Smartphone users rarely exceeding 2GB data usage per month, according to NPD


Though the move towards tiered and shared data packages has been met with much resistance and grumbling from smartphone owners, a new study by NPD suggests the vast majority of users are just fine without access to unlimited data plans. Using an Android app to collect info on the data usage of 1,000 smartphone users, NPD found that users on T-Mobile’s network are the most bandwidth hungry. Even still, only 11 percent of subscribers use more than 3GB of data per month.

For AT&T and Verizon, the number is even lower, with only 4 percent and 3 percent of users exceeding 3GB respectively. Usage on Sprint’s network was found to be in the same range as AT&T and Verizon despite unlimited data offerings. T-Mobile’s higher number is attributed to a younger subscriber base taking advantage of streaming music and video. In general it was determined that WiFi connectivity played a large role in alleviating excessive mobile data usage.

While some may find the results surprising, they certainly echo sentiments of my own. While holding on to an unlimited Verizon data plan, rarely does my monthly data usage exceed 2GB. While it is true users will likely be fine with the new data plans set forth by carriers, it doesn’t change the increasingly exorbitant fees service providers are asking for.

[via BGR]

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  1. yea i pay for 10gb, but have used .500 gb so far this month
    if i start tethering though, thats a different story

  2. As much as I love Sprint, I would literally have to be on my phone 24/7 to go over 5gb on their 3g… I can’t stand browsing without WiFi unless I have to, just because of the speed–never mind data usage.

  3. I average about 12gb/month without tethering or downloading torrents and such. Just streaming music and videos.

    1. Nearly the same here. Between Pandora, Slacker, and Netflix, I go over 6GB monthly….add the other 4 users in my Family-plan and the tiered options really start sucking.

    2. About 8gb/month for me haha

    3. Do you have broadband at home or work?

      1. at home yes, at work no wifi

        1. Where do you watch most of your videos? I’d assume music in the car?

          1. music/movies/tv/video chat/remote access over 3/4G when at work, in car or anywhere else I may be that doent have a good wifi connection. Im on wifi at home.

          2. typically people watch movies/music/vid chat at work on a WORK computer. Remote access at work is redundant. You’re at work.

          3. Youve no idea what I do for a living because I have not said… Believe it or not, everyone does not work at a desk infront of a computer. ;)

  4. As a T-Mobile user, I can attest to being a bandwidth
    hog. In my area, I get 16-22mbps down so
    going through bandwidth is an easy task.
    I commute every day to my job at Dish and I stream content the whole
    way. I can use 8 GBs without really
    breaking a sweat. My favorite is while I
    am on the train to work, I use Dish Online to stream a ton of free movies and
    TV shows to my Samsung Galaxy S III. The
    experience is seamless and it makes a boring commute fly by.

  5. I’d say it’s probably true… This month has been exceptionally mobile data heavy for me but I’m still under 600 MB on my 4 GB limit on Verizon. Maybe I’ll use more if/when they open up tethering on my current plan…

    1. So you’re saying you’re having a heavy flow month? …..

      1. I wouldn’t and didn’t use those words but it has been a more active month.

        1. I know. Just joking…

  6. If you don’t stream its pretty tough to use a lot. I’m at 1 GB with 11days left in my billing cycle. If I didn’t have wifi at home I’d be somewhere around 20GB downloading all these nightly builds. :-)

    1. Then there are people such as yourself who clearly don’t need data elsewhere than on the road.

  7. I always use more than 4gb without tethering. I’d say that about 95% of my data usage is streaming music. the other 5% is email, web browsing, videos, etc.

    I’m eligible for a phone upgrade on verizon as of yesterday but I don’t want to lose my unlimited plan so i’ll keep buying phones without subsidies until Verizon brings back unlimited plan at my current rate.

    1. Best way to go or you could switch to t-mo get an upgrade and true unlimited datas of sept 5th…

      1. I would go back to t-mobile as it worked great for me most of the time. The reason I switched to verizon is that the last three jobs I had my office(s) were t-mobile dead zones. Before I switched almost 3 years ago i was paying $60 a month for a verizon hot spot in order to get data to my nexus 1 while i was at work.

  8. As more content is moved to the web more data will be needed.When you start streaming alot of music and videos you will need more data and more bandwidth.

    1. +1 I was just about to mention that as the cloud grows, so too will the amount of gigs used.

  9. What I don’t understand is this, if it is true that very few people use more than 2GB a month then why even bother with the tiered plans to begin with?

    1. Because somebody is telling a bold faced lie or just has incorrect info, I think its all of the above. One thing this study can’t confirm is why people only use at most 2gbs of data. Majority of data plans that people are on aren’t unlimited actually if there was someway to get a hold of all carrier data for people on the tier plans I bet it would show that these people only use this much because the majority of people only have a 2-5gb plan they know they are capped, they know they are limited so people control it because they have to and I bet those 11% are those on a unlimited plan with no overages or data caps.

      In short I believe people with tiered data would be more care to not use their 2-5gb data plans up as opposed to unlimited users who are like who gives a hoot i gots the unlimitedz download stream enjoy

      1. well they did mention sprint users used the same as att n verizon. and i’m sure more than 11% of att n verizon users have unlimited at the moment since those tiered plans came into affect not that long ago. Many times the 10% people who take advantage cause new rules that affect the whole. But more detailed data would always be welcomed. Howver i do not think that number is too far off. Most people i’ve personally seen, only use internet for facebook/email/gps/ and occasional pandora.

    2. What I wonder is what plans the participants in the study were on. This should be in the description, but I was too lazy to read the original report. This would be revealing if everyone participating was on an unlimited plan. But it would be a pretty bad study if the participants were on tiered plans and thus not using much data.

    3. If you are on a tiered plan, you hold off your inclination to use it the way you’d really want.

    4. I believe its because those that do use more often use MUCH more. I believe I remember hearing a stat on cable broadband that says only a small percentage of users use the majority of data.

    5. shoosh, wish I could say that sometimes, but I love me some Pandora radio

  10. I’m on Sprint with unlimited data. And even with LTE here in Atlanta, I’ve only used 200MB so far this month.

    1. And how many days are left in your cycle?

      1. 12 days left. I’ll admit I’ve been using a lot less this month. But my average is around 1.5GB. And that includes streaming music with Google Play.

  11. I hit my throttle limit on t-mobile about every other month. 5GB of data used. This is partially because I only have 10GB to work with on my HTC One S and partially because I do a lot of streaming videos (youtube) and music (pandora, youtube, gmusic).

  12. I work to stay under 2GB. I sync playlists. I rarely am anywhere that I would want to watch a lot of video that doesn’t have a wifi handy. Now if I forget to sync a play list at home and stream a few podcasts I can get into the limited “unlimited”. Now if I didn’t have to worry about being throttled on a reasonably priced plan I would probably not worry where I synced my data. And use a whole lot more of it.

  13. 3 or 4 percent is still a lot of people.

  14. 7gb a month average for me alone

  15. May & June I used less then 500 mbs. August I used about 3.5 gbs.

  16. bunk study,

    those on verizon, ATT, and Tmobile stay low on data because they’ll either get throttled or charged extra. sprint’s data speeds are crap so people use wifi instead. these companies know damn well if they offered unlimited, unthrottled, tetherable data people would drop their ISPs like a bad habit and be averaging 100s of GBs a month.

    you only have to look at how much data people go through with their ISP to know this is crap.

    this study is total bullocks

    1. Well Tmo is offering a no-throttling data plan. So…?
      Oh!! And Tmo’s 2G (throttled speed) is as fast as Sprint’s 3G. So…?

      I’m on Sprint and I average about 2GB a month. That’s because I’m around WiFi enough to use that instead of my data. I think this test is more legit than you think. LoL!!

  17. huh? I go over 4g every month. I don’t have a WiFi connection available at work.

  18. well people are forced to use WiFi because they are afraid of passing their data limit…that’s why its so low…..and on my sprint network everything is just so slow that I can’t even get to 300mb per month

    1. +1! I had the first evo 3g from google IO and the sprint data seemed consistent meaning I could almost always get data however it was also consistently SLOWWWWW. I had actually planned to switch to sprint for the evo at launch and even preordered one. Once I used the evo for a week I was glad i didnt make the move to sprint.

  19. I’m quite comfortable on my old $15 200MB/month AT&T plan, because I rarely ever need more when cheap WiFi is so ubiquitous.

    Attached a screenshot of my (4G) data usage for the past 7 days. I’ve only used 32MB of data mostly for XDA forum text and pulse news, but on WiFi I’ve used 2.7GB mostly on DropBox uploads (tibu, photos, video), and app updates.

    If data was much cheaper — or if I was one of you lucky bastards with grandfathered unlimited data — you bet your ass I’d be using 10GB+/mo, since 4G in NYC is faster than my cable internet, especially the upstream b/w.

  20. I used about 5GB of data last month on my Sprint Galaxy Nexus. I do tether, but usually I only use about 3.5GB but since 4G picked up in my area, been taking advantage of it

  21. I never use less than 2gb and haven’t in the last 4-5 year’s. I was with ATT and paid overages on the 4gb plan everymonth for the whole 8 months. Im back to unlimited bc i have too have it to keep cost down. I use WIFI at home.. but as a plant operator I have a lit of freetime for data streaming at the plant on night’s. Psshh this study is bogus and it needs to look at the types of plans people are using

  22. I routinely go over 2GB, but have yet to break my 3GB plan limit. As others have stated, I too try to use wifi as much as possible, even if it is way slower.

  23. I wouldn’t drop my ISP for a sorry mobile connection. My home connection is 100mb/s

    1. good for you how much do you pay btw?

  24. Im deff not one of those! I am currently using roughly 2.5GB a month as I always stream high quality music through my phone while driving

  25. I’m 10 days in in my current cycle and have used 3GB out of 5. I haven’t even been using that much and have wifi at home. I can easily beat 5gb of data. Good thing T-Mo is releasing unlimited data plans on Sept. 5. I will switch once someone confirm tethering is working after root.

  26. 38gb used last month on 4g LTE

    1. Holy CRAPPPPPPP!!!! What are you constantly downloading porn or what????? Seriously, That is ridiculous!

      1. If he downloads porn thats his business but you don’t need to do that to hit 38gbs. 4G LTE is very fast Playing games, streaming music, streaming videos, using google nav, google local, app updates, app download, picture messaging, with phones turning to cloud servers data is rising, Tethering, Surfing the web, reading emails, uploading videos, uploading music, facebook, twitter, thats what happens when you don’t need to watch your data and connect to a wifi connection 90% of the time. Its not ridiculous, its realistic if you have unlimited data and don’t use wifi. if you have unlimited you should NEVER have to use wifi at all.

        1. i have used in the last 27 days, 11gb on my phone and 19gb on my tablet (tethered to my phone) on my unlimited plan that allows tethering. I only access wifi if i cant get a data signal or my signal is slow. Mainly see youtube tech videos or tv (via apps or website like bbciplayer, tvcatchup, filmon etc) in my car for my child and wife in the back seat on long drives. sometimes i can eat through a couple of gb in an hour! I pay for an unlimited plan and i use it! I didnt use to use it for a few years but do now after the scum bags once throttled me when i hadnt even tethered and was told they gave me a phone plan and i was using a galaxy note and they considered it a tablet and tethering. Gave them a few choice words saying my plan was an unlimited plan that allowed tethering and the galaxy note was sold the world over as a phone (including later by the same network) and they unblocked my phone. Was pissed off so now i make sure i use my data liberally as i pay for it. earlier i rarely used to cross 1gb but now always cross easily 10gb and sometimes more than 30gb a month on my phone plan (tehered to my tablet). also have an unlimited home braodband but havent bothered to check how much data i use on that. And no before anyone enquires, its not porn. Loads of tech videos from youtube in highest quality video available mainly. I wonder if most of the people in this study are actually on an unlimted plan or just using dumb phones with data plan.

          use the nexus 7 as an in car entertainment / infotainment device then watch the data fly. you can watch netflix / live tv / tv catch up / skype video chatting for passengers obviously and music too via pandora, tuneinradio pro / sat nav etc plus the usual tablet uses otherwise too tethered to phone on unlimited plan. The data flies and i cant believe people in this study actually are on unlimited plans.

    2. Jesus what on earth do you do

  27. I pay for 5gb. I get 10 GB. I normally use 6-8 GB. On Big Red.

  28. Poll should be changed to “Smartphone users on 2GB tiered plans rarely excede 2GB data usage”….

    if it were true, carriers wouldn’t be so adament on trying to force people off unlimited plans.

    1. Who says they are adamant. You are allowed to keep your unlimited plan for as long as you want. You can still buy a phone outright without subsidizing through a carrier. You can keep your “old” phone.

      Truth be told, ANY company providing bundled services frequently updates their packages from year to year. When you renew or want new features you’re typically asked if you want to sign up under a new bundle, usually saving you money in one way or another.

  29. I think this is a little misleading in that you’re only talking about data that’s transferred over the provider’s network…I think that if you measured data transfers over wifi you’ll probably that number to at least triple. I used the Olympic streaming app just about everyday during the Olympics but between being on the office wifi and my home wifi I didn’t use any data…as far as Verizon was concerned I was nonexistent but then again that’s how most people feel about me… :-)

  30. Cell companies have conditioned and scared the public in to not wanting to use data.

  31. I think we could see this change. On T-Mobile, speeds are fast throughout the majority of their network to stream HD netflix videos for example. With their new plans, we could possibly see people now stream netflix all day on their phones. WIth Sprint, the vast majority of their network is simply not fast enough for that.

  32. I rarely if ever crack 1 GB!

    1. You have an iphone???

      1. Gnex, actually :) At home and work I have wifi and when I go out to lunch, dinner, or the bars, I spend my time checking email, NPR, phandroid, or the verge. haha. Once I upgrade the car stereo I’ll be using the cloud to deliver music but by then I’ll have a shorter commute. If I stream video its almost always from the Xbox or tablet at home. I dunno how everyone gets so high in data usage!

      2. sheep use a lot of bandwidth posting pictures of food on instagram. Just ask JulieZHung

  33. I use 2 gb just checking phandroid and other android blogs…

  34. Unlimited on big red…..I am at 2.5 for this month but usually closer to 5-7 gb consistently. I have been using wifi a bunch since my house gets zero lte signal ever since I moved……DOH!

  35. Not sure what unit the data is measured in, just has data column and a number, most recently the number was 52,652,659 for the month. And everything about sprint being slow must be bad coverage area, because i have sprint with no problems.

  36. This whole thing is pretty ridiculous. I’m still enjoying being grandfathered into to a unlimited data plan but got a new phone. I’ve gone over 2gs in just this week alone! Sure I’ve been around Wi-Fi but when the 4G is faster why bother?

    1. you could have bought the phone outright with no subsidies. Your own fault.

  37. Just reached 5gbs 2 days before end of monthly cycle so only throttled for 2 days, ever since I got the GS3, I’ve been using a lot more because it’s so much more pleasing to use than my 2 year old Vibrant

  38. I am 27, on AT&T. My bill cycles on the 9th and as if right now Ive used 632.3 of my 2g. I read the news, check the weather, stream music on my commute, email, facebook, all on my data pack. (I also do all these things on my wifi.) I dont really stream movies from my phone. I very very rarely go over 1gb. I havent even bothered to add the extra gig for $5.

  39. I had unlimited on Big Red, and the only time I went over 2 GB was when I was in the hospital, and then it was 3GB. I switched to the share everything plan because with four of us on smart phones it was a lot cheaper. We have 8 GB, and on the first full month the whole family used less than 2GB. I even used my phone for navigation and one of my boys streamed netflix while riding the bus home from camp (3 hours) We went on a trip, and I used my phone to tether the laptop so the boys could watch a movie on Netflix. At first we were all watching the data, but then realized we didn’t use as much as we thought. I checked it (and have alerts set up) to make sure no one child was abusing it. We do all use wi-fi when at home, and the kids have wi-fi access at school. (one even has wi-fi on his school bus!) I listen to Pandora, fb, email, etc. I also have my phone set up so that it uploads every picture to dropbox.

  40. I exceed every month the 2 GB mark since I stream music daily…
    And I think that the argument that since most people don’t need it I can stop everyone from having it is pretty flawed in my view…

  41. To shitty coverage where i live to even use up my 1Gb in “high speed”

  42. when I was with t mobile I was useing about 6gb switched to Verizon for the nexus I was useing 10gb I got tired of being raped in my bill and have switched to boost and use a little less than 2gb but that is because of sprints slow network. now I’m always on WiFi. I have wifi at home, at school I get WiFi the buses where I live offer WiFi and I don’t use my phone at work other than checking fb on my breaks.

  43. I only use about 3GB a month. I’m around WiFI quite often so I don’t have to worry about using data. Also, I don’t need to tether as much as I thought I would. I wouldn’t mind a 5GB plan. But I’m on sorry Sprint. Stupid family plan. -_-

    People who use 5GB+ every two weeks are those who tether to like 5 devices 25/8. LoL!!

    1. Not really I had a behold 2 and that was the first time I had ever hit the data cap on tmo and it was 2 weeks of navigation and music streaming alone. Played a couple of games here and there and stayed up on a couple of sites and read emails maybe 1 or 2 5minute youtube videos.

      1. Oh my gosh. 2 weeks of navigation!? That’s insane!!

  44. Does anyone know if there are any tethering app that allow you to tether without the carrier finding out about it?

  45. I average around 30+GB a month. I use FoxFi to teather both my laptop and tablet when I’m at work or at an unsecured public connection. I’ve never had any problems with connection or speed. Just as I heard the Big Red was going to stop the unlimited data I put my whole home (5 lines) all on unlimited data. The cost is high but with a teenage daughter, myself and my wife together we use 70+GB combined on average. I suppose were the exception. Thank goodness for foresight.

  46. Was all or part this survey conducted on phones that have a 2gb cap/throttling already in place, If so its no doubt the numbers are so low. This survey seams a little off.

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