UPDATED: Onavo app claims to be able to shrink your iPhone’s data usage

A new app called Onavo claims to be able to shrink your iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4’s data consumption. The app works by compressing the data usage from other apps, web browsing sessions and even email; which allows users to double or even triple the usage of their existing data plans. The app works while at home and abroad according to Guy Rosen, one of the app’s co-founders.

“Mobile data doesn’t come for free,” said Rosen, co-founder and chief executive, Onavo. “At home and abroad iPhone users must put up with capped or metered data plans. Travellers are hit the hardest, with data roaming costs effectively turning most smartphones into dumb phones. Onavo gives you the confidence to use your iPhone without being held back by data costs. It’s a no brainer – it simply saves you money. We believe Onavo will become a must-have travel and utility app for any iPhone user.”

Once installed, the app connects your iPhone to a cloud-based technology which Onavo has dubbed, “The Magical Shrinking Machine”. Once setup, the app works in the background on your iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4 and compresses the data that you actually download to your device. The app also provides a detailed monthly data report allowing users to see which apps are consuming the most data.

The free app will only work with downloaded data at this stage and does not support streaming services such as YouTube  or VoIP; but it is working on that. The app has already won the Best Mobile Start-Up and the People Choice awards at The NextWeb Startup Rally 2011.

BlackBerry makers RIM have long touted the data compression technology of their NOC-based system as a competitive advantage when users have capped plans, and browsers like Opera Mini have likewise used proxy, cache, and compression technology as a way to market themselves to the data starved.

According to Onavo, they're accomplishing this without violating any Apple private-API or background rules.

After installing Onavo you are prompted to install a configuration profile which allows the data to be redirected through Onavo's servers (hosted on Amazon EC2, currently in the United States - more locations to come). Once the data is streamed through our servers we are able show you insights into your data usage, and (if you choose to), compress the data, thus sending much less data back to the operator, causing the user to pay less for his or her data usage.

There are also configuration tips, see the Onavo link below. Would you consider using an app like this? Are privacy concerns an issue when your internet traffic is delivered via a third party server? Let us know what you think in the comments!

[Free - iTunes link, via The Telegraph,  Onavo]

Update: Here's a statement from Onavo on how they work:

Who is Onavo? Onavo is a VC-backed startup, aimed at helping users take back control of their phone's data usage, understanding what's costing them and helping to reign in these costs. Onavo is currently available for iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPad 1 3G, and iPad 2 3G. A list of supported devices & operators is available on our forum. At the moment, we do not support Verizon.

How does the app work? After downloading Onavo from the App Store, you are prompted to install a configuration profile (proxy) which allows the data to be redirected through Onavo's servers (hosted on Amazon EC2, currently in the United States - more locations to come). Once the data is streamed through our servers we are able show you insights into your data usage, and (if you choose to), compress the data, thus sending much less data to the operator, resulting in a lower data consumption from the user, and lower costs of course. One of the compression techniques we're using across all apps (among other things) is decreasing image quality, which can be controlled by the user.

Privacy and security We take our user's privacy very seriously so we store only the bare minimum necessary to support the service. Onavo acts similarly to any router/operator on the internet which your data passes through. Only metadata (types of applications, etc...) of the traffic, aggregated and anonymized, is stored for two purposes:

-Showing the user his/her data usage and savings statistics - Generating aggregated data in order to improve the service

Onavo currently supports downloaded HTTP traffic, meaning no encrypted, sensitive information (SSL) is passed through our servers, nor VoIP/Video services such as YouTube/Hulu or Skype. One exception is Exchange Mail traffic, which requires the user's explicit approval.

To avoid any doubt, Onavo does not store any content of the data. A user can always request to delete all of his/her data from our servers.

Business model Onavo is free for a time-limited offer, following our launch on April 29th. In the future, the app will come at a cost. As Onavo helps users save money we are confident that it will be justified to ask for a small fee in exchange for use of the service (that will be low enough that you still save overall). We will not sell the data or introduce ads to Onavo.

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!


UK editor at iMore, mobile technology lover and air conditioning design engineer.

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Reader comments

UPDATED: Onavo app claims to be able to shrink your iPhone’s data usage


Just tried to download and set up Onavo on my Verizon iPhone 4. It says "We're Sorry. Your operator is not supported."

Don't you have an unlimited data plan on your iPhone if your with Verizon? This app doesn't really help then.

So a proxy profile can be set by an application? And if so, this isn't a violation? What's to stop any app from trying to slip this by the approval process and be able to setup monitoring/privacy invasion stat collection?
I can see that Opera can do this, it is within the context/scope of its application as it is running. I can't see how Onavo can do this across the board to all apps that are running.

You know a profile installation isn't exactly streamlined. You need to explicity acknowledge the installation of the profile at least 2 times.

"hosted on Amazon EC2, currently in the United States" ... Yeah, we've seen how well that works.

This app confuses me, reading that looks like endless violations of the app store terms. How does it install a profile that runs over the entire phone in the background? It sounds like it's a proxy for all my data.

It would be useful for me as I do a lot of international travel, which means that email and other data can run up very expensive. Unfortunately Onavo only supports Exchange mail at present and I use IMAP as I had a lot of problems with Gmail Exchange. Also, pics can appear pixely due to compression, so I wouldn't use it on a daily basis, i.e. unless I was abroad.
Regarding privacy:

What ArtSpot says. I was really looking for another service that all my packets, all my data, could travel through for inspection, mining and marketing. Lovely.

I am shocked this app made it through the vetting process. I expect it to be removed any day. No, it does not work with hotspot. In fact, hotspot is no longer an options when you set up the app.

If this actually works the way they say it does then I expect Apple to put it in to iOS5!
Would give customers on low end price plans the confidence to use the iPhone as Apple (Steve) intended!!

JD your right about the pixely photos. I have unlimited data with AT&T and installed this app just to "give it a try" since then I've noticed that lots of pictures are pixelated, never occurred to me that it would be because of this app. I actually contemplated doing a restore of the iPhone or thinking that maybe it was a sudden bug that would possibly be fixed with iOS 4.3.3. I thought I was the only one with the pixelated pictures.

I'll pass. I'll look back into it once they add media streaming, but I'm still not convinced that having a company I've never heard of effectively monitor all the data I receive is a good idea.

yea, this app removes personal hotspot from your phone, took me the last 7 hours for it to click in my head as to where PH went...removed this provisioning profile, and it came back

Hm am going abroad lets see how it works. In france unlimited data on iphone is the basic plan so not interesting. Having problems sending with gmail. And it slows down data quite a lot. But if that saves me on roaming am all for it.

Is there an app that is supported by verizon that is similar? Or when is it expected to be supported by Verizon?

I installed on a stupid whim and shut it down promptly or so I thought. Creepy I think it's still on and when I tried installing I got redirected to a sketchy page. Wtf

Ok, here's my experience with the app: I downloaded it and installed the required profile. After the initial setup for a little bit everything slowed down but I figured it was a normal adaptive process. Then it worked like a charm... for a few days. THEN suddenly my iPhone 4S would not connect to anything at all. App Store would give "Could not connect to App Store" error, Safari wwould give an "http:/" error and asked continually to check the settings and ensure I was connected to the internet. Nothing would work, so I called AT&T and they tried resetting my device and asked me to turn it off, reset network settings, remove the SIM, the works, to no avail. So I decided to remove ONAVO and still could not connect to anything. What solved the issue was removing the required profile for ONAVO. Once I deleted it everything worked fine again.
Conclusion: The problem is not the ONAVO app, It's the profile it requires to work.
Otherwise the app's purpose is a great idea, but needs further developement for compatibility.