Google's flagship phone, the Android-based Nexus One.  (Source:
Put major strain on network capacity

An industry study has found that Android users gulp up more data than other smartphone consumers, Reuters reports. Coupled with the fact that -- as Google VP of Engineering Andy Rubin claims on his Twitter -- Android is activating 300,000 devices per day, the handsets threaten strain wireless network capacity.

The study, conducted by mobile network management software company Arieso, used the iPhone3G as a "normalized benchmark" for comparison against users of newer smartphones, such as the BlackBerry Bold 9700, the Google Nexus One, the HTC Desire, the Sony Ericsson Xperia, and the Apple iPhone 4. 

It found that iPhone 4 users make 44 percent more data calls, download 41 percent more data, and spend 67 percent more time connected to the network for data, compared to the iPhone3G. While exact figures for Android were not cited, the study says Google's mobile OS surpassed even those of the iPhone 4. And Android users score highest in both uplink data volume and downlink data. "For example, Samsung Galaxy users typically upload 126 percent more data than iPhone3G users, and HTC Desire users download 41 percent more data than iPhone3G users," the study said.

According to Reuters, the increase in data traffic is due, in part, to better photo and video cameras -- editing and sharing the high-res images and video.

"When more could be done, more tends to be done," Arieso CTO Michael Flanagan told Reuters. "Smartphone subscriptions are rising and so too is subscriber appetite for mobile data. It's a trend that's set to continue."

One trend that has remained flat, however, is voice calls. This suggests that newer smartphone users are increasingly using their devices for data first, in lieu of making calls.

"Operators must now be able to quantify the impact of the devices they support, and how subscribers use them, and prepare their networks accordingly,” Flanagan said. "They are risking rising operational costs, and delivering a sub-par quality of service to customers. They must adopt a new, more precise approach to monitoring and optimizing their networks.”

"What operators are really suffering from is the fact that popularity of smartphones came too quickly," Lance Hiley, VP of market strategy at Cambridge Broadband Networks, told Reuters. Since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, data usage has roughly doubled every year, straining wireless networks. With the rise of Android, that strain has only worsened.

Since hitting the market a little over two years ago on the T-Mobile G1, the Android OS has skyrocketed to global dominance. A recent Gartner report found Google's mobile OS to be the second-most ubiquitous in the world, trailing only Nokia's Symbian. And Android is doing even better in the important U.S. market, shipping 9.3 million units in the third quarter of 2010 alone, and commanding a 43.6 percent share of the smartphone market. Even Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has publicly expressed his favorable opinion of Android, predicting that it will soon beat the iPhone in the smartphone war. With Rubin's latest claim of 300,000 units activated per day, that prediction is quickly becoming a reality.

Android's success, as Wozniak also points out, is due to the open-source nature of the OS. He liked Android and smartphones to the success of Windows on PCs. Android's pervasiveness across carriers and manufacturers has bolstered its ability to outsell the competition, and its knack for customization has endeared it to casual users and developers alike.

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