There seems to be a large concern about data usage in the mobile version of the app, so I decided to run a few tests.
I ran a test where I opened a fresh browser window with no data cached, no cookies, etc, - this would reflect the state of a mobile browser the very first time you open the site up. I went through the site for about 11 minutes, and read about 30 threads, including all the largest threads. Here are the results:
As you can see, once you get past the initial load of the site, your data usage goes way down, because modern browsers are smart enough to cache larger repetitive files.
I came away from this test with some other info that might be useful:
- The site does send out a data request every 10 seconds or so. This has little to no impact on data usage though. If it doesnt find a new post, it uses 0 bytes. If it does find a new post, it usually brings back < 1kb of data.
- There is a chance this could affect battery usage slightly since it will be accessing the wireless antenna often, but it wouldnt affect the battery any more than any other app that polls for data like twitter or facebook. And it doesnt poll for data at all when the phone is turned off, so when not in use, it wont have any affect on the battery. I will make a request to the forum developers to see if they can maybe institute some kind of "Pull to refresh" feature, instead of doing constant polling.
- The biggest issues with data come from outside image links. 2mb of the 7mb in the first test was from one image link to imgur.com. If users upload images to the site, they are compressed. If they are linked and embedded from other sites, they dont get compressed.
- Note: you can upload images from other websites. When you click the upload button, you have the option to upload a file from your computer, or upload a file from a URL. Please do this, as it allows the images to be compressed instead of loaded at full resolution.
So, not counting the 2mb data file, almost an hour of browsing, and viewing almost every thread resulted in less than 7mb of data being used.
But we are still trying to do more to lessen that impact as much as possible.
Future steps we're taking include:
- Following up with the forum developers for a barebones image-less mobile layout (they responded and said its not on the roadmap right now, but could be a feature they visit after their next major release)
- Modify our mobile CSS to position a reply button on the screen at all times, so users dont have to scroll to the bottom of a thread to reply (If you are forced to scroll to the bottom of a long thread, you would be wasting data loading the entire thread, because the forum loads threads 20 posts at a time)
- Ask the the forum developers if we can reduce the number of posts loaded at one time for mobile. Instead of loading 20, maybe we could set it to only load 5. This would reduce the amount of data used when visiting large threads that you dont plan on reading all of (loading 5 posts and leaving vs loading 20 posts then leaving could save a good bit of bandwidth)
In summary, based on what I saw, it doesnt look like the site uses a ton of data. The original poster had mentioned his data cap was 500mb, but from mobile plans I've been looking at, that seems like it would be on the low end of the spectrum for most users. I obviously dont know what plans everyone has, but a lot of the ones I saw started at 3GB. I think you would have to use the site, non-stop for 10+ hours a day, only on 3G/4G to even break 1GB. If your phone is connected to a wifi network, that shouldnt affect your data limit.
Obvious disclaimer: this is based solely on my test, and your experience may differ.
If anyone has more questions, I will be happy to answer them to the best of my ability.