Mobile // Mobile Devices
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Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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One-Quarter Of Smartphone Owners Consume No Data

By some small miracle -- or catastrophe, I can't decide -- 25% of smartphone owners consume zero megabytes per month. They use their smartphones only for voice and text. What gives?

According to a new report from Nielsen, a huge percentage of smartphone owners aren't taking advantage of their devices at all. Roughly 25% use only the voice and SMS applications on their smartphone, leaving the mobile Internet, email, social networking, and Pandora streaming to others.

In fact, Nielsen reports that 33% of smartphone owners in the U.S. haven't even subscribed to a data plan. Nielsen attributes this odd statistic to those who were first to buy smartphones before data plans were required, and have somehow been grandfathered in without one.

During the first quarter of 2009, the average U.S. user consumed 90MB of data per month (though one-third of users consumed less than 1MB). During the first quarter of 2010, that number jumped to 298MB, an increase of 230%. Penetration of smartphones in the U.S. is at about 23%, and Nieslen claims about 20 million smartphone users are barely touching their devices.

This is a problem for the wireless network operators, as it means that a huge number of customers haven't been educated on how to use their devices. The result is that the carriers are missing out on a large revenue opportunity.

Looking at the other end of the spectrum, Nielsen says that the top 6% of smartphone owners are consuming half of all the mobile data used in the U.S. That doesn't surprise me. My own mobile data use ranges between 1.7GB and about 3.1GB per month. I use the browser constantly and of course email is always non-stop.

Nielsen came by this data after looking at 60,000 cell phone bills. The company didn't say if its analysis include data from business users of smartphones. Now that it has had a chance to look at an analyze this data, Nielsen concludes that AT&T's new data plans are fair.

Remember, AT&T changed the pricing of its data plans just ahead of the iPhone 4 launch. For $15 per month users get 200MB, and for $25 users get 2GB. AT&T said that two-thirds of its users would do fine with the $15 plan, and 97% of its users would do fine with the $25 plan.

Based on my own usage, which creeps over the 2GB mark about four or five months each year, I decided to keep my $30 unlimited plan when I bought the new iPhone several weeks ago.

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