Norway-based Opera Software, which also makes the popular Opera web browser for personal computers and smartphones, has rolled out an update for its data-saving app designed for Android smartphones—Opera Max. This free-to-download-and-use app now supports data savings on streaming apps, and will conserve users’ 3G and Wi-Fi data.

Globally, Opera Max will compress data consumed by popular apps such as Pandora, Slacker Radio and YouTube Music, in addition to YouTube and Netflix. Specifically, for India, the app is compatible with music streaming apps Gaana and Saavn. Opera says they will be adding more services soon.

It is not a surprise that Opera has added these two popular music streaming apps for the Indian market, simply because they have a massive user base. In July, Saavn had reported a user base of approximately 14 million users, while Gaana had a user base of almost 15 million users, as of August. It will be interesting to see if more apps are added in the future, including Apple Music, for example.

When you install Opera Max on your Android phone, it connects to a virtual private network (VPN) on Opera’s own servers. For all the data being used by compatible apps installed on the phone, Opera Max converts the unencrypted data to a more compressed format, using something Opera calls the Rocket Optimizer technology. In case of music services such as Gaana and Saavn, Opera Max will convert the incoming MP3 audio streams, which actually are heavier and use more data, into the more efficient format before sending the data to the user’s device. One of the formats that could potentially be used is AAC+. Opera claims that the Max app can reduce data consumption of these apps by as much as 50%.

However, not all users may actually see a 50% reduction in data usage—the gains will vary according to how much you use the streaming services, and at what quality. The amount of data being used by a music streaming app actually depends on what you have done with the streaming and playback quality settings. For example, the Saavn app will anyway use lesser data if you were streaming at 64kbps bitrate, as compared to the 128kbps bitrate. Add the Opera Max compression to it, and there will be bigger savings in the case of 128kbps.

The fact of the matter is that you can easily run out of your 3G/4G data plan limit much before the end of the billing cycle, if you aren’t careful with how much you stream and at what quality. Opera Max may not be enticing for users who have massive fair usage policy (FUP) limits on their home broadband connections, but for anyone using a capped mobile data plan on the move, every megabyte saved makes a lot of difference between staying within the usage limit or paying for additional data use.

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