Last Updated: September 3rd, 2011

This is the latest in our Weekend Poll series. For last week's, see How Much Has Owning A Tablet Impacted Your Computer Use?

It seems the explosive growth of smartphone use has had some unintended consequences: U.S. carriers are moving towards tiered data. While some carriers have had "soft" caps for years, we've recently seen a move towards hard caps. "Tiered" plans have long been standard in other parts of the world, but the simple difference is that US carriers charge significantly more across the board - be it basic plans (just minutes), add-on's (such as texting), or data (whether used on a plan or as-you-go).

In case you haven't yet seen the actual costs of Verizon's plans, here's a reminder copied straight from our analysis.

... they don’t add any value whatsoever for VZW subscribers, and their sole raison d’être seems to be raping subscribers’ wallets further still. Have a look for yourself:

  • 2GB – $30/month
  • 5GB – $50/month
  • 10GB – $80/month
  • Overages – $10/1GB

No, this isn’t a nightmare. The same price you’re currently paying for unlimited data ($30) will, if this rumor is to be believed, soon get you just 2GB per month. In fact, the closest thing to limitless data is the 10GB/month plan, which will cost nearly thrice the amount of money you’re already handing over to Verizon on a monthly basis.

But it gets worse. Want tethering? Add an additional $20 to one of those three ridiculously expensive fees. For those too lazy to do the math, that means:

  • 4GB – $50/month
  • 7GB – $70/month
  • 12GB – $100/month

The good news? If you’re currently serving a contract, your old unlimited plan won’t be taken away, but you’ll probably have to sign up for one of these new data plans once you upgrade to a new handset (though Kellex isn’t completely sure of that).

Ridiculous indeed. You may not be a Verizon customer, but odds are good that AT&T and T-Mobile will move in the same direction (even further than they already are, that is).

So what's the point of this diatribe? We're just curious to see how many people will actually be affected; according to Nielsen, the average Android user consumes about 582MB of data per month, but we have no idea what the standard deviation is on that - that is to say, how wide the curve is on usage.

Sound off in the poll, and drop us a line in the comments to share your thoughts.

How Much Cellular Data Do You Use Per Month, On Average?

View Results

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Aaron Gingrich
Aaron is a geek who has always had a passion for technology. When not working or writing, he can be found spending time with his family, playing a game, or watching a movie.

  • Paul

    It highly depends if I'm home in Edge (2G) coverage or travelling and in 3G/4G.

    If I'm home, I probably don't use more than 500 MB because 2G is painfully slow. If I'm travelling in a 3G/4G zone I use data crazy fast!

  • http://www.williamting.com William

    Does anyone have apps they recommend for tracking data usage? Ones I've used in the past have huge discrepancies in data reporting.

    • Paul

      I use 3G watchdog and it is usually decent with accuracy.

    • LeoZ

      Does your carrier have a way to view all your usage? I use Sprint Zone to view all my usage.

      • http://www.williamting.com William

        I'm on Sprint as well and can view that usage, but I'm also interested in wifi data usage.

    • JediMasterASD

      I use My Data Manager, it works great and even tells you how much data is being used by each individual app.


    • btod

      the app my verizon comes with a data usage widget that shows you how much data you have used already.

      • JayMonster

        And as an added bonus it stays running in the background all the time sucking your battery dry and gives VZW access to all the private information on your phone, they do this in the name of "accurate data tracking" rather than just pulling the information from their records.

    • Chris

      The free Norton Utility on the Android Market includes a number of useful features, including bandwidth tracking, tracking of number of text messages sent, etc.

      • JayMonster

        NORTON slows my office my office PC to a crawl, I can't (and don't want to) imagine what it would do to a phone.

        • Chris

          It hasn't had any impact on either my phone or any one of the PCs I've installed it on. On the phone side, it's only 1.84 MB, making it smaller even than the standard Flixter Movies app, or even the Android Market app.

          It's not a security suite though, just a set of monitoring tools that tracks statistics like data/text usage, SD card space, running processes, etc. I normally keep it (and most other processes on my phone) killed with Advanced Task Manager unless I actively need it for some purpose.

  • Ben

    I'm guessing 250MB-500MB. I'm at home a lot and use WiFi.

  • D Money

    We don't have home internet yet, so we've been using our phones tethered to our laptop. Last month we used a total of 38GB on our plan with 2 lines.

  • flattop

    thats expensive..I always thought internet and phones were cheaper in the US..Here in Spain I get 500mb internet for 6.90 euro per month plus 3cent calls using a company called masmovil.
    I am on wifi at my office and at home so I havent needed that much data coverage yet.

    • Mgamerz

      US telecommunications are easily some of the worst in developed countries

      • Foo

        Why do you say that? I'm not challenging you, just curious.

        • Mgamerz

          Theres pretty much monopolies allowed by city government to provide services. cable companies bring crappy service to areas and you cant do a thing about it. $50 a month for 7 mbps is meh... comcast throttles internet and the government pretty much can do.whatecer itwants for no reason. dont even get me started on wireless.

      • Chris

        Their infrastructure is terrible, but at least the landline ISPs don't have bandwidth caps like in some countries.

        • JayMonster

          Actually, Comcast does have a 250 GB cap, and some small regional ISPs also have caps.

        • Chris

          The large majority don't have caps though, and when Time Warner tried to test them, it was forced to drop the idea. Right now bandwidth caps are the general exception, rather than the rule.

    • Foo

      6.90 euro a month is about $10 US a month for 500mb.

      Do any US providers offer smaller/cheaper plans?

    • Mikey H

      I'm in the uk and I pay £15pm and get 3GB, I've managed to get up to about 1.5gig in the last year and that was with effort. I feel sorry for you guys in the US, can't be pleasant to have to bend over and take it like that from the carriers...

      I'm on T-Mobile btw :)

  • JayMonster

    I used to be well over 5 GB per month, but some small modifications like having my podcasts download overnight helped dramatically without much effect on my use of the phone. However, other chances like curbing my use of tv.com and not using my Amazon streaming as much as would like, while helpful in letting my usage down have me rather bitter with the providers. I can't imagine that this makes publishers all that happy either. What worries me now is that you might start seeing certain specials "partnerships" pop up, like say " free" steaming of Amazon music, but only for VZW subscribers or Netflix Streaming free when you have a certain tier of data plan on at&t, etc. Which would essentially turn Mobile service into cable plans.

  • hugus

    T-Mobile tracks your usage in an app already. I use the WiFi at home and work when I can to keep data usage down. That helps a lot. We also use WiFi calling for dead spots. Even using the WiFi calling, I never get close to the max.

  • http://www.iandroid.co.il digital oracle

    Wow, US pricing is really high.
    Here in israel I got 5gb plan for 28$,
    And unlimited plan is 34$ max,plus there almost no areas left with 2G so it's 95% 3G

  • Asphyx

    A Point to consider regarding upgrades...

    Most upgrades merely renew your current contract for two years. Since this is not a change of plan merely an extention of it, you will probably still be able to upgrade your phone without losing unlimited provided it is not a 4G phone.

    The rub is though that Most plans out there are 3G plans and VZW considers 4G to be a much different service requiring you to cancel the old contract and sign up for a new one.

    In that proccess you lose the unlimited.

    So if you really want to keep unlimited and move onto a 4G plan you had better upgrade to 4G now while they still have an unlimited 4G plan available. Then you should be able to upgrade your phone and renew without losing unlimited data.

    At some point VZW will stop offerring 3G phones (smartphones anyway) and force everyone to change their contract to the tiered 4G.

    • JayMonster

      are you basing this on. Thus far VZW had down no difference in their data plans. They don't list plans as 3g vs 4g. They just list "data," which makes sense considering the small footprint that 4g currently has available. Plus thus far none of the leaked paperwork lists a variation based on anything except feature phone vs. Smartphone.

      • Asphyx

        Right the data is where the difference is. They will claim that you need to change your data plan to use a 4G phone meaning they cancel your old data plan and give you a new one.

        This is all speculation since they have not yet killed unlimited plans and if you get a 4G phone now you can get the unlimited data for the life of 4G.

        P3Droid from TBH spelled all this out quite a while ago.

        Bottom line no matter what they plan to do if you want to guarantee unlimited and 4G you need to go 4G now while unlimited is still available for that system then they have no legal right to force you to cancel your data and force you to tiered on an upgrade.

        Once Unlimited goes away if you upgrade from a 3G to a 4G phone they have a loophole to cancel and tier you!

        • JayMonster

          I'm not saying you are wrong, since as you point out all of this is speculation at this point, but if what w have seen are actual training materials for VZW reps, then you would think that this would be spelled out specifically as it was with the feature phones (many of which had data plans in the last year or so).

  • GraveUypo

    eh those plans would actually be not half bad for me. not that i dont use much data, its just that here in brazil everything we have available suck so. much. worse.

    our equivalent plans get 1/10 as much data per month as that, and we pay for overages by the megabyte, and its freaking expensive (up to as much as $1 PER MB). if you're not careful with your data you might get a huge displeasant surprise in the end of the month, bordering thousands of dollars.

    there are other plans that just slow down connection speeds instead of charging for overages. problem is, they slow it down to 32kbps. that what im using right now, just because theres nothing remotely decent, so i get the cheapest one (about $6 per month). i have 10mb of data per month at 1mbps (which as you might have guessed gets spent in the first hours of the month), and the rest of the month of "unlimited 32kbps", which is only useful for text messaging, reading emails and such. i have to do everything else by wireless or dont do it at all.

    so i average 500~mb of data per month (yep, even with 32kbps speeds).

  • Sadman

    I currently use 20 to 30gb per month so this tier would kill me. Thank god I have the new Thunderbolt with an unlimited data plan which I'll probably keep until the phone dies and goes to android heaven. LOL

    • TheWizKid95

      I know!
      I use ~30 gigs a month because i use my phone to tether to my laptop since i dont have wifi or dsl at home and im constantly on the go.

      • Floss

        I can't for the life of me understand why you think you are entitled to use your data network as a personal cable/dsl connection. Its retards like you that ruin it for everyone else and make it so they need to go teired

    • JayMonster

      Or until VZW catches up with you and starts imposing their 5GB soft cap on you, which will probably be right after the free period ends on 7/6.

      • Sadman

        Sounds to me like they would be changing the terms of your contract if they did this opening themselves up for lawsuits. But who am I to know how these large conglomerates work. I suppose there is a clause in the contract to give them the right to do this. THEN THERE WILL BE A LOT OF UNHAPPY CUSTOMERS. Just saying.

        • JayMonster

          Your free tether expires on the 6th. This is a surprise to no-one. From there the standard terms of service apply, which has a soft cap of 5 GB. There is no "change" those are the terms you signed up for.

  • Foo

    I'm in New Zealand and pay NZ $20 a month ($16 US) for 1 GB of data on my mobile. I tend to use between 500 - 750 Mb a month, mainly from streaming my audio collection via Audiogalaxy or listening to Internet radio on Winamp.

  • jmb98115

    5GB; I don't have Internet at home, but I don't stream anything and I don't tether.

  • http://www.theandroidsite.com Ben Marvin

    I don't even do that much streaming or tethering but I still manage anywhere from 5-8GB per month on average.

  • jdawg

    With netflix on the phone and traveling I've been using about 4.5 gbs.

  • Foo

    I'm finding it really interesting comparing mobile data prices across countries, maybe I'll put together a comparison gathering data from the different posts people make.

    New Zealand is expensive for fixed line broadband as for the most part we have small data caps. It seems we do slightly better with mobile broadband.

  • Astria

    using 2+GB every mth... no wifi at all...

    costing me AU$14 for 3GB every mth...

    or AU$8 for 1GB, AU$25 for 7GB...

  • Chris

    Problem is, I don't have a 'normal' data consumption rate. If I'm chilling at home, or at school, I have readily-available land-lines and WiFi, and don't use my phone for anything but browsing the web, checking e-mails, and maybe a few YouTube videos if I'm bored.

    But if I'm traveling, which is relatively often, then my data usage skyrockets as I tether my phone to get internet in airports and hotels to save money. Two days in New York and I used 1.5 GB of data, watching episodes of the Daily Show and streaming other television shows.

    So it's either pay for a plan I'm not going to use half the time, or get a cheaper one and get gouged by the overage charges.

    Right now I'm on T-mobile though so the bigger question is whether AT&T and T-mobile will successfully merge. And if they do, I want to hold on to my unlimited contract as long as possible.

  • Marc

    US carries are raping their customers. I am currently in South Korea. I have an unlimited data plan that runs $50/month. This includes tethering. I use my phone constantly:youtube videos, spbtv, streaming radio, etc. My phone is constantly on 3G. I can only imagine my bill would be 3-4 times more expensive in the US.

    • Foo

      Is that the equivalent of US $50 a month?

      • Marc

        Yes, I pay 55,000 Korean Won which is US $50.

        • Marc

          This is unlimited data, not text messages and voice calls (Google Talk makes this a non-issue) My current phone is the Nexus S.

    • Chris

      Unlimited web and texting through T-mobile costs only $34.99 a month for me. Although that's separate from the talk minute charges which are $59.99 a month for 700 minutes, shared on a family plan.

      The total cost of 'my' plan is $9.99 as an additional line to the plan, plus $34.99 for unlimited web and text, with the $59.99 split for all four lines, coming out to about $60 a month.

      I believe though that T-mobile has a soft cap at 4 GB after which speeds are throttled. Never hit that cap though so I can't confirm personally.

  • http://www.aaandroid.com/ Avi

    These plans are temporary at best. As soon as average users get slapped in the face with overages because they don't realize that Netflix uses 3MB a minute, everything will change. iCloud is an automatic two-way sync. That's going to suck data like it's free. When people like my sister get a $200 data bill because her kids were watching streaming movies on her phone, things will change. In just a few years, 50GB per month will be normal. Does anyone remember AOL by the hour? How did that work out? Tiered data, as much as it sucks now, is not viable long term option for carriers.

    • Matt

      50 GB per month is still a tiered/limited package.
      Want to stop tiered data? Switch away from Verizon completely until they bring it back. Jump onto a carrier that offers unlimited data. Get your friends and family to do it as well.

      Verizon needs to lose tens of millions of customers over the next few months in order for them to bring unlimited data back for good.

      Hit them hard.

      • Chris

        Problem is that unlike AOL, or even most modern ISPs, telecom carriers lock people in with cancellation fees that makes it an honest competition between increasing costs and the cost of early termination.

        Carriers have realized that as long as they keep price increases below the cost of the early-termination fee and keep the best phones locked up in exclusivity contracts, they can keep customers locked into their networks.

        This is a bit different than other utility providers who don't have termination fees but also don't subsidize the equipment. To the carriers, each new customer who gets a subsidized phone represents an investment, money to be recouped and profit to be had. So they'll do all they can to maximize profit margins and keep their cash cows in the barn.

      • GergS

        Except that you heavy users will simply cause carrier B to make themselves tiered.

    • JayMonster

      Actually, AOL, CompuServe and Prodigy all stayed with their capped plans for quite some time. It wasn't until some competition started coming along that this changed. And at present, the competition is shrinking,not growing.

  • Chris

    How much data gets used when you download something via teathering??

  • No

    I purchased a new 4g phone and was grandfathered in this year...I am in the process of movin and do not have an ISP.  I am using for free my razr tethering and I have used 46gb data..unlimited rules!