Appolicious powers Verizon Educational Tools

Data usage spurs carrier caps, innovative products and new laws

by Kristen Nicole

We sure love our smartphones. These web-connected, app-riddled devices are connecting us with more information than we can handle, and according to a recent Nielsen report, mobile data usage is growing faster than ever. Telecom Research & Insights senior manager Don Kellog writes in the NielsenWire blog that monthly data use grew 89 percent to 435MB in the first quarter this year, over the same quarter last year. Looking at the distribution of data consumption, and you’ll see that data usage for the top 10 percent of smartphone users is up 109 percent, while the top 1 percent has grown their usage by 155 percent, from 1.8GB in Q1 2010 to over 4.6GB in Q1 2011, Nielsen reported.

The report goes on to say that most smartphone users are paying about the same for data now as they were a year ago, but that perk may not last for ever. Telecom companies realize the increase in data use, and are eliminating unlimited data plans, even as data-heavy apps and services continue to hit the Android Market. T-Mobile’s “unlimited” plan will pull back speeds once users exceed their data plan’s threshold, while AT&T (T) and other wireless providers look to tier their mobile data plans in coming months.

The results of big mobile data spread far and wide

Some companies are looking for ways around increased data usage and potential network caps, by improving their own apps in various ways. Bitstream (BITS) is prepping a new version of its BOLT mobile browser for Android, leveraging its cloud computing architecture to improve browser speeds. Other companies are looking for ways to put personal data to use; a group of University of Cambridge researchers is looking at how we use our cellphones, collecting stats on how and when apps are used. The study collects data through its own Device Analyzer app, and has already gained more than 1,000 willing participants for this data harvesting project.

The rise of personal data-sharing and consumption is driving more than innovative products and studies. With the increasing potential around data leakage and misuse, two senators proposed a mobile privacy bill last week, in response to the furor over Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) devices’ ability to track and store users’ location information. Dubbed “Locationgate,” the backlash has been building since April, when researchers released an open source app that let Apple’s customers see the location data stored on their mobile devices. The hunt for Android users’ data followed, and the matter of data becomes a very broad question that carriers, consumers and lawmakers must address.