Data makes the smartphone world go round, goes the old adage. Well, we just made that one up, but it's true. We’re spending more of our time playing with apps than we are making phone calls these days, and SMS messages are vanishing into a pit of email excess.

Keeping track of all this data normally comes down to a pertinent message from your network, or a hefty addition to your bill when you roll over your data limit. Of course, the answer is to try to keep track of all that data, so today we're looking at something that's geekily fun.



Onavo is a data-monitoring app. Before you yawn and head off to read about Android 4 on HTC phones, just bear with us, because Onava is a data freak's dream and well worth playing with, even if data isn't an issue for you.

Onavo monitors what apps are using your mobile data. You can set your data cap, including those limits for roaming if you have a roaming plan or have bought a bundle temporarily. This can then be set to notify you as your data gets used up.

Perhaps more interesting is the way that Onavo breaks down how data has been used. It presents all the apps that have been using data and colour codes them, so you can see if you have a "data hog". You'll also be alerted to data hogs via notifications so you can take action.

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Apps often have settings that let you limit their data use to a certain extent. That might be in the frequency of updates or occasionally (typically on multimedia apps) there will be the option to restrict data to Wi-Fi only. Onavo lets you do this directly for each app using data.

Some apps you want taking data, for example Gmail. Some you don't, for example that random bundled app you've never used that feeds you news and updates from sites you're not interested in. With the press of a button, it's restricted to Wi-Fi only, or uninstalled. 

Using data also uses battery power, so it's something that's worth keeping an eye on. If lots of apps are sucking data, but you don't actually need the information they are collating, then it's a waste and something worth cracking down on.

Statistics are presented for apps, letting you know when you use most data, and you can change the scale to get a picture daily, weekly or monthly. Stat fans will love it. There are also supporting widgets - one to track your data usage against your limit, one for live data use and one that show those apps that have munched the most data.

Onavo on the iPhone offers another feature and that's compression of data being fed to your phone, with the aim of reducing the amount of data you use overall. On Android, this is handled by a separate app, called Onavo Extend. This is currently only available for Android 4.0 devices.

While talking about Android 4.0, it's worth mentioning that Ice Cream Sandwich offers its own data-monitoring feature baked right in. The appeal of the Onavo data monitor might be limited to your Gingerbread device and abandoned on update to Google's latest and greatest OS, although the Onavo Extend app may then appeal.

However, this is still a great free app and well worth playing with, just to get a better idea of what's going on in your Android handset.