tracking data use can help with fees

The smartphone in your pocket gives you the power to chat, text, take selfies and a million other things. But it also burns through your data plan with your wireless carrier faster than you may think.

There are, of course, built-in systems on your phone to help you track your mobile data use. But many apps can be even more useful in keeping you on the right side of your monthly data limit.

DataMan Next, an iOS app, is an elegant way of monitoring your iPhone's data-slurping habit. Its modern design presents information clearly and swiftly. To begin, you enter basic information like your monthly data allowance and when your bill is due.

The app's main screen is very simple: In the middle is a big figure showing the percentage of your monthly allowance used, and at the top is a large text alert. When this alert says "safe," accompanied by a checkmark, you're in the clear. This means the app has estimated that at your current data consumption rate, you will not go over your plan's limit.

There's also a tally of how much total data you've used and how much you've downloaded over Wi-Fi. Best of all, the app's backdrop changes color to warn you when you're using too much; green for good becomes red for bad. It costs $2.

An alternative is My Data Manager, which is free for both iOS and Android phones. It has some of the same modern, minimalist design ideas as DataMan.

The app's main screen has clear graphics and text to tell you how much of your monthly data has been used. A few other screens, accessible with a swipe, show your data consumption habits more visually, with graphs.

Onavo Count is also popular, available for both iOS and Android phones, with a clear, easy-to-read design. It works in much the same way as its rivals, although it has a few unusual features like a report on your "data life," which shows if you're spending more of your data budget on categories like music or movies.

Individual cellphone networks often also have apps available to help manage how much mobile data you use, so don't forget to search the app stores for apps with the name of your carrier.