Available only to customers on Verizon Wireless for the time being, Data Sense is a new Windows Phone 8 feature that helps you keep track of your cellular data usage. This is important because most people today have metered accounts with a set amount of data, and Data Sense will help you prevent exceeding this limit.

Note: I first discussed Data Sense back in February 2012 in Windows Phone 8 Preview: Back then, the feature was called Data Smart.

“The idea behind [Data Sense] is to ensure that you get the most out of your data plan,” Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore said in the infamously leaked internal Windows Phone 8 video from early 2012. “The most important thing we’re doing is reducing the amount of data we use. We try to use Wi-Fi instead of cellular when we can … We’re building a user experience that will help you understand and manage your data usage. And we’re building in a mechanism so that Windows Phone can be configured in many countries to have the cellular data automatically offloaded operator-owned Wi-Fi.”

I don’t have a Windows Phone 8 handset on Verizon, so I haven’t been able to test this feature extensively. Instead, I borrowed a friend’s phone over the weekend to check it out and figured readers would be interested to see what’s coming soon to non-Verizon customers. Here are some screenshots and notes about the feature.

Tile

The Data Sense live tile animates to display the amount of data remaining in the current billing period and other related information.

App

The Data Sense app provides a nice dashboard for your data plan. You see a nice graphical overview of your usage for the current billing period, with options for setting up the app for your plan and configuring intelligent hand-off to Wi-Fi networks when possible.

Settings

Data Sense provides a few interesting settings. You can restrict background data usage when you’re near your monthly limit and fully configure the app to understand your data plan, including your monthly data limit, the day of the month that the plan resets, and the limit type.

There’s more…

Data Sense also provides notifications when you’re getting close to your limit. Since I didn’t spend enough time with the app to test that, I’m not able to comment on how that works. And it also actively integrates with mobile carrier-sponsored Wi-Fi networks, switching data usage to free Wi-Fi whenever possible. (A related Local Scout feature also helps you find nearby free Wi-Fi as well.)

I’m interested in actually using Data Sense regularly, and while I don’t have any information about when AT&T and other carriers will get this feature, I’m surprised it’s not more broadly available already.