Got Android? Go abroad? Get Onavo to avoid being hosed

If you’re an Android user and you roam regularly, you have probably experienced the ‘what-the?’ moment at least once in recent memory.

That’s the moment you realise that the paltry 25mb you’ve been given for your day’s worth of roaming mobile data adds up to about 20 minutes worth of heavy using on an Android handset.

It’s a real nightmare, especially when you’re in a decent 3G/3.5G cell area. Often when abroad, I do find that the signal is patchy. I remember being lucky to get one bar of connectivity in Portugal a few years ago. One bar or stupid-slow GPRS helps limit the data roaming damage. Email is usually about the best you can handle before wanting to through the device across the piazza.

But when you’re in the centre of Paris running a 3.5+ super-fast connection with what feels like zero additional traffic on your cell? Oh no. Not good. Everything runs beautifully on your super-fast gorgeous Samsung Galaxy SII or your Nexus S.

Android can really deliver a glorious connected experience on some phenomenal handsets. Abroad, though, on a data-hungry device, that can burn through megabytes? Dangerous.

A little while ago I did a test of my Nexus S compared to by BlackBerry Bold in France. The Nexus tore through my 25mb daily allowance in — if memory serves — about 40 minutes. I had to struggle hard with my BlackBerry to get it to get anywhere near that limit, just because so much of the data to/from the device is highly optimised, both in terms of volume and frequency.

Androids are — typically — like an open tap, from a bandwidth perspective. This is a beautiful thing when you’ve got WiFi or you’re home on your (semi) unlimited data price plan.

So when you’re abroad, it’s important to keep tabs on what you’re doing, data wise.

Further, it’s important to try and get the best value you can from your data plan — especially when roaming.

Enter Onavo.

Their iPhone app sits in the background and compresses your data traffic. Not just that, but it closely monitors what each app on your phone does from a data usage standpoint.

They’ve just released an Android version — Onavo Lite. This one doesn’t do compression but acts as a monitor. (I’m speculating here, but I reckon a future premium version will do this).

Here are some notable features:

Alerts and warnings. Receive status notifications about apps that are hogging your data, when approaching your data cap, or when traveling (data roaming). Onavo Lite will even predict when you will reach your monthly cap.

Data hog blocking. Restrict specific apps to WiFi, or block your 3G data altogether once you exceed your data cap to avoid any additional costs.

Crowdsourcing. Join the Onavo Android Community to tap into the collective wisdom of Android users everywhere. This will help you keep your mobile data in check, letting you know whether an app is safe to use as soon as you download it.

Advice. Get tailored tips on best value data plans from your carrier or other carriers, based on your actual usage.

Simple setup. Get going in seconds: Set your monthly cap, bill cycle and cost – and you’re good to go!

Of course you don’t just need to use Onavo when you’re roaming — when you’re at home you’ll want to know if one of your apps is going nuts in the background killing your battery and domestic data allowance. I reckon it would be worth installing.

Have you tried it? Let me know how you got on?

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

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