Smartphone Data Usage Up, Unlimited Plans Disappearing

Smartphone Data Usage Up, Unlimited Plans Disappearing

Smartphone owners are using more than twice the data from a year ago data usage, while data plan rates have remained constant, according to research firm Nielsen. But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.

The marketing company’s report comes amid news that carriers are reconsidering their data pricing, in a move that could help them gain profit from rising data usage.

Verizon is phasing out its $30-a-month unlimited data plan this summer and replacing it with plans that charge based on the number of gigabytes used. Verizon is rumored to switch data plans as soon as July 7.

AT&T, meanwhile, has been charging tiered rates for about a year, while T-Mobile recently announced it will switch over as well.

Sprint has yet to join the charge-by-the-data-usage set, but is expected to usage continues to skyrocket. Nielsen said usage increased around 90 percent year-over-year among smartphone users and more than doubled among the top 10 percent of data users.

Meanwhile, carriers weren’t getting much bang for their buck, charging 8 cents per megabyte when they were getting 14 cents per megabyte the year before, thanks to increased data usage and unlimited data plans.

Verizon and AT&T, in particular, are interested in scrapping unlimited data plans as Android and iPhone owners use the most data — 582-megabytes per month, on average, for Android owners and 492-megabytes per month for iPhone owners.

“Growth in smartphone data usage is clearly being driven by app-friendly operating systems like Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android,” the Nielsen report said.

Google has every right to feel a little smug about beating out Apple in the data usage game, and it may mean Android phones are more fun to operate or that the Android Market is beginning to have a more crowd-pleasing selection of apps.

But the competition is likely to heat up as the percentage of cell phone owners packing smartphones increases from 37 percent now to an expected 50 percent next year, according to Nielsen.

Whether the plans will cost users more in the long run is uncertain. Some people may cut back on their usage, which could hurt the mobile app market or cause some people to be less interested in buying internet-ready phones, a step that could backfire on some carriers. But as long as people are creatures of habit, wireless customers are likely to keep on consuming data around the clock.

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