Nobody is stealing your data – Here’s the proof

“Disappearing data” is often complained about by smartphone users, with mobile networks usually on the receiving end.

However, many smartphone applications use mobile data in the background or without the user’s knowledge, leading them to believe their data is simply vanishing.

Smartphone operating system features like Wi-Fi Smart Assist can also cause mobile data to be consumed, while app updates are consumers of large chunks of data.

To see if data can really “disappear”, MyBroadband tested data usage on prepaid SIM cards from MTN, Cell C, Vodacom, and Telkom.

The SIMs were placed into Samsung Galaxy S7 smartphones, and we ran several tests.

Data depletion tests

Three tests were conducted on each SIM, which involved loading data bundles onto the devices, using data through various actions, and recording the data balances shown by the operators’ USSD menus.

We also used the My Data Manager app for Android to monitor the mobile data consumption, and compared its readings to what the USSD menu balances showed.

After each test, the total data usage was measured against the data usage reflected on the USSD menu to determine any differences.

The first test saw us deplete the existing data balances on the SIMs, which was followed by tests with a 200MB or 250MB bundle, and then a 100MB bundle.

The results are shown below.

Initial Depletion Tests
Network Data On Device Data Used – App
Vodacom 343MB 346MB
MTN 993MB 994MB
Cell C 813MB 814MB
Telkom 333MB 333MB
200MB/250MB Depletion Tests
Network Data Purchased Data Used – App
Vodacom 250MB 259MB
MTN 200MB 200MB
Cell C 200MB 202MB
Telkom 250MB 250MB
100MB Depletion Tests
Network Data Purchased Data Used – App
Vodacom 100MB 104MB
MTN 100MB 100MB
Cell C 100MB 102MB
Telkom 100MB 100MB

Vodacom’s extra data

The majority of the results show that users receive the data allocation their bundle lists.

The Vodacom SIM, however, did give slightly more data than the bundles we purchased. We noticed during the tests that the SIM would reflect a balance of 5.01MB in its USSD menu, despite the My Data Manager app stating the data bundle’s allocation had been used.

At this point, the mobile Internet connection would disconnect, before reconnecting and depleting the “remaining” 5MB.

In the tests where this occurred, it resulted in usage of up to 10MB more data than purchased.

The data depletion tests show that we got the data we paid for, except on the odd occasion when we got a bit more.

Now read: Best iPhone 7 deals – Contract vs buying it cash

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Nobody is stealing your data – Here’s the proof