Most users have little comprehension of the amount of data they are getting through, connecting their phone and other gadgets to the wireless cellular internet. They buy a plan with the amount of data they need, plus a safety margin, and then they go about their business. Unfortunately, the world is moving under their feet. Around the world, phone companies and telecommunications industry regulators point out that average data usage is increasing at an incredible rate. Typically, the average user gets through between 50% and 70% per year more than they did in the prior 12 months. That means that if you buy a prepaid plan which has a data allowance of 2GB, by the end of the first year, you’ll be using 3GB and by the end of the second year, you’ll be using 4.5GB.
More devices are becoming connected to the internet, too. We are starting to see wearables – gadgets you wear – get connected. Watches now often have their own data connection – as we saw in the case of the Apple Watch 3, released in September 2017. Cars, laptops and a slew of other gadgets are being connected to the internet. We all need to find a way of managing our data usage efficiently. And that starts with measuring it.
The single most effective way to measure your data usage
Luckily, there is a simple, affordable way to measure the amount of data you’re using in any given month. Install the Self Service app from your phone company. They’re free to download and install and you’ll find them on the Google Play or iTunes App Store.
Self Service apps work for both sides of your agreement. For you, they provide up to the minute information on how much data you’ve used, often in a visual (and therefore easy to digest) format. They’ll tell you how much data you have left to use in a month and provide you a facility to add more data if you need it. For the phone companies, Self Service apps are relatively cheap to develop and cut calls to their call centers (the most expensive way you can resolve your support query) by allowing users to solve simple problems and answer simple queries themselves.
95% of the phone companies you could pick, whichever country you’re in, will have one of these self-service apps. Those who don’t have one are almost certainly developing it. Nearly 45% of people already employ one of these self-service apps to help them manage their data. That number is set to grow by a huge 22% in 2018.
Customer satisfaction was also higher among those who had installed their self-service app
So good are Self Service apps for helping users manage their data, customer satisfaction is actually higher among those who use them. The ability to quickly check and adapt their phone plan usage, in the same way, they might check their bank balance using the banks’ equivalent app, provides users a control over the cost for data that they may not previously have seen.
Alternatives to the self-service app
There are alternatives to phone company Self Service apps for those who don’t feel inclined to install them. These days, any smartphone you buy will have onboard data management software. A quick tour of settings – whether you have an iPhone or Android device – will show you a data management section.
Here, it’s easy to set alerts and even hard limits. Your phone will give you a notification if you get to the limit you’ve set and can even hard stop the data you’re using, once it hits the threshold.
Again, these tools are often visual in nature. While the data usage may differ slightly from the more accurate phone company record of how much you’ve used, your phone will tell you what you’ve used it on. For example, you’ll get a breakdown of the number of MB of data Facebook, browsing and YouTube have used.
Bringing it all together
We will all have to take some responsibility for managing our data, even now, if we want to ensure our bills don’t surprise us. In the future, as more wearable products become connected to the cellular internet, we may have to get very good at it. It’s not hard to imagine each individual having many SIMs, potentially from more than one phone company, and having to manage the data they use and the costs they incur. Phones and watch data usage may be drawn from one balance. Laptop data usage may be drawn from a separate, much more substantial mobile broadband data bundle. It may well be best to start now by following these tips on how to manage your data.