It’s important to keep track of data usage. This isn’t terribly hard, but it’s also not efficient. Thankfully, with the Windows Phone 8, there’s an easy way to do this. Data Sense allows you to conserve your data by monitoring your usage and saving certain tasks until a Wi-Fi connection is established. You can even create a live tile so you have an at-a-glance check on your data usage. Now that’s efficient.

Data Sense is built into Windows Phone 8, so there’s no installation necessary — just an easy wizard to walk through.

To set up Data Sense, you have to choose from one of three limit types:

  • One Time: This limit type is used if you have a preset amount of data to use, per month, and the data will expire at a specific date
  • Monthly: If you have a limited amount of data you can use each month (before overages are incurred)
  • Unlimited: If you have unlimited data (but still want to track usage)

With the One Time and Monthly, you’ll need to have different information available:

  • One Time: Days until data expires, available data, and units (megabytes or gigabytes)
  • Monthly: Monthly reset date, monthly data limit, and units (megabytes or gigabytes)

With all of your information gathered (and your data plan type known), let’s enable Data Sense and then add a live tile to more easily keep track of your data usage.

Setting up Data Sense

Fire up your Windows Phone 8 and swipe the home screen to the left. Locate the Data Sense icon and tap it. You’ll now be presented with the simple wizard. The first step of the wizard is to select the type of limit (Figure A).
Figure A

Data Sense setup on the Verizon-branded HTC Windows Phone 8.

Tap the None specified button and then select the type of limit you want to set. Once you’ve done that, enter the necessary information for the type of limit. For example, if you’re setting up a monthly limit, enter the Monthly reset date, the Monthly data limit, and the Units (Figure B).
Figure B

Make sure to have this information on hand before creating the limit.

Click the check icon to finish the setup. Your Sense Data limit is now created. You can also restrict background data when you’re near the newly configured limit. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Go back to the home screen
  2. Swipe the home screen to the left
  3. Tap Data Sense
  4. Tap the Options button (round gear in the circle at the bottom)
  5. Check the box for Restrict background data when I’m near my limit

Create a live tile

You can take a quick look at your data usage by creating a live tile for Data Sense. To do that, follow these steps:

  1. Swipe the home screen to the left
  2. Long-press the Data Sense button
  3. Tap pin to start
  4. Relocate the live tile to your liking

Your live tile will now start updating its display, according to the limit that you created (Figure C). The tile will flip over to reveal how much data you have left. If you have the “Restrict background data when I’m near my limit” option set, the live tile will display a heart icon, should you near your limit.
Figure C

This is a freshly created live tile that’s displaying the amount of data I have left against my limit.

There are many applications that use up your data. When you’re on a plan with data limits, the last thing you want to do is pay for overages. With just a little setup and attention, you can easily avoid such a calamity on your Windows Phone 8 with the help of Data Sense. If set up properly, the only way background data will flow (when you’re near or have reached your limit) is if you’re connected to Wi-Fi or if you manually push or pull the data.

Have you tried Data Sense? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.