Smartphone Data Usage Climbing

According to a new study from The Nielsen Company, data use by smartphone owners is growing at an “astounding pace.” The market research company bases its findings on analysis of over 65,000 lines. Not unexpectedly, Android and iPhone owners are at the top of the data use tree. BlackBerry and Windows (mobile and Phone 7) are also growing, but overall use less data.

Presently 37% of U.S. mobile subscribers have smartphones and the number continues to grow robustly. Data usage per month, per user, according to the report has grown in the last 12 months 89% jumping from 230(MB) in Q1 2010 to 435(MB) in Q1 2011.

Why is data use growing? Perhaps it is a combination of apps and friendly operating systems which encourage users to consume data. At this time (see graph) the average Android user consumes 582 (MB) per month while the average iPhone user chews 492 (MB) per month.

This writer recently switched from an iPhone to an Android Samsung Infuse, setting it up on the same ATT account. Data consumption using the Android phone (with 8 days remaining in the period) is already higher than any previous iPhone month, although it looks like it will be below the average total per user per month mentioned above of 582 (MB).

A happy note for consumers is that with usage up and prices steady, the result is a lower cost per MB. In fact Nielsen computes that the cost per MB has dropped from 14¢ Q1 2010 to 8¢ Q1 2011.

An accompanying Nielsen article, written 6/30/2010, notes that the rise of usage-based pricing may be the fairest as well. It concludes that the top 6 percent of smart phone users are consuming half of all data and a quarter of these early adopters are not using their device for data services at all.

Over the past year both ATT and Verizon have shifted from flat rate, all you can eat plans to tiered pricing based upon usage as have other carriers. (Verizon charges $30/mo. for 2 GB; ATT charges $25/mo. 2 GB.)

With the increased bandwidth speeds of 4G close at hand, it seems sane to project that data usage will continue to rise. Let’s hope, as consumers, that prices don’t.

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David M. Ross has been covering Nashville's music industry for over 25 years. [email protected]

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