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New Study Find that Smartphones Use Far More Data Than Tablets

January 15, 2013 - Written By Doug Scudder

Arieso, a data analytics company recently released a report detailing what devices are using the most data these days. This is the third year in a row that they have done this study. They use a proprietary technology to analyze the data usage of 1 million mobile subscribers across a teir 1 network in Europe. The information was collected over a single 24 hour period back in November 2012. This study excludes dongles, so we are basically only looking at tablets and mobile devices when analyzing this data. There were quite a few interesting tidbits to be gleaned from this study, but keep in mind that because 4G/LTE is considered “‘new” it was not included in this study.

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One of the more interesting trends that this data reveals is the gap between data usage on a smart phone and data usage on a tablet. The author of this study, Dr. Michael Flanagan said this in a statement:

“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. Regardless of device type and operating system, there is very little variation in the usage ‘signature’ between smartphone users and between tablet users.”

So despite the fact that tablets are mostly designed for consuming media, the smart phone is still king in terms of volume of data usage. But which devices consumed the most data? The Galaxy S III took that title with the Galaxy Note 2 coming in a close second.  Apple, Samsung and HTC are the three smart phone manufacturers that had flagship devices responsible for consuming more data than tablets. Previously only Apple made this list.

But why are tablets consuming so much less data than mobile devices? Most would think that a device designed for streaming movies and music would eat up far more data than a device that, at the end of the day, is made for making phone calls. The answer is quite simple: WiFi. Despite the fact that practically every smart phone on the market today has WiFi connectivity built right in, most of us don’t take the time to connect our mobile device to a WiFi network unless we are at home. Tablets on the other hand are almost always used in conjunction with a local WiFi network. If you think about it, this makes perfect sense. In many cases our tablets are replacing out laptops. We have all spent the better part of the last decade seeking out WiFi networks for our laptops, so it makes sense that we would think to connect to an available network when we pull our tablet out. Also remember that this study does not include LTE networks. Have you ever tried to stream an HD movie over 3G? It’s not a smooth or pleasant experience. Tablets also offer larger internal storage than many smart phones, so it is more practical to store large amounts of music, movies and other forms of media on a larger built-in SSD.

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This report mentions that the amount of data being uploaded from connected devices has increased from last year by almost 17%. We are now uploading one byte of data for every six that we download. This may well be due to the proliferation of higher quality cameras on smart phones around the world. As our smart phones are continuing to replace our point-and-shoot cameras for both video and still shots, we are choosing to upload that content directly from our phones instead of copying those pictures to our home computers first. It is very likely that more data will continue to be uploaded from mobile devices as this trend continues over the next few years.

It is fascinating to see the way that we all use our devices evolve. Only a couple of years ago the vast majority of mobile data usage came from the iPhone, but now the smart phone industry is far more diverse and customers have more choices than ever. Competition is good, and with so many exciting devices on tap for 2013, it will be interesting to see what this report looks like next year.