The apps that finally pushed me past my data plan’s limit

For the first time in years, maybe ever, I maxed out the data plan on my phone. Fortunately, racking up 3.68 gigabytes of data when I’d only paid T-Mobile for 3 GB didn’t cost me anything–the leftover data from earlier months socked away in my Data Stash covered the overage, and I still have more than 5 GB in the bank.

Android data usageBut the experience did remind me that you can burn through mobile bandwidth surprisingly fast. And since I’m always asking readers who have had the same experience “what apps did you in,” I should answer the same question myself.

So here are the top 10 offenders listed in Android’s Data Usage screen:

• Twitter: 1.91 GB. This one stands out not just because it’s at the top of the list–that’s a quasi-obscene amount of data for a social network originally designed to function over SMS. Tapping that entry revealed that Twitter ate up almost half of that data, 855 megabytes, while running in the background; I guess that’s why Android has a “Restrict app background data” control.

• Chrome: 723 MB. This didn’t surprise me much, since I haven’t switched on this browser’s Data Saver option. I’m glad it’s there, though.

• Facebook: 244 MB. I expected more, considering how I spend almost as much time in this app as I do in Twitter. The developers at the social network may deserve a little more credit for keeping their app quasi-efficient in its bandwidth use.

• Android OS: 109 MB. Picture me shrugging as I realize how little this entry just told me.

• Gmail: 92.6 MB. I thought this would be higher, considering I have this app syncing three different e-mail accounts.

• Google App: 63.11 MB. This is all Google Now, right?

• Google Play services: 62.55 MB. Here we have another catchall item–this Android library does chores for a vast variety of apps on a phone.

• Vine: 55.79 MB. While Twitter’s primarily text-based app binged on bandwidth, its video-only offshoot sipped this little. Picture me once again shrugging.

• Snapchat: 53.13 MB. I don’t even use this app in any meaningful way (a fuller account of my Snapchat incompetence will require a separate post), so I don’t know how it burned through that much data.

• Flickr: 48.02 MB. This would have been vastly higher had I not set Yahoo’s photo-sharing app to upload photos only over WiFi. The Play Store accounts for a tiny share of my bandwidth for the same reason.

If you don’t mind sharing, what apps top your own phone’s data-usage screen? I realize that in iOS, you can’t get a month-by-month breakdown (the upcoming iOS 10 doesn’t fix that, to judge from the peek I got at it last month), but even the running total iOS keeps should still yield some useful insights.

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Weekly output: Amazon Echo, data caps, telecom bills

Have you finished your Christmas shopping yet? Me neither. But at least I’m further along in the process than I was at this point last year.

Yahoo Tech Amazon Echo review12/16/2014: We Try the Amazon Echo, Yahoo Tech

Amazon PR hasn’t exactly been handing out review units of the Echo, but a friend got a semi-coveted invitation to buy this Bluetooth speaker/digital assistant/listening device and was kind enough to invite me over for the unboxing and some of his early use. Yahoo Tech (by which I mean me) paid for that early access with a bottle of homebrewed beer.

12/16/2014: When Is a Data Cap Not a Data Cap? When Big Telecom Says So, Yahoo Tech

This story had been in the works for a while, and then I had to redo a paragraph in it as it was supposed to go online to note T-Mobile’s customer-friendly addition of a data-rollover policy. The photo, in case you were curious, represents a rare case of my getting actual value from the mailings Comcast sends me every other week; in the background you can see a Dominion Power smart meter.

12/21/2014: Give the gift of cheaper TV, Internet and phone service, USA Today

In need of a column topic for this weekend, I asked the Twitter hive mind which family tech-support tasks people were most nervous about. One person replied that calling Comcast led the list, and that made me realize that I was overdue to write a cheat sheet about ways to trim telecom bills.