DataMan Pro keeps tabs on your cellular data usage

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There are just too many things to keep track of these days: steps, calories, time spent on certain tasks—it’s a never-ending cavalcade of data. But there are some things that are definitely worth tracking—for me, it’s my smartphone’s cellular data usage. Even with a 4GB data plan, I often come all too close to exceeding my monthly limit, especially when I’m traveling. Fortunately, XVision’s $5 DataMan Pro is here to save my digital bacon.

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DataMan Pro's main screen doesn't beat around the bush: It lets you know right where your current usage stands.

Setting up DataMan Pro is pretty easy: Just enter what kind of plan you have (monthly, 30-day, weekly, daily), how much data you’re allotted in that period, and what day your plan starts on. While the app runs in the background, it keeps track of what’s eating up your data usage, and lets you know in a big, easy-to-read interface how close you are to exceeding your cap. For those of us who like information at-a-glance, the app’s colored background clues you in: green for “safe,” yellow for “caution,” and red for “danger.” (The theme of the interface is also customizable, with several different color schemes and fonts, and three different display options.) It’s smart forecast figures out, based on your data usage patterns, how likely you are to exceed your usage limit at the rate you’re going.

While you could just check DataMan regularly to see how you’re doing, the real benefit of the application is that it can alert you at certain preset thresholds—say, 50 percent of your allowance used—with a push notification, to keep you updated. You can set four such alerts at your choice of increments. If you’d rather just be able to keep an eye on things without launching the app, you can also have DataMan’s icon badged with the current percentage of data used.

Of course, the key question is how accurate DataMan Pro is. I’ve compared it both against iOS 7’s built-in cellular data usage monitor (Settings > Cellular) and my online data bill at AT&T and I’ve found it pretty accurate. As of this writing, DataMan Pro informs me that I have used 39 percent of my current allowance, or about 1.6GB; iOS 7’s Cellular preference pane puts the figure at a lower 1.4GB; and AT&T’s online data usage site says I’ve used 1588MB—about 1.6GB with rounding. That’s close enough for government work.

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If you're curious which apps are eating up your data on any given day, you can get a breakdown. 

I find DataMan Pro more useful than iOS’s built-in monitor—which has to be reset manually at the beginning of each new billing period—as well as far more powerful. Not only can DataMan Pro track how much data is being used, it can even track which apps are eating up your data and, if you enable the Map Usage feature, where that data is being consumed. It also keeps a log of previous months, so you can see which months are historically your big data drains.

My complaints about DataMan Pro are few, and the most major of them may be more of an issue with iOS: Even when Background App Refresh is enabled, the app sometimes still seems to get shunted into its “frozen” state and I don’t end up getting notifications as I expect. But relaunching the app fixes that, and the figures within the app seem to remain correct. I also find the interface, which is largely gesture-based, a bit opaque at times: You have to swipe up on the screen to get the app or day breakdowns, and swipe left to get access to preferences and settings, hardly the most discoverable methods—an indicator à la the one Apple uses for Control Center or Notification Center on iOS 7’s lock screen would help.

If you’re not quite ready to pony up the $5 for DataMan Pro, you can also get many of its features in the free DataMan Next. But you won’t be able to break down your data usage by location or app, the notifications are in-app only, and the forecasting feature isn’t quite as smart as DataMan Pro’s. There’s also a $10 DataMan Enterprise that adds the ability to track multiple data plans, automatically export statistics, and more.

Still, if you find yourself getting regularly smacked with overage charges, or just want to know how much data your apps consume, the $5 cost of DataMan Pro isn’t too much for a little peace of mind.

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