Cut Data Usage Whilst Abroad

As a Vodafone customer, whilst traveling abroad in certain countries I take advantage of their EuroTraveller service which allows me to use my minutes, texts & data allowance as if I were at home in the UK. The cost for this is £3 per day, which is only billed on the days I use any of my allowances. This may seem expensive, however it is actually quite a good deal – I can use my phone in the same way I normally do in the UK and I won’t be left with any nasty surprises on my next bill. There are no roaming charges etc.

Whilst waiting at the airport for my gate to open, I was thinking about how I usually use my phone abroad. I don’t really call people but I do text (iMessage – so  data), email, use twitter, check instagram, read RSS feeds & use the internet to look for places to go or reviews of places etc. I realised that I mainly use data – quite a lot of data actually. I have 7GB of data included in my monthly tariff and whilst at home I use approx. 6 – 6.5GB a month, not including the data I use when on Wi-Fi.

Solution Found

After quick bit of research online, I found a service called Onavo & their iOS app called Onavo Extend. Their website claims the following:

Onavo Extend helps you save mobile data so you can do more of what you love on your phone without spending more on your bill. Once the app is installed on your phone, it works in the background when you use mobile data to find ways to save.

How it Works

In basic terms, the data is compressed. Any time you make a data request, it is sent to Onavo’s servers via a constant VPN connection (a profile setup on your phone when setting up the Extend app). The data is compressed before being sent back, meaning less data is downloaded by your device. It is exactly the same setup as using any VPN to connect to the internet, with compression thrown in to shrink the data. When connected to Wi-Fi the VPN is disconnected.

Does it Actually Work?

So far I have been away for 2 days –  the screenshot below of the Extend app shows exactly how much data has been saved so far, but also gives a nice breakdown of how much data each app has used.
Onavo Extend App Screen Shot

According to the data the app is showing, yes it does actually work & I have already saved quite a bit of data. Based on my usage over the past 2 days, if I were here for 10 days I would save over half a Gigabyte of data, without doing anything besides installing the app.

Half a Gigabyte may not seem like a lot, but I have quite a large data allowance on my monthly tariff – most people do not, with the average being 1GB per month. A 50% saving on data usage could make all the difference betweeen a normal bill at the end of the month & one that has a nasty extra charge.


As all the data is passing through Onavo’s servers, in theory, they can see all the data I use. At first this did start alarm bells ringing in my mind, but after a quick look on thier website I found their Privacy Policy which states the following:

We may share, sell, transmit, or otherwise make available to third parties information that does not include personally identifying information, or for which we have taken reasonable steps to remove all personally identifying information (“Anonymized Information”). Anonymized Information may provide insights into trends in mobile, app, online, and advertising activities.

Two things stood out to me about their Privacy Policy. Firstly it is not hidden away on their website like they have something to hide. It is easy to find, as if they want to show that they are not hiding anything. Secondly, it is easy to read. It is not overcomplicated to try and confuse you whilst hiding things in complex language. It’s easy to understand.

I don’t see any issues with this & my privacy – it is almost exactly the same as what Vodafone & all other network providers  do anyway. It simply means they may sell information about how I use the service, but not information that makes it possible to identify me.

How can it be Free?

Some things do seem too good to be free & this is one of them. As there is no charge for using the service, they make their money by selling “Anonymized Information” (see quote above from Privacy Policy). Most companies that offer their services for free make their money this way. Google is a prime example – you don’t pay for it directly, but they make money selling the data about you using their services as it is valuable to advertisers.

Would I Recommend it?

Simply, yes. From my own experience of using it, it actually works.

There is no reason why I would need to remove it when I get back to the UK. It will save my data allowance anywhere in the world where I have a data connection (except when on Wi-Fi), but I think I will. I have no need to save data at home as I don’t think I will ever go over my 7GB monthly amount.

If you have a smaller montly data amount this may be just the app you are looking for at home, or abroad.