Clark Howard: App lets your smartphone ’sip’ data

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

ClarkHowardWith big wireless carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon all having data caps in place, being a data hog on your smartphone can really affect your wallet. (Sprint is the only one of the bigs still out there doing unlimited data at the moment.)

If data use is a problem for you, you could make the switch to a cheaper no-contract carrier that offers unlimited data. But not everybody wants to make that leap.

So what’s a dedicated smartphone user to do? I recently discovered something I already use helps my smartphone to sip data instead of guzzling it.

A tech writer for The New York Times recently ran a story that says Opera Mini, a popular free European mobile browser, reduces data consumption by 90 percent so you can dramatically stretch your data plan.

Opera Mini is available for Android, Apple, Blackberry, Windows and Symbian S60 smart phones.

Now, I’m not going to pretend to understand how Opera Mini does what it does. Nor does the tech writer seem to understand himself! “You don’t need to know how it works,” he writes. “Just download the browser and use it.” I love that.

Because Opera Mini sips data, you may even be able to stay on a lower data plan when you’re using it. Plus, in my experience using Opera Mini, it’s really fast to boot.

Meanwhile, I recently saw a headline I loved from a MarketWatch story: “Be a better investor, dump your iPhone.”
You have all the various brokerage houses adding apps for iPhones and Androids that allow you to trade on a second’s notice. But the danger is that they put people in a spot where they make decisions divorced of strategy or a sense of timing for your retirement. Don’t use them.

-by Clark Howard, Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs

Find more answers to your consumer questions, plus Clark’s new book “Living Large in Lean Times,” at Listen to his radio show live 1-4 p.m. Monday through Friday on WSB 750 AM and 95.5 FM.

14 comments Add your comment

Seville Barber

August 25th, 2011
6:29 am

Having been a convert to Opera since around version…3.1(?)….I must say it’s about time someone of Mr. Howard’s stature noticed. First thing I did when I bought my Android smartphone was to download Opera Mini.

I sang Dixie as he died

August 25th, 2011
7:00 am

Im grandfathered in with an unlimited data plan with AT&T…but this seems like angood idea for those who aren’t.


August 25th, 2011
7:25 am

I still have my unlimited plan with AT&T as well. I use almost a GB/month on my iPhone…the Sirius/XM app really eats up the MBs.


August 25th, 2011
7:30 am

@clark-thank you
@seville:pompous,”all hail seville,the app master”…..Sheeesh


August 25th, 2011
7:32 am

You forgot about MetroPcs – not the best service in the world, and the limited selection of phones are a little pricey. Their unlimited data plan is $60 p/month with no contract (taxes and fees are included).


August 25th, 2011
7:39 am

Web usage is a drop in the bucket when compared to data hogs like Pandora or video streaming, which Opera Mini does nothing for.


August 25th, 2011
8:04 am

Thank you so much for this tidbit of info. I just downloaded the app to my smartphone and I will be doing it with the rest of the lines when the teenagers get home.


August 25th, 2011
8:39 am

Work pays for my data, so it doesn’t concern me. :)


August 25th, 2011
9:13 am

Agammemnon beat me to the punch but it needs to be stated again . A browser uses very little data to begin with . The only reason I am saying this again is because Clark is wrong on this . You will not be able , in reality , to drop down to a lower data play on browser use alone .

Streaming is where you chew data whether video or music …..and if you want to really save your data downloading through wi-fi is the best way .

BTW, Opera really is a great browser .


August 25th, 2011
11:14 am

I’ll second (or third) what’s already been added. A web browser isn’t what eats up all your data. It’s streaming video and audio and downloading files. If you’re going over 2GB a month in data (and on a mobile phone, for a normal user, that should be more than plenty), you’re obviously using your phone to download large files, watch video, stream audio, etc. The web browser isn’t going to make that much of a difference.

I’ll also add my compliments to Opera as a browser, it works great. However, on my iPhone, I still prefer safari, they work better together. Although Opera is a tad faster (something about the way it stacks data), Safari is better integrated with iOS.

ha ha ha....

August 25th, 2011
11:40 am

it is quite humorous reading all the pros and cons of watching videos and surfing the web on your phone. i know this sounds oh so last century (like 1990’s), but it’s a phone for christ sake. just because you CAN watch a video of some you tube moron doesn’t mean that you SHOULD. i mean is it really making your day better by staring at a screen the size or you hand watching kitties play or being attacked by angry birds. do you really get the full enjoyment of watching a movie or is it just background noise. go outside…..without your phone…..there are real birds and cats and trees, and people!! yes real live people……


August 25th, 2011
11:42 am

Please tell me what movie or music is important enough to be streamed when not on wi-fi.


August 25th, 2011
11:44 am

“I’m clark howard”.. with more useless, incorrect information..

Tim Dennis

August 25th, 2011
1:22 pm

Like someone else mentioned, web browsing is really a minimal user of data on smartphones. It’s great to save wherever you can but the real data hogs are streaming music and videos.