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Data Usage Chart from Validas  (Source: Consumer Reports)
Biggest iPhone users use over 1GB monthly

Apple struck a chord with competitors and consumers alike when it launched the first iPhone. The device wasn't perfect, but it sold in droves and each successive version of the iPhone has sold exceptionally well. The device is one of the most popular smartphones on the American market, despite only having one carrier.

The popularity of the iPhone and the tendency of customers to actually use the smartphone for its intended purpose means that owners tend to consumer more data bandwidth than users of other devices. In fact, AT&T has threatened in the past to charge iPhone users who consume more data than it thinks they should more money, despite the fact that iPhone data plans are said to be unlimited.

AT&T may blame the huge number of iPhones that it sells for its data woes, but the company recognizes how important the iPhone is to its bottom line. The company has pledged to improve its network and in Q1 Apple reported sales of the iPhone doubled so the number of iPhones on the AT&T network will only increase.

Consumer Reports has published the results of research that it commissioned from a company called Validas. Validas is a web firm that analyses the bills of wireless users that the customers willingly upload and the data is used for research when the providers won’t give first party numbers.

According to the data Validas provided 
Consumer Reports, the average iPhone user consumes 273MB of data per month. By comparison, the average Blackberry user only consumes 54MB of data each month. Users of other smartphones consume an average of 150MB per month. The data also showed that 12% of iPhone users gobble up 500MB per month of bandwidth and the biggest consumers of bandwidth using the iPhone use over 1GB of data per month.

Consumer Reports reached out to AT&T for first-party numbers and were turned down. An AT&T spokesperson said, "For competitive reasons, we do not disclose the usage of our iPhone customers."

The data analyzed by Validas included 757 iPhone users, 783 Blackberry users, and in total looked at 14,000 wireless users.

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By Inkjammer on 2/11/2010 10:23:47 AM , Rating: 5
It's a sad day in Hell when 273MB of data per user over the course of a month is all it takes it take down a network.

RE: Oi
By StraightCashHomey on 2/11/2010 10:25:00 AM , Rating: 2
Heh, yeah that's what I was thinking. I can occasionally get up to 273MB per day without even trying on my desktop. I watch a lot of youtube videos.

Granted, that's the average, so there are some users that are downloading far more and some users that are downloading far less... but still, AT&T is bitching about that?

RE: Oi
By Screwballl on 2/11/2010 9:41:59 PM , Rating: 2
I just checked my DD-WRT data stats and I average around 1GB per day, and some days over 3GB (yes bytes, not bits) but I also work from home using VoIP and various other online/server connections.

RE: Oi
By reader1 on 2/11/10, Rating: -1
RE: Oi
By StraightCashHomey on 2/11/2010 10:34:14 AM , Rating: 2
That's on AT&T, not the customers.

RE: Oi
By Adonlude on 2/11/2010 4:31:38 PM , Rating: 5
Well the customers obviously didn't look close enough at the small print:

AT&T Unlimited Data Plan**

**Note: AT&T reserves the right to take-backs and erasies.

RE: Oi
By seamonkey79 on 2/11/2010 2:45:18 PM , Rating: 2
As I recall, the iPhone failed to meet initial estimates and sold under what they were saying it would for the first few months, so, bologna that nobody expected it to be this popular. The fact that AT&T didn't realize how much people would actually use their unlimited plans has little to nothing to do with the iPhone, it just shows the fact that their network is under par in stark relief.

RE: Oi
By eheia on 2/11/10, Rating: 0
RE: Oi
By inighthawki on 2/11/2010 10:42:20 AM , Rating: 3
When you multiply that by the millions of iphone users, you're in the thousands of terabytes per month, or several hundred terabytes per day, on a wireless connection. Not bad at all in my book... Then add in all the non-iphone users and I'm sure that number gets a lot bigger.

RE: Oi
By StraightCashHomey on 2/11/2010 11:07:50 AM , Rating: 5
Solution: Don't call your plan Unlimited if you cannot back it up.

RE: Oi
By ImSpartacus on 2/11/2010 2:11:44 PM , Rating: 3
Amen. I've never understood the logic in questioning internet usage for an "unlimited" data plan.

The same principle comes into play with tethering. You're already paying for the data, why does "The Man" get to tell you that you cannot use that data on your laptop?

RE: Oi
By omnicronx on 2/11/2010 4:19:54 PM , Rating: 2
Its not really about being unlimited, its about not upgrading your network and adding more towers where they are needed.

If you happen to live in an area with towers that have little use, you should not have any problems. This is why some users report no problems and others report tons of problems and dropped calls.

This is why densely populated areas like New York are having problems, too many people accessing a particular tower at once causes the system to overload.

By nature a UTMS cell tower can only handle a certain amount of users, there is nothing AT&T can do to get around this. The only thing they can do is add more towers to alleviate the problem, or wait until the next gen service rolls out that supports more users/bandwidth per tower. Making matters worse, you can only have so many towers within a certain area, i.e they have to be spread out, you can't just put two towers beside each other and think it will double your throughput.

LTE will definately help out AT&T, but eventually they will be in the same position. With a faster connection comes more use of that connection.

RE: Oi
By corduroygt on 2/11/2010 12:45:06 PM , Rating: 3
When you multiply the $80 minimum phone bill by the millions of iphone users you get revenue close to 1 BILLION DOLLARS per month.

RE: Oi
By Hiawa23 on 2/11/2010 10:58:06 AM , Rating: 3
sounds like they want to charge you more...

RE: Oi
By omnicronx on 2/11/2010 11:20:43 AM , Rating: 2
You are thinking of a cellphone network in linear terms. Each tower has a certain amount of bandwidth. The entire network does not go down, but merely one slice when a tower(s) in a particular area become overloaded.

I'm not saying its an excuse, but you can't look at monthly usage and make such a claim. If a bunch of 50M monthly users happen to be using their connection at the same time in the same area, the tower may max out, the amount of monthly bandwidth is completely irrelevant.

RE: Oi
By Oregonian2 on 2/11/2010 1:16:37 PM , Rating: 2
Also, a cellphone tower typically doesn't use consumer-grade data connections with "best effort" data transfer. They've commercial grade connections with guaranteed performance and typically consist of multiple T1 lines (T3's usually is too much bandwidth for a single cell site). This also provides some backup in case single T1 lines go down.

RE: Oi
By HrilL on 2/12/2010 2:33:30 PM , Rating: 2
The average cell tower has 1-3 T1 lines from what I've read. Now they say you can get 3.5Mb/s max and in some areas are claiming 7.2Mb/s If a cell tower has only 1 T1 that is only 1.5Mb/s that has to handle all the voice traffic and the data. even 3 T1 lines is not enough. 4.5Mb/s for both voice and data won't support 7.2Mb/s At&t needs to upgrade back haul capacity before they upgrade to faster speeds. A faster connection to the tower isn't going to be faster when the connection to the CO isn't upgraded.

RE: Oi
By invidious on 2/11/2010 2:04:40 PM , Rating: 2
Who said it ever took down the network? I dont recall any interuptions in my service.

It would also be a sad day if making nonsense posts on the internet caused the world to end, but again, that didnt happen either.

By therealnickdanger on 2/11/2010 10:32:14 AM , Rating: 4
I'm with Sprint and my usage with my HTC Touch Diamond last month (according to my bill) was:

4,332,544 KB

I've rarely hit the 5GB/mo limit ("unlimited" my arse!), but if my phone were faster (HTC Hero), I'm sure I could do it with great regularity.

By cwilson on 2/11/2010 11:37:54 AM , Rating: 3
T-Mobile here, last month with my G1 I used a little over 2GB. I just moved over to the Nexus One so maybe I can take a crack at 3GB of data usage this month. Seems to me an average use of 273MB is really not that much at all. I recall using more than that with my T-Mobile Wing on the EDGE network a few years ago.

By seamonkey79 on 2/11/2010 2:50:04 PM , Rating: 2
9 days into my billing on my Droid Eris, already at 212MB... this does seem a little low, as I don't have my phone out nearly as often as I see other people playing with their assorted smartphones... I guess there must be lots of people out there that bought these things because they were cool, but don't use them to full potential.

By uglyone888 on 2/11/2010 5:11:28 PM , Rating: 3
I'm using my HTC Touch Pro 2 with Windows Mobile on the Sprint network and I use a consistent 2GB of data per month. Was WinMo not included in this survey? Because all the people I know use their phone's internet constantly, and they tether frequently and I'm sure if they were included in the survey, they would easily use more data than iPhone and Blackberry users

By golfjam on 2/12/2010 9:03:15 AM , Rating: 2
I'm on the same boat. Upgraded my G1 for a N1 and use over 2Gb every month. I tether almost every day and get 1.5M speed up/down most of the time in Los Angeles, CA. I used to be careful about my data usage but I don't monitor anymore. T-Mobile even lowered my bill last year w/ their Loyalty plan.

biggest use of all that bandwidth?
By kattanna on 2/11/2010 10:19:00 AM , Rating: 3
and im betting the biggest use of all that iphone bandwidth is people downloading apps they will use a couple times to show off to others how "cool" their phone is.

RE: biggest use of all that bandwidth?
By Neodude007 on 2/11/10, Rating: -1
RE: biggest use of all that bandwidth?
By Inkjammer on 2/11/2010 10:28:03 AM , Rating: 3
Wait, with an accusation like that... do YOU have an iPhone?

Because yes, you can download apps over 3G - they just can't be over 10MB in size. Anything over 10MB requires a WiFi connection.

RE: biggest use of all that bandwidth?
By Zok on 2/11/2010 10:30:33 AM , Rating: 2
Beat me to it. ;)

RE: biggest use of all that bandwidth?
By Zok on 2/11/2010 10:29:57 AM , Rating: 2
Not true. If the app is below 10 MB, you CAN download on Edge/3G just fine.

RE: biggest use of all that bandwidth?
By Neodude007 on 2/11/10, Rating: -1
RE: biggest use of all that bandwidth?
By Zok on 2/11/2010 10:36:25 AM , Rating: 2
Was that way when the App Store was released for my 2G iPhone. :P

By kattanna on 2/11/2010 11:26:32 AM , Rating: 1
do i personally have an iphone?

nope. i like having a real keyboard.

but lots of my co-workers do and i have also helped out the company develop the 2 apps we have for sell on the app store, so yes i do know about it.

Say what?
By GenKhan2 on 2/11/2010 10:24:41 AM , Rating: 2
Interesting to see the average is so low. I use around 1.7GB of data on average per month on my iPhone and I'm not even doing anything particularly rigorous.

RE: Say what?
By IceBreakerG on 2/11/2010 10:42:38 AM , Rating: 2
I'm currently 9 days into my billing cycle, and I've already used 428.63MB of data. It really doesn't take much to get that high. Streaming radio every morning at work for a few hours, downloading the occasional app here and there, maybe a few videos on youtube or gametrailers, etc. Not to mention all the web pages, or apps that use data. It adds up very quickly.

By hiscross on 2/11/2010 12:03:51 PM , Rating: 2
I found this to speak louder than words:
"According to the data Validas provided Consumer Reports, the average iPhone user consumes 273MB of data per month. By comparison, the average Blackberry user only consumes 54MB of data each month. Users of other smartphones consume an average of 150MB per month. The data also showed that 12% of iPhone users gobble up 500MB per month of bandwidth and the biggest consumers of bandwidth using the iPhone use over 1GB of data per month."

If only everyone would only buy WinMobile phones life would so much simpler.

RE: WinMobile
By Alexstarfire on 2/11/2010 1:57:54 PM , Rating: 2
I'm very confused by the report since under the picture it states that "Other Smartphones" does not include blackberries, yet they talk about it in the article like they did.

By AmdInside on 2/11/2010 12:17:26 PM , Rating: 2
I also thought it would be a lot more than that. I use at least 1GB a month on my Sprint phone a month (albeit mainly because I am tethered to my laptop) and never have network issues. As much as I would love to have an iPhone I just can't motivate myself to switch to AT&T. If the iPhone were on Verizon or Sprint, it be mine for sure.

Data usage stats
By ralniv on 2/11/2010 12:37:25 PM , Rating: 2
Looking at that distribution of data use (or abuse) I would guess that the typical (i.e. median; not average) user is much closer to 100 MB/month.

On a different note...
I don't subscribe to the sentiment that it's a sad day when 270MB/user/month "takes down a [cellular] network". I just don't get why so many people regularly eat that much bandwidth on cell phones. They are a terrible platform for watching videos/movies. Our society is over saturated with multimedia and meaningless youtube-type content. I digress, so I will close out...

That figure
By DEredita on 2/11/2010 2:20:33 PM , Rating: 2
That figure is almost exactly the figure I see for my data usage each month.

273MB isn't a typical user
By PrinceGaz on 2/11/2010 3:12:16 PM , Rating: 2
Whilst 273MB may be the mean amount of data used by iPhone users, the median is more representative of what most iPhone users use, and from the graph the median is more like 150MB (and for "most other smartphones" is about 50MB). It is a relatively small number of iPhone users who consume many times this amount and are not representative of typical users, who push the mean up to 273MB.

In no way would I use that to excuse the network operators whose network can't cope with current demands placed on it, that is a whole seperate issue, I was just pointing out that the median is better than the mean in determining what a typical user consumes in this sort of study.

I have Mobile Internet
By Calin on 2/12/2010 2:07:33 AM , Rating: 2
I have Internet access thru a 3G modem, and for some 14 Euro a month I can use 4 GB of bandwidth at normal speed (up to 7.2 Mbps), and above that I get anything I want at 128 kbps.
By the way, can the iPhone be used as an Internet modem yet?

"Phones will overtake desktop browsers by 2013"
By reader1 on 2/11/10, Rating: -1
By cwilson on 2/11/2010 11:52:36 AM , Rating: 5
Sorry dude, you missed the memo: the world ends in 2012.

By eheia on 2/11/2010 4:17:28 PM , Rating: 1
Actually wouldn't android be considered an open platform? it's only a matter of time until there are more android phones than iphones...or the 3 ipads that will be sold before they shut that soon-to-be failure down.

By Alexstarfire on 2/11/2010 5:40:41 PM , Rating: 1
What trend? That people around the world are buying more phones than computers? That's been known for a while now. Of course the total number of devices means very little when you look at how much they are used. Data caps on cell phones, laptops, and the like are typically around 5 GB while on desktops they are at least 10x that if not truly unlimited in many cases. I easily consume more than 100GB per month on my desktop. That's about 400 iphones worth and I'm no where near what the top end guys do. And you know what they say. The top 10-15% of the desktop internet users use up 90% of the bandwidth. That's only in the US too. So in the US actual computers are going to dominate in bandwidth pretty much forever.

Of course, if you're just looking at those that use the web and not how much or what they actually do on it then it could be right. Still not anything worthy of mentioning since smartphone usage has been increasing, and nearly all smartphones require a data plan. Might as well use it. Wonder how many people use it to check Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc.. as that's something worth knowing.

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