Cellular data is worth its weight in gold these days. With the exception of Sprint and T-Mobile here in the States, carriers are clamping down on usage, charging arguably outrageous prices for limited amounts of data. With either a hard or soft cap, users who go over their limit can expect to pay an automatic fee for an additional 1GB or suffer heavy throttling.
The move to tiered data – and now the more recent transition towards shared data buckets – isn't an easy one for some. For most, however, it's a change made when upgrading a phone that they will never give a second thought. Moving from unlimited data to a cap may not sound good on paper. But you might be surprised how little data you actually use on average.
In August, TechNewsDaily reported new findings from NPD. The research firm found that the vast majority of AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon customers do not exceed the 2GB threshold. "And virtually no one uses over 3GB," says TechNewsDaily's Sean Captain.
None of this should come as a surprise. In August of last year, I explained how little tiered data has done to slow the rise of data consumption. Even then, the average Verizon customer used 512MB of data each month. And the overall figure isn't too far from that. In July, research firm Nielsen reported that the average U.S. mobile subscriber used 450MB per month in Q1 2012, which is more than double the figure of 208MB from the same quarter the previous year.
Average data consumption is certainly on the rise. But the majority of subscribers still use far less data each month than the smallest tiered plan offered.
The question I have for you ladies and gents is: do you ever go over your monthly data cap?
I reluctantly welcomed tiered data into my life when I switched to AT&T in April. I signed up for a 5GB plan, and shortly thereafter, I expressed my animosity towards tiered data. I found myself constantly checking my usage, conserving every little bit I could until the last week of the month. For anything major that I needed, such as a video or a large download, I relied on my Verizon line, which had unlimited data until I made the switch to the iPhone 5 last month.
I was extremely skeptical cutting the final ties to my long-held unlimited data plan with Verizon. But I have now been off unlimited data for over a month and things are going smoothly. I now have a 5GB plan on AT&T and a 2GB plan on Verizon. Currently, on day 16 of the 31-day billing cycle, I have used 1.3GB on my AT&T line and 1.3GB on the Verizon line, for which the cycle ends on November 4.
This is a far cry from my data usage before, where I would use upwards of 8GB each month. But it's not that I use my phones less or that I've sacrificed everything to stay beneath my caps. I have simply cut back on streaming video and downloading excessively large files.
That said, I still stream via Spotify fairly daily. I still upload camera photos (and some videos) directly to my Dropbox account over cellular. And I still post tons of pictures to my social accounts. I browse the Web a lot more, I spend a lot more time in Google Maps than before and I have been tethering a lot more recently.
I simply find myself relying on Wi-Fi much more often now, rather than using LTE for everything. And it makes a huge difference without forcing me to sacrifice the functionality of my device(s) in favor of a smaller monthly rate.
I have yet to go over my limit, though I have come close. And I'm still a bit conservative at the beginning of the month while I tend to let loose for the last week or so. But I haven't had to pay an overage fee … yet.
Have you? Do you ever go over your data cap? Do you just use your data and deal with overages later? Or are you conservative with your bits until the end of the month? How much data do you use on average?