3 ways to keep track of data usage on your smartphone

It’s easy. Just follow the steps outlined here.

However, as evidenced by a comment on the above-referenced article, that may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Maths, or anything to do with some addition tends to scare a number of people. But, as we always say, there is an app for everything, right?

When it comes to making sure you have total control and can account for where your mobile data goes in your smartphone, it isn’t so hard to do that. Using a combination of tools provided by network operators like Safaricom and some innovative apps by developers, just a few steps and you are able to tell when your data bundle is exhausted and stop your device from using your precious airtime to go online.

1. Using USSD – Safaricom’s My Data Manager

Safaricom loves its shortcodes. Even with 16 million data subscribers, the mobile network operator acknowledges that not all of those access the internet from smartphones. A good number still heavily rely on internet-enabled feature phones from the likes of Nokia, iTel, Tecno and even Samsung.

This is why My Data Manager, a feature that lets users have more control over their spending on mobile data, is operated via a shortcode (USSD) rather than a smartphone app.

Here’s what happens: when you buy a Safaricom data bundle, you will use it to access the internet. What happens when it gets depleted? If you happened to have any credit in your account, that is what will be used up next time your device gets online. That, right there, has been the biggest source of complaints by Safaricom subscribers.

Safaricom came up with an alert to notify users when their data bundles are about to be exhausted – the infamous “Your data bundle balance is below 2MB. Please recharge…” Sometimes one gets that message and takes the necessary steps to make sure their data doesn’t run out when they are in the middle of an intense tweet storm but other times, and this has even happened to me several times, one does not get that notification. Technical challenges and stuff.

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Which is why Safaricom came up with yet another solution: the My Data Manager shortcode we are talking about. Simply dial *544#, and select the My Data Manager option, activate it and you are good to go. Activating My Data Manager means that the next time your purchased data bundle runs out, your device is automatically disconnected from Safaricom’s mobile internet until you buy another bundle of your choice or renew it. Your airtime won’t be used for browsing.

According to Safaricom, over 5 million subscribers are using the My Data Manager feature. You should join them if you haven’t already.

2. Using the My Data Manager app

Not to be confused with the Safaricom shortcode whose working mechanism is as explained above, the My Data Manager, just like its name suggests, helps users manage their data.

While its Safaricom namesake will only kick in to salvage whatever little money you have as your airtime for making calls and sending text messages, the My Data Manager app, developed by Mobidia Technology, lets users create custom alarms that can notify them at any given time. When the set data plan ceiling is reached, when the predetermined daily consumption limit is reached, when one hits the 90% mark on their plan limit, when one’s usage sets them up to earlier than anticipated data bundle depletion, or, surprise, when there’s going to be lots of data left after the set period (what a nice problem to have!).

My Data Manager app

For the keener and data usage conscious users, the app whose core mission is simply to “Take control of your mobile data…” lets them have a closer look at the amount of data that each app is consuming both when mobile data is turned on and when one connects to a wireless hotspot. Heck, it even lets users see, on a map no less, where they happen to be spending their data bundles.

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I have been constantly experimenting with various data manager apps but My Data Manager is the closest I have come to a “perfect” app of its type. Simply download it from the Google Play Store, configure your data bundle plan (for instance, as you can see in the screen grabs above, I set mine to 12GB monthly), sit back and watch it do its magic.

Play Store link

3. Using the Internet Speed Meter app

I have been using the Internet Speed Meter app since 2013 when I discovered it by mistake. Sure, many a modern-day Android smartphone will have similar functionality built in, the Tecno Camon CX (and by extension all Tecno smartphones with HiOS, the new software overlay found on Tecno devices), the Infinix S2 Pro and the Huawei Mate 9, all have a network meter of some sort that I can use and be satisfied. But old habits die hard and I have always found myself turning to the tried and tested Internet Speed Meter to constantly give me a rough idea just how much data (and caution) I am throwing to the wind.

The app will not just show you the network’s uplink and downlink speeds, it will also measure the data being consumed in the process (via uploading and downloading), compute it and give you some quick summaries that should either have you re-evaluating your life’s priorities or plotting to subscribe to a bigger data bundle the following week or month.

Like the My Data Manager app highlighted above before it, users can also set their own data usage limit and Internet Speed Meter will keep them on their toes.

Play Store link (lite version)

How are you managing mobile data on your smartphone?

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