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5 Mobile Apps That Bust Data Caps

Sarah Thomas

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)’s new mobile data usage price plans will make smartphone packages more affordable for some people, but for other app-loving users, they could wreak havoc on their wireless bills. (See AT&T Intros Mobile Data Caps and AT&T Unveils Mobile Data Plans.)

Introducing its new metered plans, AT&T offered a scenario for what you can do with 2 gigabytes of data, its higher-end plan, in a month -- send or receive 1,500 emails with attachments and 10,000 without, view 4,000 Web pages, post 500 photos to social media sites, and watch 200 minutes of streaming video. But the reality might not be that clear cut. Not all apps are created equal, after all. (See AT&T Intros Mobile Data Caps.)

This does not, of course, apply to app usage over WiFi, but if an AT&T consumer is using her 3G network, what she actually gets from 2GB of data could be a different story. Patrick Lopez, chief marketing officer of mobile video optimization provider Vantrix Corp. , says most users will get to that cap within the first two to three weeks of their monthly subscription.

"That’s from regular usage, let’s say two to three videos per week," Lopez says. "Not every day, but every other day or so watching a video -- not even necessarily a full-length video, but going to YouTube every other day will use those 2GB very quickly."

Here are five top data hogs that could bust through the roof of your data caps.

  • YouTube Inc. : Or really, any video at all. According to Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), video will overtake peer-to-peer traffic for the first time by the end of this year. By 2014, video will hit 767 exabytes, or more than three-quarters of a zettabyte, of data usage. So, it doesn’t matter what app you are using, if it has video involved, you’re at risk -- which certainly makes the prospect of a Hulu LLC mobile app a little less enticing. (See Cisco: Video Traffic Set to Dominate Internet.)

    It’s really video, more so than any other possible app that’s driving data usage, says Vantrix's Lopez. YouTube’s mobile Website alone accounts for more than 50 percent of video traffic, but mobile users are also starting to watch full-length movies and mobile video for extensive periods of time. Viewing sessions will only continue to increase in time, he warns.
  • Knocking Live: This peer-to-peer live streaming video app has already surpassed 1 million users. The app lets users share cool videos with their friends of, say, an iPhone in flight, but it also causes data traffic to skyrocket.

  • ABC Inc. TV: The app, which supports 3G streaming, has proven popular on the iPad. But, if it only takes a few YouTube videos to max out, ABC's focus on streaming high-quality videos and longer-form content could put you over the top in one day alone. (See ABC Finds Success on iPad.)

  • Pandora Media Inc. : AT&T’s handy Data Calculator shows music streaming to be a significant source of data consumption, so any streaming music app will cost you.

  • Wired: On the iPad, Wired's magazine app is pretty slick, but it also requires a 500MB download, more than 100 times larger than the average song downloaded from iTunes. Simply downloading this app will be more than enough to exceed the 250MB minimum monthly data plan for the iPad. (See International Sales Push iPad Over 2M Mark.)

    — Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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    Pete Baldwin
    Pete Baldwin,
    User Rank: Light Beer
    12/5/2012 | 4:34:04 PM
    re: 5 Mobile Apps That Bust Data Caps

    I checked the Wired site to see if they had anything snide to say about the cap vs. their app. Didn't see anything but this was interesting:

    "One more thing. That June 7 launch date is the same day that Steve Jobs makes his keynote address at the 2010 WWDC. Coincidence? I doubt it."

    User Rank: Light Beer
    12/5/2012 | 4:33:53 PM
    re: 5 Mobile Apps That Bust Data Caps

    >> Wired: On the iPad, Wired's magazine app is pretty slick, but it also requires a 500MB download, more than 100 times larger than the average song downloaded from iTunes. Simply downloading this app will be more than enough to exceed the 250MB minimum monthly data plan for the iPad.


    Apps over 20mb are not possible to download over cellular.

    User Rank: Light Sabre
    12/5/2012 | 4:33:53 PM
    re: 5 Mobile Apps That Bust Data Caps

    Any of AT&T's competitors that are awake (yea you Verizon) should take this opportunity to steal AT&T customers, instead we'll probably just see Verizon follow suit in a few days.  It's like they take turns letting each other be first trying out unpopular changes to their plans. 

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