16 Sep 2016

How to protect mobile data when traveling?

The mobile data dilemma

I just landed in London…

Do I activate mobile data on my phone to check WhatsApp messages?

Should I connect my laptop to my phone’s hotspot to sync mails?

Those are typical questions that arise when one travels, and even more so abroad. Using a smartphone to create a Wifi hotspot for your laptop is easy but can be expensive. You might have experienced first hand how unnerving it is to get huge data roaming fees just because an app -e.g. DropBox- silently downloaded, without your knowledge, a bunch of photos that someone shared with you. Whilst roaming charge are going South in Europe, we still see many subscription plans with only 3, 2 or even 1Gb of mobile data caps.

One day while commuting to work, I used my entire monthly 1GB mobile data plan in 30 min, without even noticing. I was furious. I had to choose between having no mobile Internet for the rest of the month, shell out about $15 to get 1 extra GB, or pay expensive pay-as-you-go fees for mobile data. David Dudok de Wit – TripMode’s co-founder

Focus is key

When traveling, one often wants to do a few specific, short term activities on the laptop. Everything that is not important right now can wait. Software updates, backups, background cloud syncs can be done later when back on a regular Wi-Fi.

So what’s the issue? Careful Internet usage is just not something you get out of the box with laptops. For your apps, it’s party-time, open-bar, all-you-can-eat Internet as soon as a connection is detected. But you, the end user, get to pay for the consumption of everybody, whether you know or not who used what. And that’s unfair.

There are a few tricks with Microsoft and Apple to limit data usage, by informing apps that an expensive connection is currently in use. But in the end, it’s up to app developers to be mindful of that flag and of data usage. That’s like hanging a “don’t drink alcohol” sign between 6pm and 9pm in a crowded bar on a Friday night, and expecting that people will follow. Developers just don’t have a real incentive to limit their app’s data usage. It’s complicated to develop. It limits the possibilities of the app. And even if 95% of the apps in the world were optimised to limit data usage, the user is not protected against those few sneaky background apps that decide to pump data by themselves.

Typical apps that use your data

There are many applications running on our MacBooks, Windows laptops or Windows 10 tablets that can be a threat to your monthly mobile data budget. They typically initiate high-volume background data transfers. Some of the most famous ones are:

  • iCloud
  • DropBox
  • OneDrive
  • Google Drive
  • Backup solutions like BackBlaze
  • Windows Updates
  • …and many others

A “flight mode” for laptops?

At TripMode we thought that Mac and Windows laptops were missing a “data saving” feature in the spirit of the iPhone’s Airplane Mode. We wanted to empower users and give easy control over data consumption. We built TripMode ($7.99 available in our store) which allows one to decide which application installed on his/her laptop will be able to connect to the Internet. And to make it even simpler to use, TripMode activates itself automatically when one connects its laptop to a mobile hotspot where TripMode was used before.

There are thousands of daily TripMode users. They use it when travelling, when commuting or simply while being at a coffee shop or hotel where the Internet connection is crappy. You can give it a go today.

Try TripMode

You can get TripMode for free with a 7-day unlimited trial for Mac and Windows, then 15-min per day. www.tripmode.ch, try it. For business use we offer advanced data usage analytics and premium support.