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Onavo shrinks iPhone data on the fly

Are you on an iPhone data diet? With unlimited plans a thing of the past, you're certainly not alone. Onavo's new iOS apps might be able to help you trim your data use without limiting your surfing. The service works by inserting itself between your cell phone operator and the internet and compressing data before it's sent to your cell.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Onavo lives out in the cloud and captures traffic, compresses images and other bandwidth hogs, and then redirects the lower-quality, slightly blurrier assets to your phone.

It does this by having you install a configuration profile that overrides your normal Carrier's APN settings, redirecting traffic through its Amazon-based computing cloud. There, the assets are downloaded using inexpensive wired access, evaluated and compressed, before being sent on to the Carrier, which places much less load on the more expensive cellular wireless connection and therefore drains your quota more slowly.

The big question, at least as far as TUAW is concerned, is this: how did this ever get past Apple's repressed reviewers? The service is cool. It's innovative. It's where Apple should be letting developers go, but honestly, WTF?

Here are some basic facts. The apps (iPhone and iPad) are currently free in App Store. Onavo has a big privacy statement on its website, but if you install this stuff, you will be sending all your traffic through a third party. How comfortable you are with that will help direct your purchasing and installing decisions.

Dvir Reznik, head of marketing for Onavo told TUAW, "We are just like any router on the internet, streaming traffic, and providing -- for the first time -- valuable insights to the user about data usage. Another advantage of passing through our servers is the compression (magical shrinking machine), which does wonders to data usage by employing a wide range of techniques."

Onavo will eventually monetize the app by charging for the app and, presumably, for some level of usage of the cloud computing resources. It would be cool if it would sell or license the Amazon cloud implementation for personal or corporate use as well, so you could better control where your data was being sent. Sorry, but sending all my traffic through a third party beyond my carrier? Kind of squicky. I wouldn't mind using my AWS account directly.

Reznik added, "Monetization will occur soon, but not by selling the data to a third party nor introducing ads. Some aspects of our service, compression for instance, will be subscription based, very reasonably priced. We're about saving the user money."

There are updates on the horizon, as well. Reznik told TUAW, "We'll introduce more control over image quality in the coming app update (2-4 weeks), along with other enhancements, but at this stage compression is done across the board, on various layers, with the ability to only disable email compression (Exchange Mail)." Onavo has received $3 million in financing (PDF) from Magma Venture Partners and Sequoia Capital.

Onavo provides usage breakdown reports to help you understand exactly how much data you've used and how much you've saved. You can enable or disable the service from the Settings application. To remove the service entirely, you must uninstall the Onavo profile in your settings by hand in addition to removing the app itself. Onavo provides uninstallation instructions on its site.

Thanks, Gregory Kip

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