iPhone 4S Has a Big Appetite

9:25 AM -- Just 1 percent of mobile users consume half of downloaded data on the network, and iPhone 4S users consume more mobile data than users of any other smartphones, according to the latest smartphone usage study from Arieso Ltd. released on Friday.

Sounds like the sort of thing that can keep network operators up at night.

Arieso, a network management software specialist, found that Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s iPhone 4S used three times as much data as the iPhone 3G and twice as much data as the iPhone 4.

The sample for this study comprised more than 1 million customers at a Tier 1 mobile operator in Europe in both urban and suburban environments, and the data was collected over a 24-hour weekday period.

So the study is just a snapshot. But the trend for high-end smartphones like the iPhone 4S to eat up ever more mobile data coupled with a very small percentage of users taking up a large proportion, if not most, of the network capacity, poses a challenge for operators. What's an operator to do to cope with these extreme data users and traffic patterns?

Of course, that's where Arieso comes in. It thinks operators need location-based and subscriber-based traffic analysis so that they can better understand how subscribers use mobile data and how specific devices affect the network, which is just what it provides. The company uses information that operators collect for billing purposes -- like data call setup and breakdown, which remains on operators' premises -- to identify where extreme users are located and how much data they are consuming and when.

Armed with that kind of analysis, an operator could then decide how and where to add more capacity. The operator could, for example, deploy another macrocell in a high-usage area, install microcells or perhaps even offer certain extreme users a femtocell of their own.

While the network implications are always interesting, what's driving the data usage on the iPhone 4S to make it the "hungriest handset" that Arieso CTO Michael Flanagan says he's ever seen?

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

COMMENTS Add Comment
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shygye75 12/5/2012 | 5:46:30 PM
re: iPhone 4S Has a Big Appetite

Highway designers and fast-food merchants have proved this out. The stampede toward everything mobile will undoubtedly create a huge supply/demand bandwidth crisis that could linger for years. It's shaping up to be a tragedy of the commons situation that's going to require a bagful of solutions.

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 5:46:30 PM
re: iPhone 4S Has a Big Appetite

The easier it is to consume data, the more we'll consume.

joset01 12/5/2012 | 5:46:29 PM
re: iPhone 4S Has a Big Appetite

Unless it turns out that we *are* killing the bees with cellphone transmissions.

krishanguru143 12/5/2012 | 5:46:28 PM
re: iPhone 4S Has a Big Appetite

How is easier to consume more data on the iPhone 4S than that of the iPhone 4 (and previous models) though?  Does it deal more with sloppy programming for features on the iPhone 4S as compared to the previous models?  What exactly does the iPhone 4S do that the other models and other manufacturers cannot do?


I read that a test was done, a brand new iPhone was purchased, all settings that were related to data were turned off and after a month, data usage was still shown.  So by default, the iPhone uses data no matter what you do.  If anything, it is more the phone and not the user that can be attributed to higher usage.

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 5:46:28 PM
re: iPhone 4S Has a Big Appetite

We assume that folks are consuming more just because they can, but I wonder if they are really consuming the same or nearly the same and the video files being served to those devices are just bigger, better resolution, etc. because the devices can now handle it?

shygye75 12/5/2012 | 5:46:28 PM
re: iPhone 4S Has a Big Appetite

1% of users hog 50% of the world's mobile broadband resources? Even Wall Streeters can't make that claim to resource hogging. Hats off to iPhone 4S users for unprecedented conspicuous consumption.

MeerkatMac 12/5/2012 | 5:46:27 PM
re: iPhone 4S Has a Big Appetite

Biggest contributors to the iPhone 4S data consumption:

<li>Siri - requires real-time, un-cacheable bi-directional data transmissions for voice request/response transactions.</li>
<li>Automatic iCloud Syncs - set to sync whenever the device is plugged in and not in use.&nbsp; This can be the source of enormous data transfers depending on the phone's data and media content. </li>
<li>iTunes Downloads - Music and Video content from the online store. </li>
<li>Online Gaming - Apple's "Game Center" that allows game play between multiple devices.</li>
<li>Integrated Twitter Updates - built right into the iOS increase Twitter chatter use.</li>
<li>eMail and Internet Browsing.</li>
<li>Other social media apps - such as Facebook.</li>
<li>Clandestine Personal Use Data Transmissions - sent to Apple periodically to establish use and location data for profiling customers to their advertisers.</li>

Should service providers continually invest in beefing up their networks to handle these ever increasing data requirements, or should device vendors take steps to curb their devices' appetites for bandwidth through more efficient use of the network?&nbsp; It seems a little one-sided that equipment vendors share all of the revenue while network providers share all of the costs.

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 5:46:27 PM
re: iPhone 4S Has a Big Appetite

I think the data usage goes up for consumers with newer phones because phones with newer processors allow folks to do several things at once, with a lot of those things happening in the background (email updates, app downloads, iCloud or Amazon music synching and so on). Newer phones also take larger images and higher resolution movies, so even if you ONLY share photos and videos at, say, a Christmas party, the amount of data you've used this year is likely double what you used last year.



krishanguru143 12/5/2012 | 5:46:26 PM
re: iPhone 4S Has a Big Appetite

So up until the iPhone 4S phones couldn&rsquo;t multitask?&nbsp; Fact is, the iPhone STILL cannot truly multitask.&nbsp; Back in 2007 I could do all of the following.&nbsp; Watch a movie, have email going (which would also check periodically for new messages, web browser open (and active in the background) have various other apps all running as well.&nbsp; I could have 12 apps open and all running and that was five years ago.


I see you mention a camera and higher resolution.&nbsp; Using your logic, then should a phone like the Nokia N8 be at the top of the charts?&nbsp; Surely a 12MP camera produces larger images and videos than that of an 8MP camera.&nbsp; What about Android phones with 8MP or higher cameras?&nbsp; Why does the iPhone 4S standout over the others in terms of data usage?


As for music syncing and cloud access, do you mean that it not available on Android?&nbsp; Sure it is, so once again, why is the iPhone 4S that much higher on data usage?&nbsp; Doesn&rsquo;t the iPhone 4 have access to iCloud as well?&nbsp; So once again, why is the iPhone 4S that much more?&nbsp; Does Siri really take that much?


So photos and videos alone do not account for twice as much across the board.&nbsp; File sizes are not twice as much at 8MP compared to 5MP.&nbsp; While the iPhone 4S supports 1080P compared to 720P on the iPhone, that doesn&rsquo;t mean anything.&nbsp; You can get 720P to be larger than 1080P.&nbsp; Going with various tests, the iPhone 4S encoding bitrate is not twice that of the iPhone 4.&nbsp; So once again, that doesn&rsquo;t explain twice the data.


The fact is, the iPhone doesn&rsquo;t do anything other phones cannot do.&nbsp; Maybe Apple is just a little to active in their push, checking for updates, etc than other manufacturers.&nbsp; Case in point was that even with all possible data settings disabled, it still uses data. &nbsp;Off is not off in Apple land. &nbsp;So maybe the iPhone 4S is the worse yet.

shygye75 12/5/2012 | 5:46:26 PM
re: iPhone 4S Has a Big Appetite

I think you've identified one of the biggest issues in the mobile transition. Despite its perceived stature, Apple for most of its history has operated on the fringes. As it becomes a more dominant mainstream supplier, its product design inefficiencies will become more painfully apparent. The problem is likely to be compounded by the fact that other handset makers will take the same bandwidth-abusive approach to keep pace with Apple.

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