Now that we've gotten the price of cottage cheese under control here in Israel, a lot of people think that the next target for protesters demanding lower prices should be cell phone service providers. Between the high charges for calls and data, and the “special money-saving plans” they coax us to sign up for that always seem to cost a little more than the previous plan we were on, these companies – all over the world – are “raking it in!”
In lieu of protests, one immediate strategy to save money is to use less – less data time and fewer call minutes. And thanks to Ramat Gan-based Onavo, customers can save significant amounts of money on the data – and eventually, phone calls – you use your device for!
Onavo is an app (for iPhone/iPad and Android phones) that uses a proxy server to make data requests for your device, compressing the data before it gets to you – meaning that you use less bandwidth. It's a simple enough idea, but the genius of Onavo is in its simplicity; all you do is install it, and it configures itself in your device's system, running in the background. If your device is equipped with wi-fi, the app will idle its compression work, since you're not paying for that data time anyway. But when you need to rely on the cell network to get your data, Onavo is on the job, compressing away and slashing your usage!
How much does Onavo save? There's no complicate formula to figure out; Onavo produces reports right on your device screen, telling you exactly which apps it compressed data for, how much it compressed it, and how much bandwidth you saved. So, for example, if you use your device's web browser - say, Safari on the iPhone – Onavo will tell you how much bandwidth it saved, that you would have used had you not installed Onavo.
Onavo does have some limitations: It does not access https (secure internet) sessions, so if you access sensitive information on your device you don't have to worry about it leaking out of the Onavo servers. Currently Onavo only compresses only data that uses regular http protocol – which is actually used by the vast majority of apps on most devices. So if you are using a third-party app (like WhatsApp) to send SMS messages, you will be using less data on each message. The same holds true for listening to internet radio, downloading apps (but not music or video – yet), reading email (including Gmail) and so on; each transaction will “cost you” less data – and cost you less money!
What about phone calls? The Onavo team is working on a premium version of the app (right now it's totally free) that will add services for a small fee – most likely services that can compress other protocols, like SIP, meaning that calls using services like Skype, which rely on data networks, will get a lot “smaller.” In other words, you'll be able to make calls using Skype or other voice apps -even when you're abroad - using the data network, avoiding the need to use your minutes, while using a lot less data! If we're going to be holding any protests on cellphone costs, maybe it should be outside Onavo's offices – urging them to work faster on more cool ways to save money!