No, I’m not pleased with Verizon’s tiered data intentions. There are mitigating factors, yes. But we’ve grown used to a land where we can stream videos and music at will. Those days, at least for those not grandfathered into the unlimited plans, are over. Eventually, they’ll end for us grandfathers as well. As I said in last night’s editorial, I will be leaving Verizon once this is implemented (so long, at least, as other carriers have more palatable deals). Not everyone feels the same, of course. In some areas Verizon has by far the best coverage, and perhaps it has the one handset you’ve craved. In that case you’ll have to limit your data usage. Today we’ll look at a few recent article and apps that can help you along the way.
The first tool you should check out is Verizon’s data usage calculator. It won’t help you save on usage, per se, but it will put into perspective how much you do currently use. There’s a section for email, but unless you’ve got fast-flying fingers chances are that won’t make a dent at all. Web pages do add up a bit — 25 a day is 1.1GB per month, and I imagine some people visit more data-intensive websites, which brings up the average. Unsurprisingly, it’s video and music streaming that gets you. My two-hours per day Pandora/Google Music streaming habit is about 2GB per month by itself. Five hours of video streaming per month, which is on the rise thanks to the Netflix app, adds another 1.75GB. Add it all up, and here’s my estimated monthly usage:
That’s $ 50 per month for me, plus my talk plan (which I’d love to have on a pay-as-you-go basis) and texting. It’s a $ 20 increase over what I’m paying now, and while that might not seem that great a change, that sentiment changes when checking the ol’ bank account.
Is there any way to cut this down to the 2GB per month? With all that streaming it’s going to be tough. Via Droid Life, the Skyfire browser apparently has a toolbar that helps compress streaming data by up to 75 percent, which can help cut down on costs. If that holds true for my 1.75GB of streaming turns into about a half a gig. I doubt this works for Netflix, which brings that number right back up, but it can save on certain streaming video types. It will certainly be worth the one-time $ 2.99 cost. (Get Skyfire from the Market.)
Another service, also found via Droid Life, is Onavo. It breaks down your data usage by app, so you can see exactly where your problem areas occur. Not only that, but it compresses the actual data used by your apps, so you’ll get the same streaming, but will use less data along the way. It sounds impossible, but apparently it’s been working for many iOS customers. There is a beta program that you can sign up for, though there are only 500 spots and I’m assuming that the traffic from Droid Life filled it up already. It figures to provide another option for users to help keep their data usage in check.
Last year, when AT&T introduced its tiered data plans, an article in PC World went over the pros and cons. Among the items listed was, “Usage Limits Will Kill Innovation.” One executive opined that the tiers, “could dampen people’s appetite for downloading apps and engaging with them over the cellular network.” As we’re seeing here, though, it could, in ways, fuel innovation. It might not be the type of innovation we typically seek. But conjuring new ways to compress data is certainly innovative. Given how the nation’s two largest networks have moved to a tiered system, it stands to reason that we’ll see plenty of apps and services that attempt to compress data and save users money. It might not be game-changing apps, but it could, by essentially allowing users more bandwidth, help foster them.