Do Android phones normally consume more data?

Forum regular segalsegal has shared an anecdote about three iPhones and one Android phone, all on AT&T, all put through similar usage. Yet, the Android phone was eating data faster than any of the iPhones. By itself, this does not prove Android phones somehow eat more data than iPhones, but is this the only such story?

You may recall earlier reports that Verizon smartphone users are consuming more data than AT&T iPhone users. The DROID X alone is said to consume five times more data than Verizon’s other phones (per user on average), something Verizon has “embraced”. Clearly, no one is hiding the fact that Android phones are consuming more data. Conventional wisdom assumes the users are watching more video, sharing hotspot connections, and otherwise more actively using data. However, segalsegal’s story suggests a lot of that data may be eaten passively by the phones, not necessarily actively by the user.

I did some digging for stories to corroborate that account. Unfortunately, a lot of the hits went to the Verizon data story, and the few stories of high Android data usage that did arise are not in comparison to iPhone usage. This one DROID 2 user, for example, noted much higher consumption than on his previous Android phone. The apparently culprit was the Motoblur UI polling Facebook. Another story shows how email polling saps the battery life of an HTC Hero, which in turn means higher data consumption.

Data polling is a known battery killer on mobile devices and likely led to Android’s (undeserved) reputation for poor battery life. The flip side of that is poor battery life means high data consumption. Thus, these two issues are intertwined.

Of course, the same is true for iPhone. For example, because she does not use push email, my wife is squeezing out incredible battery life on my old iPhone 3G, able to go days between charging. Meanwhile, due to my use of push and much higher data consumption, I remain on a daily charging routine with my iPhone 4.

But again, these are comparisons within the product category. How Android compares on average to iPhone is another matter. Given previous reports of data usage and battery life, I’m inclined to think segalsegal’s experience was not a fluke, but the real cuprit could be a UI overlay or other embedded third-party software. Regardless, that’s still one story. More raw data is needed before any conclusion is drawn.

If you have used Android phones and iPhones alongside each other, or have switched from one to the other (as Digitaldoc has already shared in the forum), let us know, either here in the comments or in the forum thread, if you’ve noticed a change in data consumption despite maintaining the same habits, or if new habits don’t match up with your change in data consumption.

And in case it needs to be said, please keep in mind, we’re looking for data and experiences. “Android/iPhone is teh awsum” doesn’t help. Furthermore, Android purists may take this as an opportunity to objectively prove that overlay UIs negatively affect the platform.

10 Comments

  1. Hellense

    09/22/2010 at 7:30 am

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    Reply

    • Selangorgirl

      11/23/2010 at 9:18 pm

      hey..they are scam. stay away from topincart or novo trade or apple2007. i’ve paid a month ago but still didnt get my phone. i was dealing with their customer service Tomer. they were being very nice at first. but once they get my money, my email was ignored. they dont even entertain my question anymore. they also deleted my negative comment on their website. when i ask for my tracking number, they give so many excuses. and now, they want me to pay extra for shipping… HUH

      Reply

  2. Rong22334

    01/29/2011 at 9:07 pm

    im using Samsung Vibrant. SINCE i upgraded it from 2.1 to 2.2, it started to eat MB’s like crazy. LOOKS like it uses 4 times data than before. Dont know why…

    Reply

    • Joel Hernandez41

      11/06/2011 at 3:59 am

      I can answer that… your phone on android 2.1 used a version of the OS that didn’t require too much data to run HTML type websites. But android 2.2 is flash enabled so basically anything you do on the web is going to tear through your data plan (if you have limited data like most ppl do these days). I switched from android to Blackberry for that very reason on At&t… they use way less data then the mighty android 2.2 or 2.3.4

      Reply

  3. Lorne

    04/12/2012 at 7:10 am

    Came across this website as I’m getting very near to overshooting my data allowance for the first time ever this month after switching from a desire to an iphone 4. I’m hoping that it’s just been new phone fiddling that has gobbled the data. Especially as it looks like I should be using less data now

    Reply

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