Apple, Android Owners Diverge on Wi-Fi Usage — But Why?

Published on June 23, 2011
by John Paczkowski

A new point of differentiation between iOS and Android users: People who own iOS devices tend to use Wi-Fi a hell of a lot more than Android users do.

This news comes from comScore’s new Device Essentials service, which looks at mobile usage worldwide. ComScore says┬áthat iPhones and iPads spent far more time connected to Wi-Fi networks than their Android-based rivals. In the United States, 47.5 percent of iPhone data traffic occurred over Wi-Fi networks. For Android phones it was less than half that: 21.7 percent.

In other words, iPhone users consume almost half of their content via Wi-Fi, and Android users consume more than three-quarters of theirs over cellular networks. In tablets, the difference is even more pronounced: 91.9 percent of iPad data traffic occurred over Wi-Fi networks compared to 65.2 percent for Android tablets.

Why the huge difference in network usage patterns? For tablets, the explanation is simple. The iPad is by far the dominant tablet worldwide, generating about 89 percent of tablet traffic in the 13 countries comScore surveyed (97.1 percent in the U.S.!). And tablet usage tends to be an in-home activity.

And for smartphones? It could be that iPhones are more proactive than Android devices in acquiring Wi-Fi signals and pushing their users onto Wi-Fi connections when they are available. It could be that technologies like Apple TV and AirPlay encourage heavier reliance on Wi-Fi among iOS device users. I imagine the prevalence of iPhones on AT&T and that carrier’s tiered data plans likely have something to do with it as well. Beyond that, I’m not sure. And, to be honest, these are just theories. If you’ve got ideas of your own, sound off in the comments.

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