Android app could slash smartphone data bills

You grab your Android smartphone, ready to play or friend or stream or navigate or tweet or something and suddenly you're gripped by a consuming anxiety: will this push me over my monthly data plan limit? Or maybe you just want to know which of my apps are chewing up the most data?

Now you can know, using SPB Wireless Monitor from SPB Wireless. The $9.95 app, from the Android Market, runs on Android 2.1 and higher smartphones (it was originally for Windows Mobile). It monitors your wireless connections, tracks the amount of data being moved, and tallies up the costs based on your data plan.

But buyer beware: some of the app's screens carry this warning at the bottom: "Some reports might be inaccurate." Depending on which ones, to what degree, and how often, the level of possible inaccuracy could really affect the program's usefulness.

The Age of Unlimited Smartphone Data Plans was short-lived. You can still get them (Verizon Wireless offers, for now, an unlimited plan for the CDMA iPhone 4), but in June 2010, AT&T set the new direction by unveiling tiered plans: subscribers could choose from a pair of capped data plans, and buy additional data if needed.

Download SWM and it creates a convenient widget on your Android homepage. The app measures your data traffic over all types of connections (cellular and Wi-Fi), and calculates your usage costs based on your current data plan. You can see how much money you spend accessing the Internet, and which of your apps are the most expensive in network costs.

Even better, you can set SWM to warn you about costly data usage. You can get data traffic reports that are application-based or time-based, view the reports on your screen, share them or export them in CSV files. SWM can calculate costs based on peak and off-peak tariffs from over 300 different service plans worldwide.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww

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