American owners of phablets use significantly more mobile data on an everyday basis than people whose devices have sub-5.5-inch display panels, data compiled by Strategy Analytics' AppOptix division shows. Over the entire 2017, phablets consumed nearly three times more cellular data than smartphones with screens no larger than 4.5 inches, according to the company. Whereas products in the smallest handset category saw their owners consume less than 350MB of data every day throughout 2017, American consumers with 5.5-inch and larger smartphones used over 840MB of daily data over the observed period.
AppOptix indicates correlation may equal causation in this scenario, adding that prospective buyers of larger mobile devices should consider paying extra for unlimited plans as their handsets are likely to consume more data. In practice, the phenomenon may be explained by the fact that the average phablet buyer is much more likely to spend more time browsing the web on their smartphone and use mobile data in other manners, and Strategy Analytics' own findings add some credence to that theory. Whereas sub-4.5-inch phones used 83-percent less data than those that are at least 5.5 inches in size over 2017, they were also subjected to nearly 40-percent fewer usage sessions and their owners spent approximately 34-percent less time (an hour and 17 minutes fewer) using them on a daily basis compared to their phablet-owning peers. Strategy Analytics is predicting that mobile users will see their data consumption rates spike going forward and has called network operators to start planning for that increased demand. Recent studies suggest wireless carriers in the country have only recently started recovering from the performance hit their networks suffered following the return of the unlimited race in early 2017 and may not be fully prepared for another major increase in data consumption rates. A visual breakdown of Strategy Analytics' latest findings can be seen below.
The situation should still be sustainable in the long-term given the advent of 5G that's promising to deliver unprecedented latencies and capacities by leveraging edge computing technologies and decentralizing the process of communicating with the World Wide Web via a wireless connection. The four largest U.S. carriers already pledged to start large-scale 5G deployment by early 2019 and are all expecting to offer national next-generation coverage by 2020.