The folks at comScore Inc. (NASDAQ: SCOR) have an interesting bit of research out comparing Wi-Fi usage by smartphone users in the UK and the US. comScore wanted to “provide insight into Internet connection patterns across markets.” So who cares?
Before we answer that, it’s worth noting than users of the iPhones from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) are much more likely to connect to the Internet with Wi-Fi than are users of phones using the Android operating system from Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG). In the US, 68% of Android users only connect through their mobile networks and just 32% connect through both Wi-Fi and the network. Just 29% of US iPhone users connect only through their mobile networks and 71% use both connections.
In the UK, 43% of Android users only connect through the mobile network and 57% use both. Among UK iPhone users, only 13% never use the Wi-Fi capability of the device, while 87% use both.
In total, 69% of UK smartphones use both Wi-Fi and the mobile network to connect to the Internet, while the US total is just 38%.
Here’s comScore’s analysis:
In the U.K., the scarcity of unlimited data plans and higher incidence of smartphone pre-paid contracts with a pay-as-you-go data model likely contributes to data offloading among users wanting to economize their mobile usage. In addition, the current lack of high-speed data networks in the U.K. might also lead users to seek out higher bandwidth capacity on Wi-Fi networks. In the U.S., the increased availability of LTE, 4G and other high-speed data networks currently make it less necessary for smartphone users to offload, but it’s also possible that the diminishing availability of unlimited cellular data plans will eventually push more usage to Wi-Fi.
That sounds about right. But why do iPhone users care and Android users not care? One possibility is that the mobile networks with the most iPhones are also the networks with the most Wi-Fi hotspots. As data plans get more costly, though, everyone will start to care.
The comScore press release is available here.