Android users gobble more data than iPhone users

Verizon's new Android owners are using far more data than AT&T's iPhone users, says a new study. But both populations look like megabyte junkies compared to BlackBerry owners. Here are the reasons why.

The study by Validas, a research firm that gathers data from phone bills, shows that Verizon subscribers who have smart phones (but not BlackBerrys) power through an average of 450MB per month, up more than double from last fall, before Verizon's Droid-branded Android line hit the market. In the same period, iPhone users averaged about 350MB of data consumption, while BlackBerry users across all carriers were averaging less than 50MB.

When we asked for a possible reason for the 100MB difference between Android on Verizon and iPhone on AT&T, Ed Finegold, chief analytics officer at Validas, gave us two:

1. There are far more iPhone users on AT&T than there are Android users on Verizon, perhaps 10 times as many. Verizon is "attracting a lot of hardcore geeks that really want to push the limits of these devices," says Finegold. "The iPhone's been around longer, and there are a lot more casual users."

2. Android currently attracts power users, where the iPhone may draw people in for other reasons. "There's such a bling factor with the iPhone," says Finegold. "People want it for the social statement that it makes more than for the techno power in their pocket."

The BlackBerry issue is a little bit murkier: It's the best-selling smart phone in America, so by that definition, it will have more casual users. But BlackBerry also compresses data to make it move faster through its servers. Still, a key factor is that while the BlackBerry is an unparalleled e-mail machine, it's not a favorite for apps or Web browsing.

Finegold has a BlackBerry Storm 2, but his wife has an iPhone. Here's how he puts it: "For me, data usage is more passive. I get a link and a Google alert, half the time I can't even see the website. But with an iPhone, it's always interactive. If we're driving in our car and want to go do something, we pull out the iPhone."