The voice-activated personal assistant blamed for dramatic increase in mobile data use
Apple’s latest handset is something of a data hog, according to new benchmark tests, with the finger of blame being firmly pointed at Siri, the voice activated personal assistant for the iPhone 4S.
A study by telecom network management specialist Arieso into the latest trends of smartphone data use found that the users of the iPhone 4S consume twice as much data as the iPhone 4. Indeed, its benchmarking tests found the iPhone 4S consumed three times as much as the older iPhone 3GS model.
“I use the iPhone 4 myself and when I first heard of the iPhone 4S features I was not compelled to rush out and get one. However, the data usage numbers I am seeing make me wonder what I am missing,” Dr Flanagan told Reuters.
“Voice is the ultimate human interface,” Dr Flanagan told Bloomberg. He said that voice recognition is prompting consumers to use their smartphones’ functions more often, hence increasing the data consumption.
Arieso’s findings will no doubt cause some concern at mobile operators around the world, which are already struggling to deal with the capacity crunch on many mobile networks because of the increasing data consumption of smartphones.
“The introduction of increasingly sophisticated devices, coupled with growing consumer demand, is creating unrelenting pressure on mobile networks. The capacity crunch is still a very real threat for mobile operators, and it looks set to only get harder in 2012,” said Dr. Flanagan in a statement. “The mobile industry needs new investment and new approaches to boost network performance and manage the customer experience”.
Indeed most UK mobile network operators actually withdrew their true unlimited data plans in 2010 as their networks struggled to cope with the demand. However companies such as 3 UK have subsequently reintroduced unlimited data for a £3 supplement, whilst other networks such as T-Mobile and Orange now have fair usage policies.
In November, mobile operators were warned by the Communications Ombudsman to tell their customers about fair usage policies on “unlimited” data packages, in an effort to be more transparent about what their “unlimited data” offers actually constitute.
There are signs that mobile networks are creaking under the data strain. The most famous example was back in December 2009, when O2 suffered a number of embarrassing network failures in London. The operator was forced to admit at that time that the crash was caused by the increasing use of smartphones, most notably the iPhone.
“The pressures we felt in London, where we see the highest concentration of smartphone users, occurred nearly 18 months ago. We acted quickly and deployed 40 new sites in London in December 2009 alone, with fantastic results,” an O2 spokesperson told TechWeekEurope back in January 2011.
The mobile operators are hoping that the forthcoming 4G spectrum auctions will help resolve some of this capacity crunch.
However Arieso’s Dr Flanagan told Reuters that there is no silver bullet, although he admitted LTE networks will help matters. He advised operators to identify heavy mobile data users and provide them with small personal celltowers so as to offload traffic from mobile networks.
Whether the arrival of 4G technologies such as LTE networks helps in the long term, remains to be seen. Last November mobile phone manufacturer Ericsson warned that the data strain on mobile networks is set to get even worse, with mobile data traffic predicted to grow 10-fold between 2011 and 2016, driven mainly by video.
Last October, research from Oracle surveyed more than 3,000 mobile phone consumers worldwide, revealed that the growing uptake of smartphones, tablets and apps amongst consumers is driving the rapid growth of mobile data use.