If you have a smartphone, you’ll have a plan associated with it that usually has limits.   These limits can be on the number of calls, texts and data that you’re allowed per month.   Go over these limits and you could be liable for expensive costs, known as “overage” charges, as two eagles in Russia recently found out.   Yes, eagles.   I’ll explain shortly…

Calls and texts make sense, but why do you need a data plan?  Well when you’re out and about, your smart phone will be using data for all kinds of things.   Do you get emails to your phone?  That uses data.   Maybe you use the built-in navigation?   That uses data to download maps as you drive around.   Take a photo and it’ll probably be backed up to the Internet using data.   A smartphone without data isn’t so smart, it’s just a phone.

If you’re home, you want to make sure that your smart phone is connected to your wireless network.   This means you’re not eating into your monthly data allotment.

Data limits are increasing but you still want to keep a track of how much you’re using to avoid going over.   For example, with my cell phone contract, every Gigabyte over my allowance would cost $50.   That’s easy to do if you’re streaming video content when you think you’re on wi-fi but you’re not!

There are some steps I recommend you take to reduce your monthly data usage though.  I’m going to use the iPhone as an example as that allows you to really fine-tune how the phone and the associated apps use cellular data.  If you go into settings and then cellular data, scroll to the bottom of the screen and you’ll see a list of all the apps on your phone that can use data.   If they’ve ever used cellular data – the amount they’ve used will be shown here.   This is really useful for finding apps that are downloading/uploading data without you realising.   For example, one of the top apps is usually the built-in photos app.   By default – every photo you take gets backed up to the Internet.   So, when you’re out of the house snapping photos, each of those photos is potentially eating into your data allowance!  Here you can choose to block any apps from using cellular data.   Photos is a good example here and I normally recommend that you block it.   It’ll still upload your photos when you get home and connect back up to Wi-Fi.   Do you really need to upload the photos when you’re away from home?

Some cell phone companies have started offering “unlimited” data plans now, but there’s a catch.   They still don’t want you downloading huge amounts of data continually all month, so there’s still a data cap.   The only difference is that when you reach this cap, you’re not charged extra when you go over it – instead the speed of your connection drops.   So, you’re still able to browse the web and receive emails, but streaming is no longer viable.  This is a great improvement as you’re no longer at risk of high charges!

A lot of cell phone plans have unlimited calls and texts now, but only while you’re in your own country.   Go abroad and you’re classed as “Roaming” and you’re again hit with limits.   Go over these limits on calls, texts or data and the costs can be huge.

This is where we return to eagles.  The eagle in question – called “Min” was part of a science experiment in Russia that was tracking the migration of 14 different eagles.   Each eagle was fitted with a tracking device that had a built-in cell phone transmitter to send back the coordinates as text messages.

Unfortunately, Min deviated from the expected route over Kazakhstan and instead flew straight over Iran.   The roaming costs of the text messages soon ate up the entire budget for the experiment, leaving the scientists rushing to raise funds to carry on!

“They really left us penniless,” Igor Karyakin of the Russian Raptors Research and Conservation Network said!

The scientists set up a crowdfunding campaign which raised $1563 to continue with the experiment, and the Russian wireless company MegaFon decided to refund the Iranian text messages and devised a special tariff for the eagles to allow them to continue being tracked.

Let this be a lesson for you as I doubt Canadian carriers would do the same for you if you go abroad and go over your limits!