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Get Wireless Alerts Before the New Rules Kick In

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Are you browsing the Internet with your eyes wide shut?

Tempted to catch up with last season’s episodes of “Mad Men” on your iPad but wary of maxing out your data plan? Starting next year, wireless carriers will be required to alert customers about their voice and data usage to prevent any billing surprises, thanks to an agreement with the Federal Communications Commission. In other words, no more angry phone calls to your carrier about those unexpected roaming charges.

Given the fact that cell phone carriers are limiting their unlimited all-you-can-eat packages, the agreement between the Federal Communications Commission and carriers seems less like a free gift and more like good manners. Wedbush Securities analyst Scott Sutherland says it’s a win-win for consumers and companies: “This will improve customer experience and reduce customer service costs.” Investment blogger Andy Nyquist says these apps reflect the consumer’s need for more transparency. “People will be able to make smarter choices in regards to their service plans,” he says.

To be fair, many companies do this already on a voluntary basis, although in some cases customers must request the alerts. And if you can’t wait until late 2012 for the new protections to kick in, there are already some apps on the market that provide the same kinds of alerts.  Simon Buckingham, CEO of Applitalism.com, says that – in theory – carrier data will always be the most accurate source, “but if you like to obsess over the exact amount of data you’re using, one of these apps will fulfill that need well.”

Here are three on the market already:

DataMan

Available only on iPhone and iPad, this tells you how many days until your monthly plan renews. You will need to input the date of your monthly cell phone cycle. But you can also download the data to your computer and track your cell phone usage on a graph. It’s free or $1.99 for the “pro” version, which has pop-up “push notifications” and tracks usage every 10 minutes.

Stats

This is available on Android, but not on iPhone. It can disconnect your mobile data to keep temptation out of arm’s reach if/when you reach your limit. It doesn’t keep a history of your monthly usage. If you want the free version, you will have to endure advertisements. Otherwise, pay $1.29.

Mobile Data Alerter

This has versions designed for Blackberry only and, as such, it also tells you if you’re roaming while overseas and, like the other two, shows daily/monthly data consumption. The app also provides alerts when applications are running in the background so you can better manage your data usage. It’s free.

Do you have a favorite way of curbing your enthusiasm for data usage?

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About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.

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