I must admit that I have never really given my data usage a lot of thought.  I have been on an unlimited (cellular) data plan for some time so never bothered to check it from one month to the next.  Couple that with an abundance of WiFi (for the three years prior to March I worked at home) and data usage never entered my thoughts.

However, following recent changes (at least in the UK) to network provider data plans (no more unlimited data) and coupled with a new job working in an office (no WiFi), I have been keeping a close eye on my data usage.  I have been doing this using the data counter built into the iPhone.  It tells me how much (cellular) data I have sent and received and, assuming I remember, I can reset it each month to ensure I am tracking my monthly usage accurately.

The data counter on the iPhone is rather basic though.  The ability to monitor WiFi data usage would be a nice addition, as too would the ability to differentiate between where I am using that WiFi data.  Although I have a tariff that offers me unlimited public WiFi access (via BT Openzone for example), I would still like to monitor how much data I am using via public WiFi.  

The DataMan iPhone application allows the tracking of both cellular and WiFi data usage.  It also enables you to geo-tag your usage and view it on a map.  Personally I think this is invaluable as it allows you to differentiate between home WiFi usage (which doesn’t come out of your data allowance) and public WiFi usage (which does come out of your data allowance).  

Three usage allowances are tracked, daily, weekly and monthly.  These are customised via the settings menu along with your billing date (so that the app knows when to start afresh with your next months data allowance).

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Version 3 of the app (this review is based on a beta of v3) offers up a precise location tracking option (which can be enabled & disabled in the iPhone settings).  Within the app settings are four customisable alert thresholds.  As you reach each of the usage thresholds DataMan sends you a real-time alert.  Again this is great if, like me, you generally forget to keep an eye on the built-in iPhone counter.

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Historical usage can be viewed by tapping the “History” icon and then setting the date range of interest.  Total data usage (for both cellular and WiFi) is shown at the top of the page along with a list of each day.  Clicking on a day then lists usage in tabular format or, by clicking the geo-tag icon in the top right corner, on a map.  As I mentioned earlier, this is very useful if you want to differentiate between home and public WiFi usage.

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I did find that the battery drained a little quicker with geo-location enabled, given the way the app constantly monitors usage, although I haven’t carried out any testing to determine the additional drain.  However, you can turn location services off (iPhone settings > General > Location Services).  I shall use the app with location services turned off and precise tracking on (precise tracking offers more precise tracking of your data usage by checking every 10 minutes) and see how the battery copes (update to follow).

I find the app very useful and it has some great features. The simplicity of the user interface is a key element in making this a good app.  It’s quick to launch and the clarity and simplicity of the UI means the information is very easy to see.

Update 14-Nov-2010: After a couple of days using the app with location services turned off and precise tracking on, I can report that the battery drain is reduced significantly.  The drain rate is slightly elevated compared to having all location and precise tracking options turned off but the increase is very minimal.

Version 2.2 of DataMan is available in the app store now for just £0.59 (iTunes link) with version 3 undergoing approval at Apple as I type this.  

Update 17-Nov-2010: Version 3 of the app is available in the app store now (iTunes link) for just £1.19.

If you need to track data and want to track in real-time, then the DataMan app is an excellent purchase, easily worth the asking price.

Have you used DataMan?  What do you think?  I’d love to hear your comments.

I am @craigt44 on Twitter.

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