How much cellular and Wi-Fi data are smartphone users consuming, and with which apps? The Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint Q1 2017 breakdown

It’s clear that, thanks to unlimited data offers and the falling cost of the GB, wireless customers can now access more content on their phones at faster speeds than ever before. But what exactly are they doing on their phones, how much data are they chewing through, and which networks are they using to do it?

And perhaps most importantly, how does that break down across the customers of Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint?

A new partnership between FierceWireless and P3 aims to answer those questions. P3 is a global consulting, management and engineering services company, and it collects data on U.S. wireless usage via thousands of smartphone users, with millions of samples from throughout the United States. And thanks to P3’s new deal with research and consulting firm Strategy Analytics, P3’s data has been merged with the demographic and psychographic information collected by Strategy Analytics' AppOptix, a real-time mobile consumer tracking and intelligence platform.

The below information was obtained during the first quarter, between January and March 2017, from approximately 5,200 Android users and over 10 million app sessions. To check out how this data compares with data from the fourth quarter of 2016, click here. And to see P3 data from earlier in 2016, click here.

For more information on P3, click here, and for information on Strategy Analytics, click here. And click here to check out P3's app.

The chart shows, for the first quarter of 2017, the average number of app sessions per user and day, the total data volume downloaded per smartphone user per day, and average smartphone app usage time per user per day.

The frequency of app usage on cellular increased slightly for Verizon in the first quarter, in contrast to other networks which saw a slight decline. All networks saw a trend toward a higher Wi-Fi sessions share. Sprint users downloaded more volume over Wi-Fi compared to last quarter, while other networks showed a decrease in absolute transferred volume.

The same trend holds for the average usage time per user per day – except for Verizon, which added more than 20 minutes of Wi-Fi usage to the daily user average and a few minutes to cellular usage.

The chart shows the percentage of time smartphone users used any app on Wi-Fi over the last six months. While earlier in 2016 the time-based Wi-Fi share across the four carriers mostly declined over time, over the last six months Wi-Fi share has increased.
The charts show the most-used smartphone apps among the four national U.S. carriers ordered by transmitted data volume and the time users spent with the apps on both mobile and Wi-Fi.

As in the fourth quarter of 2016, Facebook remained in the No. 1 position in app usage time for AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon customers – but Sprint customers used Google Chrome and YouTube more often in the first quarter of 2017. We expect to see a similar trend for other operators in the next quarter as Facebook faces growing competition from Instagram and Snapchat. YouTube stays on top of the volume charts, but Netflix is on the rise with a higher volume share over last quarter.

The chart shows the amount of cellular and Wi-Fi data used by customers in different age groups. The results combine P3's passive data collection with the opt-in panel data generated by Strategy Analytics' mobile intelligence platform.

Younger users still consume more data than older age groups, but it isn’t necessarily the under-25 age group that downloads the most data via cellular. In fact, on AT&T, the 26 to 35 age group consumes 4.2 times more mobile data than the 46+ age group. Still, Wi-Fi data usage among the 25 and under age group is especially high compared with older age groups on T-Mobile – that carrier’s 25 and under customers downloaded three times more data than those aged 46+.