Data-Hungry Apps on the Rise

Apps may consume surprising amounts of data, suggesting users need better ways to monitor app Internet traffic as metered data plans become the norm.

A U.K. report found that the average data usage among the 50 most popular apps in the country was about 10-megabytes per hour.

The most voracious app, inexplicably, was “Tap Zoo,” a Farmville-style game that pushed 115-megabytes an hour. That kind of data volume would impact battery life as well as data quotas.

Although many users recognize that Web browsing and media streaming eat a lot of data, people don’t expect apps to generate much traffic if they aren’t explicitly downloading things. These findings suggest that it would be helpful if apps disclosed their traffic demands to protect users from hitting data caps a week into a billing cycle or racking up overage charges.

Carriers know that users like unlimited data plans — but they’re not crazy about offering them, especially because of the toll it can take on a network. For example, when Verizon began selling the iPhone 4 in January, it offered an unlimited plan to sweeten the deal. But according to a top executive, the carrier will switch back to tiered pricing before the iPhone 5 ships.

AT&T dropped its unlimited plans last year.

Verizon will also begin phasing out unlimited data plans in favor of tiered ones. The company recently announced it would roll out “family data plans,” which will let family members’ phones, tablets and other device share one capped plan, with one monthly fee, in the hopes of softening the blow of taking away unlimited data.

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