Having the ability to connect to the ‘net over a cellular network from almost anywhere is a huge asset, and one of the best things abput the iPad (if you have the 3G/4G version — which you should). But there’s nothing like the shock of suddenly discovering a $300 bill for data overage to make one extremely skittish about ever using data again — which completely ruins the whole point of getting a 4G iPad in the first place (unless, of course, you just bought it for the GPS receiver).
To banish this evil conundrum, you’ll need DataMan Pro for iPad ($4), an app that watches your data usage like a hawk and alerts you when you’re gobbling data too quickly. It’ll even tell you which apps are the most data hungry.
Using the app is pretty simple, and there are really just three things to set up before the app is ready to go. The first bit of info you’ll set is the billing date, so the app knows how many days are left in the current billing cycle. Then you’ll tell the app exactly how many gigs or megs of data you’re allowed to use each day, week and for the entire month. Finally, you’ll set percentage thresholds that’ll trigger the four separate alert levels (for instance, I set my first alarm to go off when I hit 40 percent, and the rest to go off at 60, 80 and 95 percent). Once that’s done, you’ll need to keep the app running in the background at all times in order to track data flow.
Once that’s done, the app will alert you — you can switch between alert types in Settings App under Notifications — when you breach the thresholds you’ve just set up, whether it be hitting a daily, weekly or monthly limit, and thus save you a wad of money from overages.
But that’s just the beginning; DataMan Pro has a whole pool shed crammed full of data-monitoring tools. By far, the most useful of these is its ability to list which apps are using the most data, as this will give you an idea of which apps to stay away from when under cellular power.
Another cool feature is a map that plots points on the map where you’ve used cellular data. It wasn’t nearly as useful to me as the apps page, but I someone somewhere might come up with a use for it, I suppose. There’s also a graph of your cellular data usage against one that displays your wifi data use. This feature has a gaping flaw though — because my wifi use was usually exponentially greater than my cellular use, the cellular graph was impossible to read and meaningless.
The one caveat to all of this is that you must keep the app running in the background; and in order to access the real-time alerts and other advanced features, you also must turn on the Precise Tracking feature, which the developer says eats more battery power. But the hit to battery life was barely noticeable, and the benefits far outweighed any extra time spent charging.
Even with room for improvement, this app is still a must-have app for cellular-equipped iPads. So go ahead, dive into that data plan — but only if you have DataMan Pro installed and running.