Onavo begins assault on high Android data usage

Android has a taste for data. Users of the operating system have been shown to use more data than other smartphone users according to Nielsen, (s nlsn) and while that might have been okay in the era of unlimited data plans, it’s becoming more of an issue as mobile data usage gets capped by carriers.

But help is on the way from Onavo, a clever free mobile application that compresses data on iOS (s aapl) devices and helps reduce data consumption by up to 80 percent. The Israeli start-up, which recently raised $3 million from Sequoia, is coming out with its first Android (s goog) app called Onavo Lite. Unfortunately, the Android version doesn’t include Onavo’s signature data-shrinking technology. The app does, however, come with some very solid tools that should help Android users better understand and manage their data usage.

Onavo Lite users will be able to:

  • Get alerts when they’re approaching their data cap, when an app is using a lot of data in the background, or when a user is traveling.
  • Block specific apps on 3G or shut off 3G data when they exceed their cap.
  • Limit data usage on certain apps to Wi-Fi only.
  • Get real-time data tracking for their specific plans and alerts as they approach certain limits.
  • Get advice on which plans represent the best value based on their usage.

Android’s architecture makes it hard for Onavo to do what it does on iOS, which is to route most of the data traffic on a phone through its compression servers. But Onavo is working on bringing that ability to Android as soon as possible. The company says it has saved iOS users more than 20 million megabytes, worth up to $400 million, since it launched in April.

But Onavo Lite is still helpful in understanding what apps are especially data-thirsty. Android allows users to run a lot of apps in the background, and also allows for home screen widgets that are constantly updating and pulling in data. That seems to be one of the main reasons why Android users have such high data usage, and can result in a lot of data changing hands without a user necessarily being aware that any bandwidth is being used.

Nielsen said in May that Android users consume an average of 582 megabytes per month over cellular connections. IPhone users were second, with 492 megabytes per month, followed by webOS phones (s hpq) (448 MB), Windows Phone 7 (s msft) (317 MB), and BlackBerry (s rimm) (127 MB) handsets.

In addition to the app, Onavo has also launched the Onavo Android Community, which gathers crowd-sourced information on apps and data usage to help Onavo Lite alert people to especially data-hungry apps.

As we’ve mentioned before, managing mobile data is becoming a growing issue, and having tools like Onavo is increasingly important, especially for heavy data users. Android Onavo Lite users will still need to watch their data usage in the end, but at least they’re getting some good interim tools to help them stay on the right side of their data caps until the full Onavo solution becomes available.