The days of the unlimited Internet data plan for phone users are nearing an end. While some folks are lucky enough to be grandfathered into a plan that includes unlimited data, vast majorities of people are paying a premium for downloading data on their smart phones, often paying upwards of $50 per month for 4 gigabytes (GB), with overages costing even more. I was happy to discover an app for iPhone (and iPad) users that can help tremendously when you’re limited on your download bandwidth: Onavo (https://www.onavo.com).
The wonderful thing about Onavo is it will save you money. It does so by compressing your mobile data downloads so that your meager data plan limit is extended by up to 80%, the company claims. While my real-world numbers for data savings with Onavo were a bit less, I managed to save 24% on my bandwidth in the month of May. Nevertheless, saving nearly a quarter of my bandwidth is still impressive.
Onavo is available in the App Store, and installation involves a couple of steps. After you download the app, on first run, you are directed to register on the Onavo website, which creates your profile. Once completed, you enter your profile information in the app on your iPhone: you are now saving bandwidth via Onavo.
The data compression, which enables you to save that precious bandwidth, takes place “in the cloud”. The information is sent through Onavo’s cloud-based compression service, which is located in datacenters operated on Amazon Web Services. Once you start using Onavo, the app keeps track of the data that is compressed, and you can get the stats on which apps used what amount of data, showing you the savings you accrue.
Of course, with your Internet traffic passing through another server, you might wonder if there’s some lag when using the Internet while taking advantage of the data savings that Onavo provides. I have yet to encounter any kind of noticeable lag while using the service over a 3G connection.
Some of you security-minded iPhone users might be wondering about privacy. If your data is passing through the Onavo cloud-based compression service, who has access to your information? The servers the service uses only store the minimum amount of data necessary to accurately report the usage and savings you’ll receive from the compression provided by their service. No passwords, messages, or any other personal content is saved. The service also cannot read encrypted SSL traffic, but for Exchange users, there is a caveat. It requires the user’s approval, but it can be turned off in the app settings.
The app only works while you use 3G for data; if you are using a Wi-Fi connection, the app automatically turns off. You can also disable the app at any time in the settings. While Onavo is currently only an iPhone app, it can be installed on an iPad that features 3G connectivity. I use the same profile for both my iPhone and my iPad, but you might want to have two profiles if you wish to keep the statistics separate for your bandwidth savings.
As costs rise with the increasing fees that cellular phone providers charge for data usage on their networks, Onavo is a must-have app for anyone that has an iPhone (or iPad).