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Smartphone data usage up 89%, cost per MB down 46% in U.S., study says

June 17, 2011 | 12:50 pm

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Mobile data consumed on smartphones is up an average of 89% in the U.S., due in large part to the average cost of data per megabyte falling by 46%, according to new research from the Nielsen Co.

The research group described the growth of data usage as a "data tsunami" that is "growing at an astounding pace" in its latest report, released Friday. The group tracks the cellphone bills of more than 65,000 cellular lines.

"Smartphone owners –- especially those with iPhones and Android devices -- are consuming more data than ever before on a per-user basis," wrote Don Kellogg, a senior manager for Nielsen's telecom research and insights team, in a report on the group's findings. "This has huge implications for carriers since the proportion of smartphone owners is also increasing dramatically." 

Currently, about 37% of all cellphone subscribers in the U.S. are using smartphones, Kellogg said.

Over a 12-month period ended March 31, the amount of data the average American smartphone user consumes each month has grown by 89%, from 230 megabytes to 435 megabytes, he said.

"A look at the distribution of data consumption is even more shocking," Kellogg pointed out.

Data usage for the top 10% of smartphone users has increased an average of 109%, while the top 1% has produced an average spike of 155%, over the same 12-month period, he said.

The rise in data usage on smartphones is being driven by consumers using more apps on mobile operating systems such as Apple's iOS and Google's Android.

"Consumers with iPhones and Android smartphones consume the most data: 582 MBs per month for the average Android owner and 492 MBs for the average iPhone user," Kellogg said. "Also of note, Windows Phone 7 users doubled their usage over the past two quarters, perhaps due to growth in the number of applications available."

But, even as data consumption has nearly doubled over the 12-month period, most smartphone owners aren't having to pay much more on their monthly cellphone bills.

The average smartphone user pays about 8 cents per megabyte, down from 14 cents per megabyte a year earlier, Kellogg said.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: A member of the audience uses their iPhone to photograph newly elected Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) as she speaks during a meeting of Democratic National Committee on  May 4 in Washington. Credit: Alex Brandon / Associated Press

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