Nielsen study shows smartphone users' appetite for data
How big of a dent has your smartphone left in the Internet? A new Nielsen survey suggests that it's bigger than you'd think, especially compared with a year ago.
Specifically, on average smartphone users used 298 megabytes of data a month in the first quarter of 2010, way up from 90 MB a month observed in the first quarter of 2009. But the numbers behind that average, as explained in a post on the New York market-research firm's site, are seriously unbalanced.
Nielsen's data, drawn from the monthly bills of "more than 60,000 mobile customers," describe a mix of gluttony and starvation online. "The top 6 percent of smart phone users are consuming half of all data," wrote senior vice president Roger Entner, while most people use the Web far less and would do fine with cheaper, limited data plans such as AT&T's new $15-for-200-megabytes option.
Some don't go online at all, a finding that befuddled Entner:
A quarter of these early adopters are not using their device for data services at all. They use exactly zero MB per month. For some reason these customers have purchased a miracle in engineering and technology that has more computing power than what was used to get men safely to the moon and back and yet they only use their smartphone for phone calls and text messaging.
The study also observed that "more than a third of smartphone users have not yet signed up for a data plan," which points to Nielsen's loose definition of "smartphone." (Most of the gadgets we think of in this category require buying data service.) Spokeswoman Marivi Lerdo de Tejada wrote that the company basically counts "any phone that has an actual operating system."
Fortunately, we can do our own research on this matter.
Logging into your account at your carrier's Web site should yield your current bandwidth usage so far. You may also check on your phone itself. On an iPhone, for example, open the Settings app, select its General category, then its Usage sub-category, then look under the "Cellular Network Data" heading. Android devices don't include a built-in bandwidth meter, but the free and open-source NetCounter seems to work fine.
On the iPhone 4 I just reviewed, I saw the figures in the picture above:
182 MB sent, 2.2 GB received, for a total well over the 2 GB allocation of AT&T's higher-end data plan. Now, I did put the phone through some strenuous tests, including almost seven hours of non-stop Web radio listening. But it's not hard to imagine a music fan plowing through a carrier's quota over an entire month.
Is that an extreme case? You tell me. Take a look at your own phone's data consumption, as shown on the device or in your online account, and post those numbers in the comments. For extra credit, tell me how you use your phone online and if you think you do so more or less than other people carrying the same device as you.
June 30, 2010; 3:42 PM ET
Categories: Mobile , Telecom
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