How to determine if your data bundle usage is on track on your Android device

So, apparently, Safaricom has been “eating” people’s data bundles. The issue of Safaricom subscribers reporting irregular consumption of their data bundles is not new. It’s as old as the hills. In fact, when everyone was making Saitama memes and jokes recently, Safaricom’s very savvy social media team went for the kill with a joke along those lines.

However, today, quite a number of Kenyans on social media seem to be having a similar problem: their data bundles are being depleted fast, almost in a similar pattern without any explanation. Dickson over at Tech-ish has done well to document a few cases.

Normally, I’d be quick to point out the dynamic nature of the activities that our very modern and capable Android devices do when no one is looking and as such it is many a user’s fault, but this current situation is being reported by even those I regard as much more savvy users. It doesn’t appear to be an isolated problem anymore. From my experience with that Cheza games scam, we could be staring at something else major. Or maybe it really is a non-story, I don’t know for sure.

So here’s a quick way to try and put things into perspective before taking out all your anger on Safaricom’s customer care team.

Some background first: before late 2011 when Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich came out, there was really not much that the system could do to help you determine the amount of data being used by apps. You had to rely on third-party apps. My favourite back then was 3G Watchdog Pro. Since then, the feature has been built upon and, while you shouldn’t take its every piece of data as the Gospel truth, it can come in handy in situations such as the one that a number of Kenyans online have found themselves today.

  • Open your settings app
  • The first section should be dedicated to Network settings so under it you should have an option like Mobile data or Data usage.
  • Click on it and play around with whichever tool is available there that allows you to determine mobile data consumption for every specific day that your data bundle has been active.
  • Note down the data used every day.
  • Once you’re done taking note of the daily mobile data consumption, add it all up for the entire period that your data bundle has been active.

How many MB/GB of data did you purchase from Safaricom? If it’s let’s say 1GB and you had no data at that point then your data bundle balance immediately became 1,024MBs.

Remember, 1GB = 1,024MBs.

To avoid confusion, just use the figure Safaricom reports to you in the text message that is sent immediately you purchase data bundles. For instance, I recently bought 12GB data from Safaricom (under the 12GB for Kshs 3,000 bundle) and the SMS told me I had bought and received 12,288MBs. Take 12,288 and divide it by 1,024 and there you have it: 12GB!

Back to our process:

  • After determining the above, check your current data bundle balance. You can use the *544# shortcode or use the mySafaricom app.
  • Subtracting your current data bundle balance from your last data balance after top up (or the amount of data that you topped up as confirmed in the SMS from Safaricom if you can’t remember the amount of data you had before activating/renewing your current bundle) should give you a figure that is close to the one you obtained by adding up your daily data spend for the entire period that your data bundle has been in use. Mine adds up and yours should, too. Where this is not the case then you can go ahead and demand some answers from Safaricom.

Adding up all the data I have, according to Android’s data manager, used over the life of my current data bundle (6 days, as you can see above). I have consumed 2,673MBs. Subtracting 2,673MBs from the 12,288MBs I bought from Safaricom on April 12th, I should be left with 9,615MBs. According to Safaricom, my data bundle balance is 9,671MBs.

So where are the extra 56MBs coming from? Easy? I don’t usually wait till my data bundle balance is below 2MB 😁 . 

There! I have accounted for my data (and as you can see there is no theft or “eating” going on), have you?

Note: the accuracy of this manual process is entirely based on the accuracy of the figures you use. I have tried it on at least 3 different devices belonging to different people and even used my Airtel line (which I turn to for browsing sparingly) as well and it all checks out.

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Emmanuel Chenze

Let's just say I know my stuff. I have 7 years experience handling, tinkering with and then writing extensively about Android stuff. Sometimes it is exciting, sometimes it is not; things can get stale with nothing new to show but I live for each one of those moments. Have something Android-related that you believe I need to have a look at? Hit me up: echenze@androidkenya.com