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3G Watchdog Pro Keeps Massive Data Charges at Bay

By Patrick Nelson LinuxInsider ECT News Network
Sep 14, 2012 5:00 AM PT

3G Watchdog Pro Keeps Massive Data Charges at Bay

3G Watchdog Pro, an app from Richard Gruet, is available for US$2.99 at Google Play. 3G Watchdog Pro

With the preponderance of data quotas imposed by telcos on mobile phone usage and the rapid introduction of data-hogging apps -- in particular, those related to TV and music -- it may well be time to investigate counters.

Counters let you see how much data you're using, and warn you of potential overages.

Often, the only penalty for exceeding your provider's data allowance is a speed slowdown, which you may not notice when performing email and Web-browsing functions. However, you will notice that speed slowdown when watching TV apps, like Slingplayer, for example.

Some so-called unlimited plan carriers use bizarre euphemisms, like "fair use policy" to substantiate the slowdown, and then -- to add insult to injury -- don't let you buy more data until your next billing period.

In other cases, particularly when roaming overseas, data charges can be many dollars per megabyte, as soon as you touch down.

Getting walloped by a mega-bill or simply having your TV app-watching inexplicably curtailed are good reasons to become watchful of data use.

Richard Gruet, publisher of the Pro version of 3G Watchdog, a mobile data counter available for US$2.99 in the Google Play store, reckons his Android app goes some way toward guarding you against these onerous or expensive overages.

The App

First up, browsing 3G Watchdog Pro's installed app makes for a fascinating study. I learned right off the bat that I had used 19.7 MB in 10.7 hours at home doing nothing in particular -- in other words, without watching TV or listening to streaming music.

I'm a prosumer geek savvy enough to know about data roaming costs, but imagine if I were an aging, yet still good-looking retiree off on vacation with his first smartphone, roaming at AT&T's rack-rate of $0.0195 per kilobyte for some countries. That 19.7 MB of doing nothing in particular would cost $393.35. A petrifying thought.

Data Usage Prediction

At 19.7 MB for the half day, I was heading for a theoretical overage at my test-assigned quota of 1 GB for the month. It's a simple matter to allocate a quota budget of, say 1 GB for the month, with a simple dropdown and text box.

Advanced data usage prediction, which is included in the paid version of the app, told me how much I needed to reduce my usage to stay within my limits. A Usage by Application feature let me see which apps were using the most data. A newspaper download and network location were two copious data users.

I was also able to see which apps used any data at all. The most basic of apps were using it, according to 3G Watchdog Pro, if in small amounts. Taxi Magic, a taxi booking app, used 3.4 KB despite my not going anywhere.

Rules, Upgrading

Rules and options are comprehensive. If your mobile operator counts in blocks and rounds up, you can set that as an option.

Having previously used the free version, I liked the way I could import that data into the paid version to take advantage of usage prediction and application usage features not available in the free version.

Possible Issues

I experienced no issues whatsoever; however, there have been reports of some devices not counting properly.

Gruet is forthcoming with device-based anomalies and lists them at the Google Play app page. It would be worth perusing that page before forking over any cash.

Gruet makes the perfectly legitimate point that there are more than 700 potential devices, so some ain't going to work. Again, I had no problems.

In Conclusion

For TV streamers burning through a megabyte a minute, and for international roaming travelers not on a roaming plan, this is a must-have app.

Even if you're neither, it makes for fascinating smartphone scrutiny.

Patrick Nelson has been a professional writer since 1992. He was editor and publisher of the music industry trade publication Producer Report and has written for a number of technology blogs. Nelson studied design at Hornsey Art School and wrote the cult-classic novel Sprawlism. His introduction to technology was as a nomadic talent scout in the eighties, where regular scrabbling around under hotel room beds was necessary to connect modems with alligator clips to hotel telephone wiring to get a fax out. He tasted down and dirty technology, and never looked back.

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