TL;DR: I recently upgraded to Samsung Galaxy S4 on AT&T with a 200 MB data limit. Today, my phone used 173 MB of data in 10 minutes while reading a Business Insider article using the Hacker News Android app.
The mopey upgrader
In my many years of owning gadgets, I have always been fond of keeping my devices as long as they work and basically run them to the ground until they stopped working. That personal trait has kept me happy and has been one of my financial pillars for saving money. The only times where I thought of upgrading or going for that new phone is that awkward feeling when you see friends or colleagues go show them off every other year - their new, latest and greatest device that is a big hit. That shiny 14MP camera that dazzles in all types of light. That great game that could run on their new computer as well as a console that just won't work at all on mine.
This time it happened to be my phone. My good ol' Samsung Galaxy SII Skyrocket was the first smartphone I owned. I had bought it exactly at the time AT&T ended unlimited data i.e. I did not have a plan to get grandfathered into. Regardless, I signed up for a $15 / month data usage plan on 4G LTE. The Skyrocket was humming along for the first year. After the first year, it still worked great, but the battery life was quite bad. I was on the TouchWiz version and did tinker around with rooting the phone. However, I decided to go back to TouchWiz because my usage was confined to the stock apps.
After the ICS OTA update, I ended up going for one of those Anker battery replacements since the phone was barely holding charge for 9 hours- a normal work day's usage of 30 minutes or 1 hour talk time, 3-4 hours of browsing Reddit and HN, 20 odd messages exchanged on Whatsapp, Google Location / GPS turned off and the rest being idle with 4G LTE turned on. As luck would have it, the battery change did not solve the problem of the battery running out of charge by the time I got home from work. The phone was holding about 15hrs of charge with pretty much the same usage as before.
The joy of upgrading your phone!
I wouldn't say I was waiting for this day with a lot of excitement. Everytime I get into a new contract, I get apprehensive and think twice. However, with the release of Jelly Bean and the hype around Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One, I started doing my research on upgrading and decided "Only two years, it'll go away in no time - just like when I got my SII".
It has been only a couple of months since I got my new Samsung Galaxy S4. Like any kid with a new toy, I have been playing around with the phone ever since I bought it. The camera was amazing, the OTA updates were a lot more configurable and settings in general were much more detailed than in the SII. The battery, oh wow, it would just work. I have gone more than 24hrs without recharging my phone with my usage pretty much the same. That is quite awesome compared to the recharge every 12hrs towards the end of my tryst with the SII.
Usage planning: a feature made for me
I have always been a stickler for planning. Almost all of my life, I have made plans and try to keep up. Course correction when unexpected things happen or tweaking plans as I go help in understanding how to keep myself out of a situation where I'm in deep trouble. Without being organized, I'm pretty much a wreck. I use Mint for my monthly budgets and credit card due reminders and keep track of my debt; Google Calendar - to remind me to submit my weekly timecard, to pay rent on time and so on. Having seen what being disorganized can lead to both financially and personally, these services and apps help ensuring I stay out of trouble.
Which is precisely why I loved the Data Usage setting in the Galaxy S4. Here, I could set my data limit and keep track of my data usage. In my 25 odd months of the SII, I only exceeded my 200MB / month plan a couple of times. Both of them involved heavily using the Navigation app on road trips. With the change of phones, I didn't expect that to change a lot. I would keep paying the same $15 a month, I had thought. WRONG!
I have a select set that just about fills up three screens:
Most of my time is spent on Reddit is fun, Hacker News Android, Twitter, Cricinfo, YouTube, Mint and Whatsapp. Once in awhile I tend to use Fuelio, doubleTwist, Vine and Google Drive. All my other apps are on a need to use basis.
First month: Hmmm, is it just AT&T or is the Galaxy S4 using up data a LOT!
In my first month of owning the Galaxy S4, I was shocked that I hit my data limit with 10 days left to go on my billing cycle (cycle ended August 26th). Imagine, you change phones and the very first month you run up an overage on data while you were able to plan and maintain staying within the limit for the two years preceding that. I was heartbroken. How am I to stop reading the news during my walk or when out for lunch! For 10 whole days! The alternative was to (gulp!) pay the extra $15 for another 200 MB just for days. Nope! I think this will be a good test to see if I can be without using data and be only on WiFi.
However, I was curious. Which apps ate up my data? Did I really use all that in just 20 days? I went into the data usage and checked for the culprit.