information than most people need
Glasswire does come in both paid and free version, though the free version should be just fine for most people. You get to set data limits, you get real-time reporting, you get notifications. You also get advice on cutting down data use. One of the nice things about Glasswire is that it lets you set apps as “zero-rated” meaning that when you use them they won’t count towards your data limit (useful if your operator offers you unlimited data for messaging or streaming, like Voxi for example). The paid version does all this and lets you add a firewall to stop apps collecting your mobile or WiFi data.
There really aren’t many negatives here. Glasswire does exactly what you need it to do, even without opting for the paid version. It’s easy to use, but be aware that the free version does have ads, as well as in-app purchases (so you can upgrade to that firewall).
- Excellent real-time reporting
- Useful advice on cutting down data use
- Easy to use and understand
- The free version does have ads
- Paid version is kind of pricey for what it does (though you probably won’t need it)
My Data Manager is a free app available for both Android and iPhone, and it does everything that you’d expect it to. Real-time reporting, data history, tracking of mobile/WiFi/roaming data, as well as setting up notifications for data use. Nicely, though, you can also add other users and devices to your account, which is handy if you’re simultaneously monitoring a kid’s phone, or another device on your phone bill.
Something that’s going to be a deal breaker for some people though is that My Data Manager does include a VPN by default (frankly, we’re not sure why it’s not terribly necessary). This can make the app run slowly. And you will need to make sure that you give the app all the permissions it needs to calculate your data use properly.
- Ability to add more than one device to your account
- Separates mobile data from WiFi and roaming data
- Free, with no hidden charges
- Includes VPN which can make app run slowly
- You may need to mess with permission in your settings menu to get it to work properly
This is another free app and one that’s pretty good, not to mention easy to use. You can check your data usage, set up notifications and alerts, and do all the normal kind of stuff. But Check Data Usage also helps keep your phone running fast by cleaning out the cache and managing RAM to keep performance tip-top, and telling you which apps are hogging your RAM and data limit.
The downside is that this app doesn’t break down data use by app, which is something that most other apps do by default. And some users claim that usage only updates when the app connects to WiFi (meaning when you get home), so reporting isn’t always real-time.
- Helps keep the phone running fast by clearing cache
- Easy to use
- Doesn’t break down usage by app
- Reporting isn’t always real-time
Data Manager is a free Android-only app that does exactly what it says on the tin. You get to manage your data with real-time reporting, detailed analysis of data use, and lots of notifications for when you get close to that data limit. However, Data Manager also shows you what kinds of data speeds you’re getting (both mobile and WiFi), and even supports dual-SIM phones, which is a nice little addition.
You will need to put up with ads if you want the free version of the app, though they’re not intrusive. There are in-app purchases that let you do away with ads and get a few more features, but nothing to write home about, so paying probably isn’t worth it.
- Set up is easy
- Gives you internet speeds
- Supports dual-SIM phones
- Free version has ads
- In-app purchases really aren’t worth their cost
Datally is from Google and was designed as a data saving app, but it works just as well as a data monitoring app. You get real-time reporting, can input data limits and get notifications. But it’s in the extras that Datally really shines. You get a data bank that automatically saves a little of your data limit for emergencies, and you get full control over which apps can use data (including background data). You can set daily data limits as well. And if you’re using a mobile hotspot then Datally can control who accesses the spot and how much data they can use.
It’s tough to find any negatives here. Some users have reported that the app periodically turns itself off, so you may need to check that it’s running from time to time. And some of Datally’s features (like that hotspot function) just won’t apply to many users.
- Super simple to use
- Data bank saves some data for emergencies
- Lots of extra features, like control over hotspots
- App may switch itself off from time to time
- Extra features may be more than most users really need
Data Status is pretty cool. It obviously gives you reports on your data usage, and lets you set limits and notifications for when you’re close to those limits. But it also shows your usage in your phone’s notification bar, so you can constantly keep an eye on it. And you can give your usage a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” so the app knows whether you need to start saving data or not and can advise you accordingly.
However, you can’t break down data usage by app. And the free version will have ads, though you can pay a small fee through an in-app purchase to get rid of these.
- Easy to control data use
- Data use shown in the phone notification bar
- Easy to set up
- Doesn’t break down usage by app
- Free version has ads