by Bill Forman
I've always wanted to be in the top 5 percent of something, and now I am.
A text from AT&T this morning delivered the good news: "Your data use this month places you in the top 5% of users."
Unfortunately, the rest of the message appeared less promising. "Use Wi-Fi to help avoid reduced speeds."
Yes, it turns out that I am a "data hog," the pejorative term reserved for those of us who've pushed past the newly instituted limits on AT&T's "unlimited" data plan. From this point forward, if I exceed 3 gigs of data usage during a one-month billing period, I'll be "throttled" back to a speed the company would rather not specify.
Granted, I have felt vague pangs of guilt as I imagine a landfill somewhere overflowing with my spent data. But a more pressing concern, as someone who's become dependent on streaming music, is the prospect of spending the next 24 days listening to songs start, stop and stutter as the cache slowly reloads.
Fortunately, it's turned out to be not as dire as all that. I called AT&T today and discovered that my billing cycle actually begins on the 9th of the month, rather than the 1st. (Everyone's varies, the say.) In other words, I've barely gone over my limit.
Plus (and here's where this post may have some actual use-value), there are a bunch of ways to cut back on your data usage that don't involve hiding your iPhone.
• If you're in a wi-fi zone — whether that's at home or a coffee shop — be sure to switch over from 3G and the meter will stop running.
• Even when you put your iPhone to sleep, a lot of apps continue to toil away in the background, including Pandora and my beloved MOG. Facebook is especially diligent, since it's off looking for your friends' latest lolcats even as you busy yourself with something useful.
• To prevent that from happening during periods of non-use, you can close each app individually, power off the phone, or put it in airplane mode. Just remember that the latter means your phone won't ring when you get a call or message. (Of course, coworkers might appreciate that.)
Find more suggestions, along with a space-age "data calculator," right here.