Capped data plans are the new normal, so it's time to use every trick in the book to maximize your available smartphone data. DataSaver, from Devicescape, should definitely be in an Android phone owner's toolkit. Running in the background, DataSaver automatically connects you to a range of Wi-Fi hotspots, auto-negotiating those tricky login pages so you can surf without hitting your carrier's 3G network. It's like Boingo Mobile ($8 per month), but free.
Installation and Display
Installing DataSaver is easy: just download it from Google Play and run it. It runs on Android 2.2 and up; I tested it on a Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx, an HTC One S, and a Samsung Galaxy S III (Verizon Wireless)?and it worked fine on all of them. The app runs in the background. You can quit it manually by pressing the menu button and selecting "DataSaver Off." You'll also need to restart it by hand when you restart your phone.
DataSaver has a few main screens. The primary screen shows whether you're on 3G or Wi-Fi, the speed of your connection, and how much data you've saved so far by using Wi-Fi. There's a data counter involved, so you can set it to reflect your data plan and see how close you are to your limit. You can also see which apps have used the most data, as a pie chart. Delving into the settings lets you add passwords you know for private hotspots.
Unfortunately, the data readouts on two of my three phones were inaccurate. After a day's worth of use, the Galaxy S III reported it had used 106 TB of data on 3G?yes, that's terabytes, and no, that's not right. The HTC One S reported that it had used 201 MB of 3G data on the main page, but only 90.9 MB on the pie chart. Devicescape general manager Jean-Marc Matteini said the company is looking into both issues.
DataSaver beats OEMs' automatic Wi-Fi connection software because in many cases, it knows how to negotiate the "captive portals" which prevent you from just logging in and surfing. You know, those annoying Web pages which force you to approve terms and conditions?DataSaver does away with those.
DataSaver worked well in Hilton hotels, at Starbucks and McDonald's, and with public hotspots run by the Surfintown network. DataSaver didn't work with every public network I wandered into, though. In Warwick, Clarion, and Carlton hotels in Manhattan, it connected briefly to the networks, but then couldn't figure out how to negotiate and disconnected.
That isn't the end of the story, though. Here's something really cool: according to Devicescape execs, Datasaver uploads those portal pages to Devicescape, which solves them either through automated or human means and then adds them to the database. So within a few weeks, a rejected portal may start working.
It's hard to find and target DeviceScape hotspots because there's no map in DataSaver, although you can go to easywifi.com to find a map of hotspots. In much of New York City, there seems to be one on every block. Unfortunately, when I then roamed a few block trying to attach to hotspots on the map, most of them didn't connect. Devicescape's Matteini said a future version of DataSaver may have a coverage map function.
Everything you run in the background uses battery, of course. Over the course of a day, Android reported that DataSaver had used 5% of my battery life?far less than I'd used on the gallery app, but more than Gmail. So you'll have to balance the ability to automatically log into Wi-Fi hotspots with a slight decrease in battery life.?
With the size of DeviceScape's offload network remaining mysterious, it's hard to say how much you'll benefit from DataSaver where you live. But it's certainly worth downloading and trying for a few days.
DataSaver had mixed results when combined with our Editors' Choice for data-saving apps, Onavo Extend. Onavo Extend seemed to initially block DataSaver from detecting some hotspots, and then it started working. Devicescape's Matteini said DataSaver and Onavo Extend should be able to work together. That would be the best of both worlds: Onavo Extend compresses data while you're on 3G, and DataSaver connects you to Wi-Fi when it can. The combination will help make your capped data go much further.
For more Android Software, see:
??? DataSaver (for Android)
??? Final Fantasy III (for Android)
??? Net Nanny 2.0 (for Android)
??? AppGarden Lite (for Android)
??? Amazing Alex (for Android)