Most of us have probably heard stories of people travelling overseas with international roaming enabled, and coming home to massive bills afterwards. Mine isn't quite that interesting, but it did happen within my own country (no roaming) while I wasn't even using my phone.

The short story… Dolphin Browser somehow managed to download almost 2 gigabytes in about an hour while my phone was locked in my pocket.

The long story…

____I was just about to head out to dinner, and noticed my phone had 50% battery left. Great, that'll last me. A couple of hours later I was going to show someone a video I'd recorded on my phone. Pulled my phone out of my pocket… dead. Annoying, but my phone has shut itself down randomly before, so didn't think too much of it. I fired it up and just caught a glimpse of a red exclamation mark on the battery icon as it it immediately turned itself back off. Bugger.

I figured while I was sitting at dinner, the screen was being kept on by my leg activating the lock pattern through my pocket… not the first time it happened! It wasn't until I got back to my hotel room and plugged in power that I saw a data limit warning. "Surely not", I thought, "it's five days in to the month, I've only used about 300 MB!" So I opened up the data usage app, and saw this:

Android mobile data usage, showing 1.95 gigabytes used by Dolphin Browser
Dolphin data hog

How could this possibly be? I hadn't used my phone in all that time, and the last thing I had open in Dolphin was a news site. I don't think I could have downloaded that much from browsing if I tried, and yet Dolphin had done it while my phone wasn't even awake!

Android mobile data usage specifically for Dolphin Browser, showing 1.74 gigabytes used in the background
Pretty much all background data

So I immediately disabled 3G data, and tried to figure out how much I'd get stung; about 650 MB over quota, times 20cm/MB… About $130. Shit. And that's assuming the data counted here matched what my provider counted, I could only cross my fingers and hope it was less. Significantly less.

It wasn't. It was a few hundred megabytes more in fact, so I'm looking at about $180 excess usage charges. Had this actually been legitimate usage such as YouTube or streaming music it wouldn't be so bad, but to be out of pocket because of shitty programming is frustrating. Having said that, thankfully my phone was only 50% charged, more so that it wasn't on charge overnight. I can't imagine the damage that would have done!

Finally, yes I'm aware there is an inbuilt feature to disable mobile data once configurable limits are reached, and I normally have this enabled. However I didn't this month because last month I legitimately "exceeded" my quota according to android, but in actual fact I'd used a lot of free traffic. In any case, not having this feature enabled doesn't excuse Dolphin from hammering my connection in the background, and even if it were enabled, I'd still be 25 days away from being able to use my data connection again.

I can only hope my provider will take some pity on me, realise it wasn't legitimate usage and either credit the charge back or work something out to lessen the pain.

Finally, I'm somewhat impressed. According to my usage graphs from my provider, all data usage was within one hour:

Graph showing all data usage occurred within a one hour period
Absolutely hammered!

That's impressive! 1.74 gigabytes in less than an hour on 3G. Either that's a data counting issue, or that was sustained 500 kB/s on average over the hour!