Despite a surge in the market for tablets, smartphone users have overtaken tablet users in their thirst for mobile data for the first time, and Apple iPhone 5 users are the hungriest data consumers, demanding 50 percent more than iPhone 4S users and four times as much as iPhone 3G users, according to location-aware data solutions specialist Arieso.
The report, which tracks the latest trends in mobile data usage, indicated new challenges for the world’s operators in 2013 and into the future. While 40 percent of all data is consumed by 1 percent of users, next-generation Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks are starting to take the strain. As overall mobile data consumption continues to rocket, driven by new devices and richer content, the study suggests that extreme users are beginning to move to new LTE networks, but there is no letup on existing networks.
Samsung Galaxy S III users generate (uploading rather than downloading content) nearly four times the amount of data than iPhone 3G users, beating iPhone 5 users into third place on uplink data usage behind the Samsung Galaxy Note II. And in the rapidly growing tablet market, Samsung Tab 2 10.1 users are demanding 20 percent more data than iPad users. However, out of the 125 devices studied, users of the latest iPhone again proved the most voracious data consumers.
“Yet again we found that novel usage patterns, new technologies and regional idiosyncrasies are conspiring to make life increasingly difficult for mobile operators trying to meet evolving customer expectations,” study author and Arieso chief technology officer Michael Flanagan said in a statement. “The ability to conduct detailed analysis such as this is critical in giving operators a rich source of intelligence to help boost network performance and enrich user experience.”
The rise of LTE networks is pushing up overall data usage as they are able to handle more volume, but the report cautioned network operators need to continue building out and upgrading their data traffic capacities. Out of the top 10 most voracious devices (excluding dongles), six were smartphones, three tablets and one a phablet—a device that bridges the gap between a smartphone and a tablet. Tablet users landed in fourth, eighth and ninth place.
“This is pretty counter-intuitive, but it seems the capabilities of the newest smartphones – not tablets - are unleashing even greater user demand. Once you move away from raw consumption statistics, the most remarkable finding is the way in which people use smartphones and tablets,” Flanagan said. “Regardless of device type and operating system, there is very little variation in the usage ‘signature’ between smartphone users and between tablet users. From this we discover that voice-capable “phablets” – like the Samsung Galaxy Note II - are currently being used like smartphones, not tablets. If you can use it to make a phone call, the phablet won’t be much like a tablet at all.”