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Review: Consume for iPhone

Design is what the iPhone is all about. You can argue otherwise, but elegance and substance is what Apple emphasizes in all of their products. Microsoft is utilitarian and “good-enough” for anyone who simply looks at their technology as an appliance to get things done.  I only mention these two clashing ideologies in the service of introducing a new iPhone app from bjango that manages to combine a little from both camps. That app’s name is Consume, and it allows you to monitor your cell network usage (to get every last bit out of your monthly service), in a graphical way that fits right at home amongst anything Apple would ever ship.

When first firing up the application you are greeted with a delicious looking welcome screen that takes you to the account setup.

From there you are taken to a straightforward settings screen. Here you can turn sounds on/off and other standard settings. Most importantly this is where you add your account.

Adding an account is effortless. First select your country, then your mobile phone provider in that country. I’m in the United States, and have an un-jailbroken iPhone so I’m stuck with AT&T.

Although I didn’t have the opportunity to test it, I take it that this app will monitor other people’s cell and internet usage (no internet providers are supported by Consume in the U.S. as of this writing) even if they aren’t on the iPhone or the same network. Impressive.

Once you have selected your service provider, you will be prompted to enter a display name(optional), username, password, and of course, your phone number. Worth noting, you may have to signup for online services from your service provider so Consume can access that data. Luckily, bjango has a how-to guide to help us set that up.

With setup completed, the rest is automatic for the user. Consume will display your minute and data usage in an elegant bar graph. This is the meat of the app. Showing you just how many megabits of data you’ve consumed, and how much more you’ve got (if there is a limit). Here in the States, or at least on AT&T, we don’t have to worry about data consumption, but we do have to watch the number of minutes we use, making this app indispensable.

The same would go for the broadband monitoring if it were available for the U.S. broadband providers. I don’t know of any broadband provider here in the U.S. that charges per MBit of data consumed. I’m sure there is, but I’ve never encountered it.

My point is, although it is helpful to know how much data you are consuming, it really doesn’t matter here in the States, because there are few situations were there is a data cap. That means this app is still helpful, but our European friends are going to get more out of it than Americans. I suspect bjango will add U.S. broadband providers in the future.

I still have to recommend this app to anyone wondering how much they are straining their provider’s network. It’s amazing to see how much data we consume without ever realizing it. Much like our caloric intake habits, but I digress.

The User Interface cannot be beat. The ease of use is excellent, and it falls right in line with bjango’s track record of making useful and elegant solutions to the minor technical difficulties we all face in our gadget driven lives.

In short, who would have thought that a utility could be this pretty?

You can check out bjango’s site here, and you can pick up a copy of Consume from the App Store for a very modest $1.99.

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