Blog Post

Android Users Are the New Mobile Data Hogs

iPhone (s AAPL) users have long been accused of being data hogs, gobbling up bandwidth and crushing AT&T’s (s T) 3G network. But it’s Android (s GOOG) users who could be pushing their carrier’s limits by watching huge amounts of mobile video over 3G networks rather than Wi-Fi, according to new research from mobile ad network Rhythm NewMedia.

Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of mobile video viewed on Android devices happens over mobile carrier networks, compared to 28 percent viewed over Wi-Fi networks. That’s significantly higher than iPhone users, who view 56 percent of mobile video over 3G networks, compared to 44 percent watched on Wi-Fi networks.

That will be bad news for network operators, which have seen video usage increase dramatically on mobile networks. And, as Stacey at GigaOM has long predicted, it’s bad news for consumers, who can expect more mobile carriers to begin rolling out metered billing for mobile data traffic.

AT&T, which has exclusive rights to the iPhone in the U.S., has already rolled out metered billing on its mobile data plans, killing the unlimited plan that iPhone and other smartphone users had taken advantage of over recent years. The new data plans may be one reason why iPhone users are less likely to use the 3G network over Wi-Fi, although it’s worth pointing out that AT&T has long sought to limit the amount of mobile video traveling over its network by ensuring that some video-heavy applications were limited to Wi-Fi use only.

With Android now outselling iPhone and BlackBerry mobile devices (s rimm), you can probably expect Verizon (s VZ), Sprint (s S) and other mobile carriers to follow suit and start their own metered plans, particularly if Android users continue to use the 3G network for video viewing.

It will also become more important as mobile phone users watch even more video. Viewing times for mobile video continued to increase, according to Rhythm NewMedia, with the amount of time viewers spent watching full episodes of TV content increasing 20 percent quarter-over-quarter. The ad network reports that after starting a full-length episode, 26.5 percent of users watched the entire thing on their mobile devices, and 41 percent watched at least half the episode.

Photo courtesy of Jim Champion.

Related content on GigaOM Pro: Hot Topic: Mobile Broadband Pricing (subscription required)

25 Responses to “Android Users Are the New Mobile Data Hogs”

  1. I would have loved to have seen early iPhone data. It’s easy to show dominance of a particular data set in survey when you jump on the data fairly quickly (As seems to be the case in the examples above. iPhone has been around now for much longer than the Droid and other Android devices, and as such, iPhone users most likely have learned that it’s often smarter to use wi-fi instead of the (sometimes) costly 3G networks.)

    As Android devices continue to penetrate the market, my bet is that the number of 3G users (on Androids) will decrease as more Android users take advantage of wi-fi capabilities. The end result will most likely look more like the Apple pie chart (no pun intended).

  2. Anon E. Mouse

    There’s also no breakout of carriers by device make by device model by OS by OS version. It’s insane you wouldn’t provide ALL of the data for free publicly. Just pure madness.

    And Stacy “predicted,” not reported what others told her? Interesting.

  3. Gee… I guess the carriers should use all this new revenue from all of these new smartphone users and improve their network capacity. Instead of doing so, they’ll give themselves bigger bonuses first, then use a smaller proportion of their profits to build out their networks.

  4. I still can’t believe it’s legal to fall back on “we signed up too many people” as an excuse for poor service. My clients don’t accept “I can’t handle your request right now, I’ve got too many other people paying me money to do things” as a reason. They’d rightly tell me that I A) Was in breach of contract, and B) that I should hire more people to help me.

  5. iphone owners tend to be wealthier and therefore more likely to have wifi at home. in fact most android phone owners i know do not have have home internet so their 3G is their only internet connection.

    • Steve in TX

      Well, not to get nitpicular (look for Sarah P to start using that word), but Android doesn’t run on the 3G. Also, I would have to agree with the other reply, in that people who have the money for a ‘droid phone probably have a home network.

  6. Ryan – you quote proportions, but did you get any idea of many total minutes of video is consumed by Android and iPhone users? 72% of 20 minutes/month would be less than 56% of 100 minutes/month…

    Also, to what extent do WiFi-only iPod Touch users distort this survey?

    Tough for us to draw conclusions without this extra data.

    • Ryan Lawler

      The report doesn’t include absolute numbers, so not sure about the total number of minutes consumed.

      I have heard back from Rhythm NewMedia about iPod Touches, though:

      “Just so you know, iPod touches are not included in the iPhone versus Android chart that you pulled into the post. It’s a pure sample of iPhones only.

      When you look at our entire network and add in iPod touches and iPads, then you get the 53% 3G and 47% Wifi split shown on Slide 6.”

    • Whatever

      And WiFi only iPad users. There’s also no breakdown by carrier. Due to AT&T’s heavily overloaded network, iOS users have been trained at this point to seek out the nearest WiFi hotspot whenever they want to do anything (AT&T has encouraged this by adding WiFi networks in heavily used cities). I’m betting that the breakdown for Android devices on AT&T’s network is closer to what you see for iOS devices.