Android Users Increasing Wi-Fi Use

The HTC Hero and Tatoo ranked among the smartphones consuming the most Wi-Fi bandwidth, ranging from 500 MB to 2 GB per month, reports WeFi.

William Gardner

August 24, 2010

3 Min Read
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With the ether threatening to run out of spectrum for smartphone and other mobile usage, a new report reveals that users may be preparing for the looming spectrum shortage by increasingly turning to Wi-Fi for their mobile connection.

The report, released this week by WeFi, a global Wi-Fi connection service, found that Android users in particular are flocking to Wi-Fi for their wireless connection. Wi-Fi utilizes unlicensed spectrum and doesn't use the licensed spectrum typically used by mobile phone service providers.

"The data was collected through analyzing data from WeFi's over 5 million end-users on various platforms and through WeFi's database of over 60 million Wi-Fi access points recorded," said WeFi spokesman Jason Silberman in an email, noting that "Wi-Fi is being used increasingly over Android devices." The report doesn't contain data on Wi-Fi usage by iPhone users, because Apple bans Wi-Fi scanning applications.

The report also tracked Wi-Fi usage by laptops, netbooks and Symbian phones in devices that contained WeFi software. Consumers who have signed up for WeFi's service can connect free-of-charge at millions of Wi-Fi hotspots that have authorized WeFi access. Comparing recent trend patterns, WeFi found that the de-facto offloading of data traffic from cellular networks to Wi-Fi is growing. While Android phones were clearly increasingly accessing Wi-Fi hotspots, Symbian phones were still more dependent on cellular networks and traffic for Symbian phones in the period examined was generally below 100 KB.

Many Android phones in the period examined consumed more than 500 MB per month. For instance, the high Wi-Fi consuming Android models -- the HTC Hero and the HTC Tatoo -- consumed Wi-Fi usage in the 500 MB to 2 GB range. "Most notably," the report continued, "all the Android models (examined) have significantly increased monthly Wi-Fi data usage beyond the 500 MB range."

Why did Android show such an increase in Wi-Fi usage?"

The report answered in part that the rapid increase in Android applications, for instance the growth in streaming music apps, was causing users to spend more time online consuming more and more data over longer periods of time. Also, more Wi-Fi hotspots are opening their locations to free usage like McDonalds and Starbucks.

"A certain increase in Wi-Fi usage and decrease in 3G usage was registered on Symbian devices," according to the report, which added that Symbian monthly usage tended to be below the 100 MB mark per user. Symbian Wi-Fi sessions tended to last less than 5 minutes, probably because Symbian connections are temporarily limited in time.

"This is different from the Wi-Fi network connection scheme on Android where a Wi-Fi connection remains open until it is specifically close," the report stated. "Thus most of the Wi-Fi sessions are longer on Android than on Symbian."

As for laptops and netbooks, the report found that both connected to Wi-Fi hotspots for longer periods than smartphones -- with netbooks being more mobile than the larger laptops about one half of which connected to a single Wi-Fi connection.

"Clearly the platform which connects to the largest number of Wi-Fi networks is Android," the report stated. "It is interesting to see that while Symbian Wi-Fi enabled smartphones have been around much longer than Android, and many more of them are deployed worldwide, Android is gradually taking the lead as the upcoming Wi-Fi driven mobile Internet platform."


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