Smartphone Data Usage Took a Massive Jump in 2013

January 13, 2014 - Written By Eric Abent

With smartphones becoming as popular as they are, it kind of goes without saying that many of us are using them because of convenience. Access to mobile data networks can be incredibly handy, whether you’re just trying to kill some time, find a place to eat when you’re already on the go, or hunt down the nearest repair shop in the event of car troubles while you’re on the road. Most of us make use of the mobile data functionality our smartphones offer, but you might be a little surprised to find out that mobile data usage is still on the rise year-over-year and these jumps don’t show any signs of slowing down in the future.

A new report from Amdocs subsidiary Actix (via FierceWireless) claims that mobile data usage in 2013 rose by 40% over the previous year. That’s a pretty massive increase when you consider that the number of new smartphone users has to be slowing down at this point. So, what gives? While Actix points out that increases in mobile data usage were once due to people upgrading from feature phones to smartphones for the first time, these days the jumps are driven by folks upgrading from low-end devices to higher-end handsets. Oh, and for the record, data consumption in 2013 was seven times higher than it was in 2009, so just let that sink in for a moment.

According to the report, iPhone users are the data usage kings, consuming about twice the amount of data as Android users in a given session, with the iPhone 4, 4S, and 5 ranking at the top of the list. Smartphones comprise a whopping 95% of data network traffic, but that doesn’t mean tablets aren’t contributing to the uptick. Actix director of global marketing Neil Coleman points out that connected tablet users average twice the data consumption as smartphone users, so this is more about install bases than anything else. That could all be changing in the future as low-cost tablets hit store shelves in a big way, so Coleman warns that carriers should prepare their networks to handle the onslaught of new tablets.

Is this going to slow down as we move further away from the introduction of the first smartphone? That doesn’t seem likely, with Coleman saying that each new generation brings with it a 40% rise in data usage. With manufacturers releasing new generations of their flagship models on a yearly basis, mobile data consumption will keep rising at a breakneck pace, so here’s hoping that the likes of Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint can handle what’s to come.