Mobile Tweeting – don’t get caught out

Well, we had a nasty shock at Silicon Bullet yesterday. We moved phone contracts in August from O2 to Orange due to signal problems in our offices, and got lovely Samsung Galaxy S2 phones on contract.

We have a 800Mb monthly download limit, and over the first 3 months this has been more than adequate for our mobile download needs, as we use Wifi wherever available.

Then yesterday a bill for almost £400 plopped onto our mat. Normally the bill is around £70 per month and we are well within our limits.

So the first question is, if Orange monitor our usage (which they do in order to bill us) how can they not even have the courtesy to flag up a sudden jump in usage in a timely way so we don’t get hit with a huge bill? A simple text to flag there may be a problem is all it needs; it can’t be rocket science. Or is this how they make their money?

Secondly, how has our data usage changed in order to suddenly attract this huge bill? The first step was to look at the online data usage to see when the peak times were. They seem to be on occasions when I was driving and not actively using the phone – I can pick this up accurately as I know when the school run is. It must therefore be an app downloading data when the phone is not actively being used.

We have now installed a handy app on our phones which monitors downloads so we can pick out the culprits, and first indications are HootSuite (which I use to monitor my @SiliconBullet twitter account) and Tweetdeck (where I manage @weebly_one – my personal twitter account). These have downloaded huge amounts of data just in the 16 hours since we installed the new App. I fear I may have to give up mobile tweeting if this trend continues. surprisingly the Facebook and Foursquare apps I use have not got such heavy usage at all.

The fact remains though that I have been using Tweetdeck for ages, and it is only this month that we blew our limit out of the water – so we do need to investigate further – I will keep you updated.

The moral of this story is if you have a download limit, then monitor it – the apps for doing this are free, and you can record your monthly allowance in them so you can see what is going on and when you are nearing your limit. It is definitely worth the time and effort to prevent you being hit with a huge bill like we have. Also, encourage your mobile operator to take responsibility; they get enough of our money to be able to manage a system where sudden changes in usage should flag a warning to the end-user while they can still do something about it.

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17 thoughts on “Mobile Tweeting – don’t get caught out

  1. That’s nothing. A friend of mine who is (soon to be was!) on orange received a bill for £3500.

    Ok he had been using his mobile on holiday and it was roaming. But they are meant to monitor you downloads when roaming and cap it out.

    Sadly Orange seem unable to deliver what they promise when it comes to service. He’s currently in a long battle with them over this.

  2. I have had the same problem with Orange but think mine was due to my ignorance ie leaving mobile connect to Internet on all the time. I now keep it turned off unless I need it but have yet to check my bill online to check whether that was the culprit. Thanks for the tip re the app to monitor the limit which I will look into installing.

  3. Really surprised at Orange as they’re normally really good. Can they not give any indication of what exactly caused this increase? If it’s something like twitter then people would stop using it as I can’t believe this would effect only Orange customers.

    • They were singularly unhelpful on the phone. They can give us times of peak usage, which seemed to mostly correspond with when I was on the school run or similar – but not details of what the data was. I think I may have to chalk this one down to experience.

  4. That’s why I like Giffgaff so much, Aly. I’m paying them £10 per month, where I used to pay £30 at O2 and before that same at Orange. For my £10, I get more minutes (250) than I had with either of the others, unlimited texts and unlimited Internet.

    I don’t tweet that much, but I do use the geocaching app on my phone and sometimes use Google Maps on it as a sat-nav when it seems to have heard of a place my car sat-nav doesn’t know. I never have to worry about whether I’m online or not.

    I like how after every call I get a popup saying how many minutes I have left and what my cash balance is for non-standard calls. I also get a reminder when I need to pay for the next month, and even a Giffgaff email telling me if any other plan would be more advantageous, because I can swap it every month if I want. I haven’t missed having a help desk at all. The one problem I had at the start was solved rapidly on the forums, and when I had to set up the phone for use abroad, an email requesting that was answered by an agent in less than one hour.

    I am never ever going back to the main mobile services!

    • Ours are business mobiles on contract paid for by our company. We only moved from O2 to Orange in August. Regretting it already apart from the fact that I now go to the cinema more often!

  5. Well, I’m in the dark ages here! I don’t have a smart phone and have no intention of getting one. This just confirms to me what a minefield it all is. My reasons for abstaining are simply that I find the concept of constant contact via social media too intrusive in my day when I’m out and about. Hopefully none of my contacts feels starved of information. Just how much (trivial) information can anyone share in a day?

    • I do enjoy my social media contact – not sure yet if it adds up to more business but it certainly keeps me amused. Then again I used to carry a book round with me and read more when I needed amusing – now I am always on my phone!

  6. Thanks for the warning. I got caught out with using the phone on holiday and thought my bill was bad but it’s nothing compared to yours!

    I use Vodafone and can log in to my account and check my usage whenever I want to. I also get an itemised bill showing the times and type of use ie. call, text or data.

    I have queried a bill before now as I didn’t think communication was clear about how much something would cost and they were very good about it.

    • It has become obvious since I started monitoring that it is the Twitter apps which use the most data – so watch our particularly for Hootsuite and Tweetdeck. I seem to have got it under control now – but have learned an expensive lesson.

  7. The carriers should provided better information but what is the incentive? It sounds like Vodafone is one of the few doing so. Giffgaff gives unlimited Internet for £10 a month? Usually it is throttled back at some amount that is listed in the fine print.

    Apps that are heavy data users should offer auto-disable when not in wifi mode, with the option to override that when you want.

    We built 3GWatchdog Android App because we wanted to know our own usage and realized everyone was in the same boat. (We have the Galaxy S2, too!) Roaming usage is shown in the Pro version, http://www.3gwatchdog.fr/, as well as usage by apps and a prediction of your going over based on your current usage patterns. – Julie at 3GWatchdog

    • Thanks for the tips – we are using a free app My Data Manager Free now, which is logging my mobile usage against our limit and also out of interest logging the wifi usage. I am well within my usage limits this month, just by uninstalling hootsuite.

  8. Turn all your apps which download data in the background to only download over wi-fi. Simple.

    Or get a contract with unlimited data use. 800 MB isn’t all that much if you’re using a lot of apps that use data.

    • The thing is I already did use wifi most of the time. My mistake was using two twitter apps for my personal and business accounts (Twwetdeck and Hootsuite) – just using one means I am now staying within my usage limits more easily. I now monitor my usage too – which I didn’t do before as it never seemed to be an issue, 800 Mb was well within our usual usage levels but Orange were not offering much more on our business contract. I have become a heavier twitter user since we took out the contract.

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