Being connected to the Internet is pretty much a necessity nowadays, especially on your phone. Android smartphones are useful, but not that smart when not connected to the Internet. However, while inside our houses we are nice and cozy with our wireless connections, outside we need to rely on mobile data through our 3G or 4G connections. Unfortunately, for a lot of us, the data budgets our carriers offer are minuscule and we need to constantly watch our data usage limits. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could somehow stretch that budget a bit farther, and make your data connection consume less? Well, today we’ll look at a new Android app that allows you to conserve the mobile data on your Android smartphones and tablets to do just that.
Opera, famous for their desktop web browser and mobile applications, going back as far as the first rudimentary Nokia smartphones, has just released Opera Max, an application that attempts to compress your data and reduce your consumption over time. It’s similar to the model they used back in the Opera Mini and Turbo days, where the browser would compress images when you loaded a site, so that data usage was less. This time around though, it requires no special browser, and it should work the same across all your apps and regular browsers. It also doesn’t just compress images, it compresses the web page itself, video and other standard data. Basically, it acts as a filter that examines every connection you make, looks for ways to compress it on the cloud, and then sends you back a version that is smaller. Of course, this adds some latency to the connection, but the size it shaves off should also make it load quicker overall, so it’s sort of a trade-off. Overall, you shouldn’t notice a difference in load times, except when Opera’s servers are busy.
When you start Opera Max, it shows you a small presentation on how it works and what it can do for you. Just swipe it, and it should then ask you to set up a VPN connection. All you have to do is tap the button, and then allow the connection. What this means is that the app will have access to all your network traffic, which is a necessity for the app to work, as it needs to intercept your requests and replace them with compressed versions. This is one of the downsides: if you’re worried about privacy, this app may not be for you.
The apps shows you how much data it managed to save over time, and on what apps. It registers every app that uses data, and shows you how much, so it’s also a good tool for managing your connections and what apps use more data. It also allows you to see daily and monthly views, so you can fine-tune at will. The green bar shows you how much data was saved relative to the data actually used, and as you can see, depending on the web site, the savings can be pretty brutal.
The preferences are pretty barebones, and the only option worth mentioning is the option to disable the Opera Max notification that shows you how much data you used and how much was saved by the app. Unfortunately, a notification always remains if if you disable this one, letting you know Opera Max is managing your connection, a grim reminder that the app is active.
Overall, the app does what it’s supposed to, and while the concept isn’t unique, it’s executed quite well, and by a company that has a large history dabbling on these sorts of solutions for data compression. If you’re on a tight data budget, this app could extend your plan quite a bit, and make it so you don’t have to worry about it as much, and offer you a simple way of checking your consumption. The difference in quality and usability is minimal (compressed video does tend to look noticeably worse, though), and after setting it up is transparent to the user. So, if you don’t have an unlimited data budget, and seem to exhaust your budget a but too often then give this app a try!
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