Bigger smartphones encourage people to use 72% more mobile data

Bigger smartphones encourage people to use 72% more mobile data

Customers with 'phablets' or super-sized smartphones could be running up much higher data bills, according to new research.

Market research company NPD found that the difference in data usage on phones smaller than 4.5inches across and larger phones amounted to a 72% increase.

People with larger devices are perhaps more likely to use them for streaming video, or to spend longer browsing. According to the survey by NPD, video use was 15% more common among people with phones larger than 4.5 inches. Browsing was 12% more common, and music streaming 9%.

The average UK consumer uses 340MB in mobile data per month, according to figures from Ofcom for June 2013. A 72% increase would take that to 588MB - meaning anyone with a 500MB data limit, which is the standard tariff on many contracts, particularly those dating back more than 6 months, would be over their limit.

Monthly data allowances in the UK range from 100MB to unlimited data, but your network provider will charge you if you exceed your limit. Data from comparison firm USwitch showed that only 13% of people are on unlimited data plans. The average new plan today offers 1GB of free data, but many older contracts are capped at 500MB.

Two thirds of contracts offered in the UK over the past three years have been for 24 months, meaning that the majority of customers could be on plans with lower data limits, set when streaming services were less popular.

Here's a breakdown of each network's excess data charges:

O2 charges for data at £3.06 per MB once you're past your limit - the most expensive in the UK.

Vodafone's monthly internet plans will charge you £6 per 250MB for exceeding your limits.

T-Mobile will charge you £1 a day until your next billing cycle if you go over your limit. Beyond that, there is a 1.2GB 'Fair use' policy on its monthly data plans - go over that and your access may be cut off.

EE offers customers the chance to buy more data if they go over their limits, starting from £6 for 500MB.

3 Mobile offers the cheapest charges for exceeding your data limit, at 10p per MB.

Data from the NPD survey showed that the average smartphone user in the US used 1.1GB of mobile data on phones with a 4.5inch screen or smaller, compared with 1.9GB on phones with a larger screen. The average data use on 3G networks was 0.9GB, and the average on 4G LTE was 1.7GB.

The term 'phablet' has been coined by manufacturers to describe devices bigger than a standard phone and smaller than a tablet, such as the Samsung Galaxy Note, which has a 5.3inch screen. The current wave of smartphones are approaching 'phablet' size, however. The iPhone 5S has a 4inch screen, but the Samsung Galaxy S4 at 5 inches, the Google Nexus 5 (4.95 inches) and the HTC One (4.7 inches) are all in the upper category.

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John Buffone, director of devices at Connected Intelligence, who carried out the survey, explained that manufacturers are going to continue producing larger and larger devices in the next few years.  “Even though today larger screens represent a smaller part of the market, their relevance is increasing as consumers look for more ways to interact with content while on-the-go.  This is a win, not only for the manufacturers, but also for the carriers as data consumption and usage will keep increasing.”