Smartphones are now consuming more data than tablets, with Apple's iPhone 5 being the "hungriest," a new study has shown.
The study by mobile analytics firm Arieso also showed only one percent of users is consuming 40 percent of all data, with LTE starting to take its toll.
The study is based on data from a European telco, but "is relevant to operators around the world because relative consumption between device users remains constant between geographies," according to Arieso.
"Despite a surge in the market for tablets, smartphone users have overtaken tablet users in their thirst for mobile data for the first time. As overall mobile data consumption continues to rocket, driven by new devices and richer content, the study suggests that extreme users are beginning to move to new LTE networks, but there is no let up on existing networks," it said.
Study author and Arieso Chief Technology Officer Dr. Michael Flanagan said they found novel usage patterns, new technologies and regional idiosyncrasies "are conspiring to make life increasingly difficult for mobile operators trying to meet evolving customer expectations."
He added the capabilities of the newest smartphones are unleashing even greater user demand.
“Regardless of device type and operating system, there is very little variation in the usage ‘signature’ between smartphone users and between tablet users. From this we discover that voice-capable ‘phablets’ – like the Samsung Galaxy Note II - are currently being used like smartphones, not tablets. If you can use it to make a phone call, the ‘phablet’ won’t be much like a tablet at all," he said.
Tablets, phablets, smartphones
The study showed that of the 10 ten most data-voracious devices excluding dongles, six were smartphones, three were tablets and one a ‘phablet’ or phone-tablet.
Of the 125 devices studied, users of the latest iPhone again proved the most voracious data consumers, the study showed.
But for the first time in three years, this dominance is being challenged.
The study showed users of the iPhone 5 demand four times as much data as iPhone 3G users and 50 percent more than iPhone 4S users.
Users of iPhone 4S had been the most demanding in the 2012 study.
However, users of Samsung's Galaxy S III users generate - upload instead of download – photos, videos and other content.
And they do this with nearly four times the amount of data than iPhone 3G users, beating iPhone 5 users into third place on uplink data usage behind the Samsung Galaxy Note II.
In the rapidly growing tablet market, Samsung Tab 2 10.1 users asserted their dominance - demanding 20 percent more data than iPad users.
While the study revealed that 1 percent of users consume 50 percent of the downlink data on 3G/UMTS networks last year, the hungriest 1 percent consume 40 percent this year.
Also for this year, the hungriest 0.1 percent consume almost 20 percent, the hungriest 10 percent consume 80 percent of the downlink data as LTE starts to make an impact.
“The region we studied this year has recently launched LTE, and we’re already seeing extreme users – especially those with dongles – starting to flock to 4G,” said Flanagan.
“In many respects, this is great news – LTE networks are doing their job. But the consumption levels and patterns of LTE use are very different to what operators could expect from 3G. It’s a complex, fluid and increasingly high stakes situation for operators to deal with. Having performance engineering solutions that can reveal the customer experience across multiple technologies is going to be vital to understanding this going forward,” he added.
The study also indicated operators cannot relax their focus on network planning, optimization and performance.
Flanagan said that for three years now, "we’ve seen how greater technical capabilities lead to greater data consumption by consumers."
He warned LTE alone may not solve the data problem and may even exacerbate it.
For the Asia Pacific, the study said network operators in developed Asia Pacific, specifically Southeast Asia, may experience similar data growth rates as in Latin America, but start from a much higher base.
It added many operators in this region are much more familiar with the demands of mobile data consumers and LTE networks.
"However, even with the new bandwidth and spectral efficiency provided by LTE, operators cannot sustain long term data growth projections. Accelerating effective small cell strategies ... will be critical if Asia Pacific operators are to avoid spectral exhaustion and the attention of regulators, as experienced recently in Singapore," it said. — TJD, GMA News