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Something mysterious is sucking down hundreds of megabytes or gigabytes, even, of data on Windows Phone 7 handsets. Microsoft is blaming an unnamed third party for the issue.  (Source: Mobile Top Soft)
Some customers' phones were downloading 50 GB per day, leaving them stuck with $5,000+ bills

Windows Phone seems off to a promising start, posting decent sales and readying updates to add key missing features.  However, the last thing it needs is a high profile issue to be plaguing its up-and-coming lineup.

That's exactly what appears to be happening.  Windows Phone devices are downloading massive amounts of data, leaving some users stuck with thousands of dollars in data overages and puzzled at how they managed to use many gigabytes of data, while just doing the standard routine of web, email, etc.

Well in a surprising twist Microsoft has assigned the blame for the Windows Phone 7 phantom data menace to a phantom third party who apparently makes some interface component of the OS.  

The company writes to the newspaper Seattle Pi, commenting:

  • We have determined that a 3rd party solution commonly accessed from Windows Phones is configured in a manner that may potentially cause larger than expected data downloads.  We are in contact with the 3rd party to assist them in making the necessary fixes, and are also pursuing potential workarounds to address the configuration issue in case those are needed. At this point in our investigation, we believe this is responsible for most of the reported incidents.
  • We are investigating additional potential root causes for the remainder of the reports.
  • A small (low single-digit) percentage of Windows Phone customers have reported being affected.
  • We are continuing to investigate this issue and will update with additional information and guidance as it becomes available.  

  • A
    ccording to the report some users have experienced data usage as high as 50 GB a day -- enough data to produce heart attack inducing overages on T-Mobile or AT&T, Windows Phone 7's initial U.S. carriers (neither of which offer truly unlimited data plans).

    The newspaper says Microsoft would not reveal what third party is involved with the phantom data menace (we suspect they're Sith).

    Updated: Jan. 20, 2011 4:20 p.m.-

    A few updates and clarifications.  First, as some pointed out, the 50 GB figure is extraordinarily high, and would represent a phone that would have to be plugged in most of the day and be running very hot from the high traffic.  For those confused, that figure came from the Seattle Pi, the same place we referenced for Microsoft's statement.

    As to the figure of $10,000+ bills actually per megabyte overage rates on T-Mobile are $0.10/MB, so 50 GB (51,200 MB) would result in an overage of $5,120 USD.  Our estimate was based on outdated overage rates of 25 cents per MB.  We stand corrected.

    Of course it is unlikely that customers will actually have to pay these fees, if it is the fault of a malfunctioning supported service.

    A Microsoft spokesperson shared/confirmed the exact same statement with us, as was printed in the Seattle Pi.

    And for the record we're bullish on the Windows Phone 7 platform, by and large, and are not trying to knock it.  It has perhaps the most innovative interface of any smart phone OS on the market today, though it lacks certain useful features (likely soon to be filled in).  As to this particular story, we are merely trying to chronicle it as it develops.

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    By plewis00 on 1/20/2011 10:14:08 AM , Rating: 5
    If some phones are apparently using up to 50GB/day that would be 580KBytes/sec (so over 4Mbit/s) sustained every second in a single 24 hour period. Not only is that near perfect transmission conditions for a 3G handset, but if any of us have ever shunted lots of data through a phone's 3G link, you'll be aware they get very hot very fast, which would also run the battery flat very quickly, way before 24 hours and most likely within 3-4 hours.

    Did anyone not note the phones getting unreasonably hot? When my Nokia N95 locked up and opened a non-stop data connection, within 10 minutes it was pretty hot and the battery even hotter.

    RE: 50GB/day
    By DragonReach on 1/20/2011 10:23:55 AM , Rating: 4
    I'd love to see some backing for both the $10,000+ figure and the 50 GB a day usage as I can't find any such reference anywhere. It looks made up to me, and even if this is a blog, I do believe there are penalties to just making up stories and presenting them as factual.

    RE: 50GB/day
    By omnicronx on 1/20/2011 10:40:52 AM , Rating: 3
    LoL I missed that..

    Mick.. Please either source your info.. Or fix it

    Everyone else says 10's of MBs! With many reporting up to 50 MB a day. Not 50 GB's!.

    RE: 50GB/day
    By omnicronx on 1/20/2011 10:46:06 AM , Rating: 5
    Ok I see your source now.. but when a source says 'by at least one account', that does not mean you can imply it is happening in mass. It most likely means only a single account has been confirmed (if that).

    Every other source says in the 10's of MB's for pretty much anyone else.

    Very misleading and while you can mention it, should not be in the title.

    RE: 50GB/day
    By Souka on 1/20/2011 11:25:17 AM , Rating: 2

    RE: 50GB/day
    By vol7ron on 1/22/2011 12:13:20 PM , Rating: 1
    Also agree: 50GB no. Maybe 50GB for the month? Seeing how I use my phone constantly and struggle to reach 2GB/month, 50GB/day seems like a shit punch.

    Also, how does "one" turn into "some"? That's how hysteria is created.

    RE: 50GB/day
    By PrezWeezy on 1/20/2011 1:14:08 PM , Rating: 3
    If you got back and read the SeattlePI post, they have changed it to 50 MB per day. Common sense tells you that it is darn near impossible to download 50GB per day on a phone, come on Jason.

    RE: 50GB/day
    By W00dmann on 1/20/2011 3:39:22 PM , Rating: 4
    Jason's stellar journalistic skills are once again on display for all to see and admire. Jason has a promising career writing for the Enquirer. One seriously wonders how it is possible for Daily Tech to keep him employed - speaks volumes about their integrity as a whole. Sooner or later, he will post something so utterly false, distorted and mean-spirited that the lawsuits will fly.

    RE: 50GB/day
    By HrilL on 1/20/2011 12:17:57 PM , Rating: 2
    Even 50MB a day wouldn't go over the 2GB cap At&t offers. Maybe with normal usage you might get slapped with a $10 charge for another 1GB.

    On T-mobile I thought they still offered "unlimited" (5GB then throttled until the end of the month) Again no overage charges.

    Not sure where this phantom $10K number is coming from. Is it possible to get a windows Phone 7 without a data plan and pay as you go? That would be the only way to see your bill be over $30 more.

    Unlimited Data Plans
    By rikulus on 1/20/2011 9:49:33 AM , Rating: 4
    This is the one thing that scares me about the prospect of anything but unlimited data plans for mobile or home internet access. I don't at all mind the idea of paying for the amount of data that I do or don't use each month... but only if I'm in complete control of what comes in or goes out (like I am with my electric or phone bills.) But not really knowing how much data devices are using, or having uncontrolled data going through my modem, makes it unacceptable.

    I would also, of course, want my data rates not to be based on me guessing how much data I'm going to use each month. Make it like an electric bill, constant rate plus fixed access fee.

    RE: Unlimited Data Plans
    By omnicronx on 1/20/2011 9:54:30 AM , Rating: 2
    Unlimited wireless data plans for all are just not feasible.. Unfortunately Wireless internet does obey the laws of physics, we only have so much spectrum and way too many users..

    That said, I like your idea. Limit from your device what goes in and goes out easily. That would solve a lot of problems for many people.

    RE: Unlimited Data Plans
    By Samus on 1/20/2011 10:12:03 AM , Rating: 4
    Every Nokia packet-data phone (any C, E, N series) let you limit, log, and control multiple connections seamlessly. But of course there are Apps for other phone OS's that let you do the same. I just like how Nokia includes it from S60 forward.

    RE: Unlimited Data Plans
    By DanNeely on 1/20/2011 10:36:34 AM , Rating: 3
    Any solution that requires the consumer to actively monitor resources is going to fail because 99% are clueless, so installing an app isn't a solution. It either needs to be baked into the firmware, or automatically reported by the carriers back end. Sending users text warnings at 90/100/200/300%/etc of data quota, and switching from default approve to default deny for overage data before the bills get to be too huge is the only way to effectively protect the average consumer.

    RE: Unlimited Data Plans
    By Sazabi19 on 1/20/2011 10:49:13 AM , Rating: 2
    The problem with that is it takes a few days for snail mail to get to you. By that time (from the way it seems in this article) it would already be too late for some if they really were about 50 gigs a day. I have a feeling they will not be paying that though, very obviously not correct.

    RE: Unlimited Data Plans
    By Homerboy on 1/20/2011 11:00:55 AM , Rating: 2
    did you miss the part where he said "text warnings"
    The warning could and would be sent to you via text, email and snail mail in a perfect world.

    Snail mail wont happen though as thats a charge to the carrier for the stamp.

    RE: Unlimited Data Plans
    By Samus on 1/20/2011 10:28:00 PM , Rating: 2
    I agree, most customers aren't really aware of what data usage is and most of these people probably get 5GB or unlimited packages.

    I have T-mobile and have unlimited use ($30/mo) on my Android phone but 200MB ($10/mo) on my Nokia N8, so I monitor that closely. I usually hover between 90-130MB/month as it is for email, light browsing, weather updates, google maps, etc.

    If I had vampire bandwidth, I'd know it immediately from the log file. However, one month I came close to the 200MB limit and T-Mobile texted saying I had only 10MB left, and each additional MB would be $.10 cents. I appriciated that.

    One last thing to note: the text they sent indicated they would cut me off at $50 over-usage, or 500MB over my 200MB plan. If this is common-place, how do people have $5000 bills?

    RE: Unlimited Data Plans
    By TheRequiem on 1/20/2011 10:28:06 AM , Rating: 2
    Heh, I've been saying that for years...

    By omnicronx on 1/20/2011 9:48:40 AM , Rating: 5
    May want to do a wee bit more research, as if you are going to write about this you may want to note what third party the app most likely belongs too..

    I.e Yahoo and its Yahoo Mail app, as has been reported by the community.

    This also paints a little different picture as to how many people are truly affected as many users just plain don't use Yahoo mail. Especially on an MS centric device..

    RE: Phantom
    By therealnickdanger on 1/20/2011 10:08:18 AM , Rating: 2
    Yeah, they could not have had a more cryptic press release. They don't disclose what the problem is, who is at fault, who is affected, or any means of curbing or blocking the problem. So cryptic that they won't even disclose what the "low single digit" affected percentage of users is? LOL If they know that it's Yahoo Mail (assuming it is), why not just tell users so they can turn if off or remove the app? Release a hotfix until a full solution can be realized?

    "a third-party solution"
    "commonly accessed from Windows Phones"
    "configured in a manner"
    "potentially causes larger than expected data downloads"
    "third party"
    "necessary fixes"
    "pursuing potential workarounds"
    "configuration issue"
    "in case those are needed"
    "responsible for most"
    "potential root causes"
    "A small (low single-digit) percentage"
    "this issue"

    RE: Phantom
    By Smilin on 1/20/2011 11:13:00 AM , Rating: 2
    More than likely the number of users being affected is so small that they are being handled as individual cases.

    You'll never get MS (or anyone hopefully) to reveal details in these circumstances. It's not the public's business. If you are affected, call support.

    I've yet to see anyone in person or on similar forums speak up and say, "I have this problem". I use the crap out of my WP7 and I've never seen this.

    RE: Phantom
    By Klober on 1/20/2011 12:26:35 PM , Rating: 2
    Try using Yahoo Mail and let us know what happens. You have to admit that it would be an interesting test! ;)

    RE: Phantom
    By Smilin on 1/21/2011 9:34:32 AM , Rating: 2
    I've heard a couple others mention Yahoo. Where did you read it?

    By semiconshawn on 1/20/2011 11:45:48 AM , Rating: 5
    I call BS on 50G a day on a 3G cell phone. Not even sitting on the tower with the phone plugged in.

    RE: BS
    By Aloonatic on 1/21/2011 5:40:09 AM , Rating: 2
    Pretty impressive storage on those WinMo phones too. I didn't realise that they made SD cards that big :o)

    I doubt it...
    By InvertMe on 1/20/2011 10:52:08 AM , Rating: 2
    Like many of Mick's stories I think this one if full of lies and misinformation. I'll look to more reputable sites to find the real story.

    RE: I doubt it...
    By Bigginz on 1/20/2011 11:52:34 AM , Rating: 2
    The more reasonable sources say WP7 is downloading between 30 and 50 MB a day.

    A possible solution is to turn on airplane mode to prevent downloads. But as soon as you turn off airplane mode, it sends a ton of data.

    I think the 3rd party app is either Facebook, YouTube or a music streaming service.

    More (and better) information here.

    By Flunk on 1/20/2011 12:37:23 PM , Rating: 2
    The 3rd party is Yahoo and it's the Yahoo Mail integration that causes this issue. That's why so few people are having a problem.

    RE: Yahoo
    By Smilin on 1/20/2011 1:13:41 PM , Rating: 2
    I've heard a couple others mention that. Where did you read it?

    Jason's inaccurate reporting (once again)
    By W00dmann on 1/21/2011 3:42:06 PM , Rating: 2
    So let me get this straight: your byline states "some customers' phones were downloading 50GB per day, leaving them stuck with $10,000+ bills".

    I read the Seattle Pi article and it was updated at 9:54am on Jan 20th correcting the 50GB figure to 50MB. Jason's article came out at 4:30pm that same day, yet he did not even bother to check and see if his figures were correct.

    Then he updates his article "for those confused", defending his 50GB claim and attributing the outlandish figure to Seattle Pi and still not correcting it to 50MB.

    Then he corrects the figure of $10,000+ "overage" bill down to $5,120 due to outdated (?) overage rates, rates he no doubt neglected to check when drafting his masterful article.

    But wait - now Jason is telling us that the $10K / $5K figures are based on his math? Didn't the article's byline state "some customers" were stuck with the ginormous overage bills? Who are these customers exactly? Your byline clearly indicates they exist (whoever they are), yet your "correction" implies the overages are nothing more than a fanciful calculation - by you - of how much "some customers" might be charged?

    Oh, and then he concludes with a biased statement in favour of WP7.

    Jason, you are hereby fired. You are being replaced by a brick hanging by a rope off a lever. Our new staff member has more brains and integrity than you.

    By johnsonx on 1/21/2011 11:41:01 PM , Rating: 2
    you mean you read a jason mick article expecting accuracy and journalist integrity? the joke's on you then!

    Explain yourselves, please
    By morphologia on 1/20/2011 2:40:19 PM , Rating: 2
    Who is this mysterious party? The Illuminati? Al-Qaeda in Redmond? Aliens? Or perhaps...the wireless carriers themselves!!

    A perfect scam...

    Dear CIA, et al:
    By SiliconJon on 1/21/2011 10:44:04 AM , Rating: 2
    TO: CIA TIA Team
    CC: DHS, NSA

    Your total information awareness worm is causing issues that may blow its cover. Please see the attached logs and correct ASAP as we cannot be responsible for maintaining its secrecy if its behavior blows its own cover.



    Dangerously high bandwidth
    By techyguy on 1/21/2011 6:04:33 PM , Rating: 2
    50GB in one month? Microsoft not relieving the 3rd party?

    What could any 3rd party that "makes some interface component of the OS", be doing with so much data? This type of bandwidth is almost dangerous for a mobile phone.

    Hmm, whats Microsoft's "Danger" doing nowadays, after their cloud storage disaster?

    To bad for the people who bought the WP7 phone.
    By tharik on 1/20/11, Rating: -1
    By Smilin on 1/20/2011 11:32:57 AM , Rating: 2
    LOL! Thanks for the warning about the thing that didn't happen.

    No problems here. Digging WP7. It doesn't have a crappy auto-correct either.

    By semiconshawn on 1/20/2011 12:01:00 PM , Rating: 2
    Hahaha I wanted to rate you up for some reason. Its just that stupid.

    By MindParadox on 1/21/2011 9:28:40 AM , Rating: 2
    I tried warning people to what until the first service pack before spending there money on it, but that was there choice. Now when your brand new WP7 phone becomes part of a botnet, do not whine on this comment section.

    Before you try to scare people with this, you may want to invest in a 3rd grade English book, so you can learn the difference between there, their, and they're.

    It makes so much more sense when you say it this way :)

    I tried warning people to WAIT until the first service pack before spending THEIR money on it, but that was THEIR choice. Now when your brand new WP7 phone becomes part of a botnet, do not whine on this comment section.

    See? Just two simple words(and a spelling correction) and your entire post at least makes sense :)

    "If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard
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