U.S. smartphone owner’s data consumption is on the rise, but statistics on data usage gathered by Validas for Consumer Reports shows that a relatively small number of customers drive the average up. The majority of smartphone owners wind up paying for a lot of unused consumption, an amount that varies according to telecompetitors’ metered pricing plans.

While average smartphone data use for 20,000 consumers cellphone bills from February 2010 to February 2011 ranged from 274MB to 449MB per month depending on the carrier, the median, or midpoint, of the range was significantly less. Hence, most smartphone data users used less than the average amount for each of the three carriers included in the study while relatively few users consumed so much data that they brought the average up.

T-Mobile smartphone users consumed an average 274MB per month, with the median at 48. AT&T customers’ average monthly data use was 360MB with a median of 120MB. Verizon’s came in at 449MB and 158MB, respectively.

“These new results confirm what we’ve previously reported: that Verizon’s move to metered data pricing and its minimum smart-phone-data charge of $30 for 2GB per month won’t save any new customers a dime, because most smart-phone owners don’t use anywhere near 2GB,” according to Consumer Reports’ press release.

“Verizon has said customers who signed on to data service before the metered plans can stay with the company’s old $30-a-month unlimited plan. But for most users, whether they have an unlimited plan or one that has a 2GB limit is moot, since their typical monthly data use is well below that data limit.”

T-Mobile smartphone owners who paid $10 per month for a minimum 200MB and consumed the median amount of data wound up getting the best deal. AT&T smartphone users using the median amount would have paid $15 for 200MB. The median data using Verizon customer, in contrast, would have paid $30 for 2GB and wound up leaving 90%, or 1.8GGB, of what was paid for unused.

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2 thoughts on “Consumer Reports: Smartphone Users Not Consuming as Much Data as We Might Think

  1. The data in this article are very useful. However, I would be interested to see the numbers when you separate out the type of users from each provider. Personally, I think the numbers in this article show that there are a lot of people who are getting smartphones that don't even truly need them (but who am I to say that), and/or can't even afford them for more of a status symbol than needed functionality. I would bet that if you were able to separate out the "tech nerds" and business users, they would show significantly higher numbers. However, another factor to consider is video streaming. The data is this article are only good upto 2/11. Netflix, video chats, (along with tablets with wireless radios), and the like have only recently moved into full force since then. I'd have to think that even the non-tech folk are starting to take advantage of those data-hungry services.

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