Phablets and WiFi trump smartphones and cellular data in the race to mobile connectivity

By Nathaniel Mott , written on March 26, 2013

From The News Desk

As the fetishization of everything phablet-related continues, OpenSignal asks a simple question: Do super-sized devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note II or Galaxy S III guzzle more data than their smaller counterparts? The company analyzed data from nearly 10,000 Android smartphones and found that the answer is... kinda-sorta.

According to OpenSignal's report, increases in screen size lead to small bumps in data consumption over cellular networks. An extra square inch of screen real estate is said to drive an extra 1.8 megabytes of data consumption each day. For comparison's sake, that's just 4 extra minutes of Web browsing each day, according to Vodafone's data consumption estimates.

Source: OpenSignal Source: OpenSignal

Devices reliant on cellular networks are all used in about the same way, then. It doesn't really matter if someone is using data on a phablet or a smaller device. Once those same devices are connected to a WiFi network, however, data usage is dramatically higher on devices with larger screens, as seen below:

Source: OpenSignal Source: OpenSignal

"Each additional square inch of screen area leads to 9.6MB of extra data downloaded per day over a WiFi connection," states OpenSignal's report. That's an extra 20 minutes (roughly) of Web browsing per square inch -- more than five times the increase seen on devices using a cellular connection.

Larger devices, such as the Galaxy S III, are said to use twice as much data over smaller devices, like the Galaxy Ace, over WiFi. OpenSignal theorizes that this difference is rooted in the comfortability of using a device with a larger screen. Browsing the Web on a large device isn't quite as claustrophobic as browsing the Web on smaller devices, and could allow phablet owners to leave their laptops and big-boy tablets in their bags.

As phablets continue their rise to dominance, as ReutersTechCrunchQuartz, and WantChinaTimes expect, users' reliance on WiFi connections will likely continue as well. Companies and establishments that offer free WiFi could become increasingly important, allowing everyone from Microsoft and Google to the Wall Street Journal and Starbucks to capitalize on the large-screen revolution with sponsored WiFi networks.

Based on this report, it seems that people who purchase phablets are using their devices more often than people who own smaller smartphones. So while it's easy to mock phablets for being too large to place phone calls -- which I hear is something people do when they can't send a message on Facebook, a direct message on Twitter, a text message, or literally any other form of digital communication -- it looks like those same people are showcasing the "smart" aspect of smartphones.

So long as there's a WiFi network around, anyway.

[Featured Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons]