And then while dorking out today, I read an article about the exponential rise in data consumption in the NY Times technology section. For folks who want more clarity as to the realities for carriers, network hardware providers and the inventors working furiously to create new smartphone technology, this article is a good place to start. The two quotes that got my attention were as follows:

  • the monthly data flow will increase about sixteenfold by 2014
  • software that lets operators screen out 75 percent of the digital pulses, or “heartbeats,”
When listed separately in other articles about smartphones and data usage, they don’t mean as much. But when you start to understand the totality of what has been created since the first iPhone rolled out in 2007, it becomes a tremendous challenge going forward. All of the stuff (think apps, features/functionality) that is currently on your smartphone is running in the background and sending signals to the provider of the software. Most of us only interpret the data usage from the most obvious things that we use. Web browsers, email, etc. The stuff at the tip of the iceberg. But, the stuff occurring below the surface is likely more substantial. Mobile apps are often “free” because the provider, let’s say Urbanspoon is collecting data about your usage and location. Even native apps like the iPhone camera are now asking for permission to collect location data and sending it back to Apple whenever it gets a chance. 
If you have a iPhone 4, try double clicking the circular button on the front. You will be shocked at how many apps that you used once in the last week continue to run under the covers. All of the communication activities, pings, data transmissions that are occurring add to the data needs that providers are forced to accommodate. As apps on both smartphones and tablets/iPad type devices become even more prevalent and fundamental to how people use smartphones, you realize it’s not going to get better. I’m afraid it’s going to get worse in the near future till the carriers can re architect the backbone of their networks with more powerful and flexible technology.