Devour data much? Apple's Siri surely does

Apple's virtual personal assistant spurs iPhone 4S owners to use double the data that iPhone 4 users do, according to a new study from Arieso.

Apple's iPhone 4S is a major data user.
Apple's iPhone 4S is a major data user. Apple

iPhone 4S owners are most likely to consume boatloads of data, a new study from mobile network management company Arieso has found.

According to the company, iPhone 4S owners use twice as much data as iPhone 4 users and three times as much data as iPhone 3G owners. In the company's 2010 study, the iPhone 4 was the top data user.

How did the iPhone 4S take the crown, you ask? Simple, says Arieso chief technology officer Michael Flanagan in an interview published today by Bloomberg: Siri.

Apple's virtual personal assistant, which lets users find content from the Web, schedule appointments, and handle other tasks via voice commands, has been a welcome addition for folks trying to do more with their smartphones. But it has also proven troublesome on the data front because of its regular connections with Apple servers and the Web. In addition, Flanagan said, the iPhone 4S regularly connects with Apple servers to sync content, making it more likely to use data.

The implications of that data usage are huge for both consumers and carriers. Consumers have been forced into tiered data plans by many carriers, including AT&T and Verizon, limiting how much content they can consume each month. If they exceed their data limits, consumers are often hit with hefty fees just to get more data.

Although tiered data plans have been criticized, carriers justify the decision by saying that the move is designed to improve the overall quality of their networks, which are crumbling under the pressure of heavy usage.

Back in August, Validas, a company that analyzes cell phone bills for consumers, announced a study that looked at mobile data usage by customer. According to the firm, the average AT&T customer was using 116 percent more data in June than they were in July 2010. Verizon and Sprint saw their data usage per user jump by 150 percent and 69 percent, respectively. T-Mobile had average data usage drop by 2 percent.

That said, Arieso's study finds that only a relatively small number of users are consuming massive amounts of data. In fact, Arieso reported, just 1 percent of all mobile subscribers consume half of all downloaded data, and that would seem to indicate that Validas' study doesn't necessarily paint the whole picture.

"The introduction of increasingly sophisticated devices, coupled with growing consumer demand, is creating unrelenting pressure on mobile networks. The capacity crunch is still a very real threat for mobile operators, and it looks set to only get harder in 2012," Flanagan said in a statement. "The mobile industry needs new investment and new approaches to boost network performance and manage the customer experience."

As Arieso notes, it's not just the iPhone 4S that's to blame for heavy data usage. The company found that Samsung Galaxy S users consume 199 percent more downlink data than iPhone 3G owners. What's more, on the uplink side, HTC's Desire S beats out even the iPhone 4S, trumping iPhone 3G uplink data usage by 323 percent.

According to Bloomberg, Arieso conducted its study on a European network. It analyzed data from 1 million subscribers.

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