December 13, 2010
Like any married couple, my wife and I often agree to disagree. At least, that’s the case when it comes to our mobile phones.
I’m an uncompromising iPhone fan — getting a 3GS changed my life — but my wife is a dyed-in-the-wool BlackBerry user. She swears by the tactile keyboard.
When it comes time to pay the bill, and review how much data we’ve used, though, her phone always wins out.
Every month, I use up about 1 gigabyte of data to her 50 megabytes.
The discrepancy reflects two things: The brand of our phones and how we use them.
We’re like most people; we like to surf the web and download apps, and we have no idea how close we are to reaching our data plan’s maximum monthly allotment.
To me, the world of data plans is one of life’s mysteries; who knows how much data you use up when you update your Facebook profile.
In fact, it’s not as puzzling a place as it looks.
Phillip Redman, a research vice-president with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc., says data use depends largely on the phone.
BlackBerry compresses data over its own servers, so far fewer megabytes are used for everything from emails to streaming audio, than Apple devices or Android phones.
According to MyCellPhoneTerms.com, a website that compares Canadian data plans, for every MB of data a BlackBerry uses, the iPhone, roughly, uses two.
In other words, if you maxed out your 500 MB data plan on your 3GS, you’d only use 250 MB on your BlackBerry.
Most BlackBerry users consume only 50 MB of data per month, while iPhone owners suck up around 300 MB, Redman says.
The difference has to do with how people use their phones.
My wife is a regular emailer. She’s in charge of the Early Years classes at a North York school, so she’s constantly communicating with teachers, administration and parents. She only has a handful of apps on her phone, and rarely surfs the ‘net.
My iPhone has 108 apps.
I regularly visit websites such as Gawker.com and CNN. I use the GPS, send emails, stream CBC and NPR and watch the occasional YouTube video, among other data-intensive things.
I used to come close to maxing out my 500 MB plan until I upped it to the 2 GB option a couple months ago.
Yale Holder, president of MyTerms Network Inc., the company that runs MyCellPhoneTerms.com, says that iPhones are designed to be used as a mini-computer, so it’s no surprise there’s a big difference between iPhone and BlackBerry data usage.
“The iPhone is so easy to handle that you want to use more data,” says Holder. “It’s one of the best experiences you can get on a phone.”
While there are charts (see below) that will tell you how many MBs a specific function takes up, determining which mobile and plan to purchase has to be up to the user.
Redman says it’s difficult to say what plan the typical Canadian buys, as everyone uses their phone differently.
He suggests buying more than the lowest package, especially if you have a more advanced smartphone.
“There’s not a lot of difference between high-end and low-end products, but, if you go over a 500 MB plan, it can get very expensive.”
Holder recommends getting the 1 or 2 GB service, which costs between $30 and $50, depending on the carrier. The 5 GB plan, which runs about $60, is meant for heavy gamers, he says.
Even if you stick to one of the mid-range plans, you have to watch your data. I often stream audio, which uses up 1.2 MB a minute.
Holder says updating Facebook and Twitter accounts uses a minuscule amount of data.
Upload a 1 MB picture to your page, however, and that simple post becomes a data-sucking endeavour.
Sports apps, says Holder, can also consume a lot of bytes. If you’re checking scores once a day, you won’t have a problem. “But pull down a lot of stats, every hour and then watch video highlights and it could really get involved,” he says.
Even if you do track your data down to the last minute, you’re not necessarily paying for what you get.
My wife should be using a 50 MB plan, but those don’t exist; she’s paying for 500 MB just as an iPhone user would. I should probably have a 1.2 GB plan, but I need to buy 2 GB in case I accidentally go over.
At least we’ll be covered for the future. When the fourth-generation phones, or 4G, become more widespread, downloading will be faster and the time it takes to get from one web page to another will be shorter.
Holder says everyone will start consuming more data and we’ll start seeing 8 and 10 GB plans.
“And we’ll be charged more,” he says.