Windows Phone 7 data usage

One of the big concerns I’ve heard from readers is whether Windows Phone’s 7 live tiles and deep online services integration would prove problematic for those using tiered data plans. AT&T, for example, recently dropped its unlimited data package for smart phones and moved to a two-tier model with a 200 MB option that costs $15 per month and a 2 GB option for $25.

When AT&T announced these plans, I checked to see where my own data usage fell. With some exceptions, the 200 MB plan would have been enough over the lifetime of my various iPhones, and the 2 GB plan would always have been enough by far. But because I was grandfathered into the unlimited plan, I ended up just keeping it, with the idea that I could evaluate things going forward and save some money by opting into a tiered plan at any time.

So what about Windows Phone 7? It’s still early days, but I can at least share my real-world data usage from the past few months and see what turns up. According to AT&T, my data usage from May to October looks like this:


Some explanation is in order here, so don’t jump to conclusions just yet.

I received a prototype Windows Phone device on July 12. So the August, September, and October figures are all completely Windows Phone usage. (Where July is presumably the 30 days ending July 10, or almost exactly the day I made the switch.)

August had artificially high data usage. I traveled to Germany and purchased a 200 MB international data plan, and when it became obvious that I wasn’t going to use anywhere close to 200 MB, I decided to keep my money’s worth and just use the heck out of it. So we had the GPS on continually, and used Windows Phone as a GPS while driving around. We never turned off the data. (And still didn’t hit 200 MB, grr.)

But even with the skewed August numbers, the average of those three months is 139 MB. This is well under the low-end AT&T 200 MB tier.

I will continue tracking this going forward, of course. But based on my own regular usage, I don’t believe that Windows Phone will use more data than other smart phones. Again, not scientific. But it is at least real-world, ahem, data.

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56 Responses to Windows Phone 7 data usage

  1. paschott says:

    I’d be interested to see how this changes as people download music on the fly and start really using the skydrive sync features. I really like some of those concepts, but can see usage going above 200MB easily when using those features. Still, this is encouraging, because I’ve been considering one of these devices for my wife and was concerned about what would happen if she were on the lower plan. It looks like I don’t need to be concerned about that unless she starts watching lots of videos over the air.

    I’d be interested to know what sort of tasks you’ve been doing, though. Have you added music, watched videos, etc? Is this just some semi-normal browsing and such? Any pictures synced? I can see us doing a bunch of that so would like to know a little more about how you’ve used the phone.

  2. trdyer says:

    I tend to agree with you, with Bell in Canada I never use near the amount of data I have (500Mb) but I wonder if the lack of apps during development/testing is a factor.

    Would live streaming through the TWiT app for instance inflate the data? Did you have the TWiT app doing that?

    I don’t doubt the real world numbers (I have downloaded 70mb podcasts and my bill says I use 20mb… so who knows), But is it indicative of a real environment with real apps.

    Until recently XBOX live wasn’t turned on was it? would more gaming kill the data usage?

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      There’s no realtime multiplayer gaming (at least not yet). But there were several app downloads, yes. Most of the Xbox Live stuff is too big to download over 3G anyway; the phone prevents it.

  3. rohitharsh says:

    I was wondering how you were using your WP7. Considering it was prototype, your data usage must not include much activity from apps (I am guessing). Once you have your regular day to day app, I think it will give a better picture.
    Also it will be interesting to hear how you use WP7 differently from iPhone or Android. For example are you really opening Apps less often and using Tiles more?

    Hope you post an update on this by 8th Nov.

    PS – I know you liked Samsung Focus but how does HTC HD7 compare? I cannot decide between the two :)

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      For me, the Focus is it. It’s the right size, has the best screen, and has expandable storage. Game over.

      • gullygod says:

        The focus is my choice too. Although I was trying to get an omnia7 from the UK, but…

        OFF TOPIC: Paul… Is there visual voicemail on WP7?

      • Paul Thurrott says:

        No to visual voicemail.

      • metrozero says:

        Have you noticed any GPS problems that are similiar to what’s happened to some Galaxy S owners?

      • Paul Thurrott says:

        No, not yet.

      • dannyriley says:

        I have the Samsung Captivate with AT&T and I can tell that the Focus is very similar based on the information I’ve seen about it online. The Captivate and other Galaxy S phones are really well built. Super fast, and as you’ve said the touch screen is really smooth and responsive.

        Do you know if the Focus has Gorilla Glass? I would hope and assume it does. It really looks like a Galaxy S with Windows phone software.

      • Paul Thurrott says:

        I’m not familiar with Gorilla Glass, but there is something “special” about the feel of this screen. I’ve likened it to the feel of ThinkPad keyboards. It’s just “better.” Hard to explain why but it feels great. This conversation is getting weird. :)

      • dannyriley says:


        Gorilla Glass is a VERY scratch resistant screen. Check the video here on it…

        It is included in all Samsung Galaxy S devices (and their tablet). If you search around for more tests of it you would be amazed at how well it holds up. I bought a screen cover for my phone and decided not to use it after watching the videos. If the Focus has it, that could be a big selling point.

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  5. danielsussex says:

    Interesting. I use 5-7gb per month and thats on a non touch phone. (E71)

    Wonder how my usage would increase with an always connected device.

  6. gpsarakis says:

    Is there much if any Zune Pass usage in those numbers there? I would have to think that right now streaming songs like crazy would take up most of your data other than a few youtube vids every now and then.

  7. romit says:

    With the proliferation of free wifi I assume 3G data usage won’t be a big deal. GPS use seems to be the best use case for such a thing, but watching movies/videos online, streaming music, etc. are best done on wifi anyway. However, it will be interesting to see these bars once u-verse mobile comes online on your phone (if it has not, already) where you end up watching a few episodes of a TV show in the gym, for example.

    Also, uploading high-res pics and 720p videos while at the kid’s birthday party? Again, all edge cases and not typical uses, so I think it should be fine.

    Have you got any sense for accessories for WP7 a la iHome or dock connectors for AV receivers and such? I just signed up for my Zune Pass and love it so far and would be fantastic if I can set up some playlists for the kids and hook my phone up to the stereo.

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      The problem with accessories is that they’re mostly going to have to be device-centric, because of the lack of a good Zune-style connector and the fact that even the common mini-USB connector is in different places on each device. But I’ve not seen any WP-specific accessories, sorry.

  8. techESC says:


    Is AT&T allowing users to carry over the unlimited data plan from iPhone to Windows Phone?

    Will you be able to show us some photos you took with the Focus and pushed up to a web service?

    It’s getting exciting to watch the marketplace grow!

    – Mike

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      I’ve not changed anything but have just kept using the iPhone SIM with the Windows Phone. I’m not sure what the transfer policy is.

      Yes, I’ll share photos from the phone.

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  10. Waethorn says:

    Just FYI to users: The Samsung Focus codename was the “Cetus [some number]”, but Rogers in Canada is still calling it the Cetus.

  11. Waethorn says:

    Whoops…nevermind about that last comment from me. Seems they changed their site today. It now says Focus. I guess someone didn’t look over their notes correctly when they posted the original page.

  12. dwbrown77 says:

    Thank you Paul for this useful information. It sounds like if one wants to he or she would be able to use the lower data plan and thus save monthly. I know this would be helpful with our budget.

  13. 123keith says:

    A question closely related to data usage: How is power consumption with all that data pushing to animated tiles?

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  15. sk says:

    No visual voicemail is a shame. There’s a lot of small omissions here.

  16. efjay1 says:

    Paul, can you shed some light on how Skydrive’s 25GB storage is used in relation to WP7? What exactly can we access from it at the moment and potentially in the future? Thanks.

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      Windows Phone takes storage from the 25 GB SkyDrive allotment. Well, it did anyway. I’ll need to check that now that Windows Live Mesh has changed. Maybe this has too.

      • efjay1 says:

        So we can store media files and stream them to our handsets? We are currently discussing this in relation to the amount of storage on most handsets in the WP7 backstage forums and I thought to get some confirmation on what Skydrive access really means. Thanks.

  17. markps0966 says:

    Another thing to consider is the MyPhone sync. Without accessing a wireless hotspot,the software will use the data connection to sync in the background. Dummy me forgot all about that and saw a jump in data since the service was backing up all my pics and video off my Windows Mobile 6.5 device. (I unchecked the option of pics back up since I back up to my PC on a regular basis.)

    Paul: MyPhone is a service that Microsoft will still provide with WP7, correct?

  18. kdarty says:

    I used to have an iPhone 3G and my Data Usage stayed around 200MB to 350MB at the max. When I moved to Android I noticed my Data Usage steadily moved up to 500MB and as my use and knowledge of Android increased I found my Data Usage going over 1GB per month.

    The difference is that iPhone 3G is not a multi-tasking phone while Android is. Not only that but when you consider that Android allows so many apps to run as services in the background and then Widgets that are pulling data all the time, it can really eat into your data bandwidth. Also keep in mind though that many widgets use shared data sources to cut down on data usage on Android.

    The question though is what will happen after the official worldwide release when tons of apps are available for Windows Phone 7. Can apps run as services or do polling… “live tiles”… multi-tasking will lead to increased data usage no matter what platform you are using.

    I just had this conversation with a friend on Twitter and he conceitedly mentioned that smart “Microsoft” Developers will be using RESTfull service calls to lighten the data usage. He mentioned it as if Microsoft developed REST. Oddly enough, they did not and both Android and iOS Developers use RESTfull calls all the time but it all adds up.

    I’m not discrediting this article and its stats but putting together such stats based on a prototype phone with limited apps isn’t exactly what I would call “scientific”.

    I’d like to see actual data usage stats after the worldwide release of Windows Phone 7… that will be the true test, anything else is speculation. But then again, as we learned with the “Really” commercials, you shouldn’t be using your phone so much so don’t worry about your data usage, you won’t be using it anyway :)

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      I specifically said it wasn’t scientific. This is what I experienced, and I can’t foresee the future. I’ll continue tracking this and reporting what I find.

      • kdarty says:

        Thanks Paul… looking forward to seeing continued reports.

        Data Usages is definitely important considering that all carriers in the U.S. will eventually be moving to tiered data plans. Oddly enough though, as multi-tasking device adoption escalates I can easily see overages being the norm.

        By the way, I’ve discussed the whole tiered data plans thing with Scott Hanselman and he, as well as many evangelists that travel from conference to conference typically goes over 4GB per month so no data tier plan will work in those cases.

        It will be interesting to see how it all pans out but if true multi-tasking is involved I would suspect Windows Phone 7 to end up with data usage similar to Android.

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  20. jphalverson says:

    Hey Paul,
    Listen to you and Leo every week and even stream it live (sometimes) in my classroom. Great show, great discussion and great insight! I’m really glad I stumbled onto your podcast through an iTunes search, I had always associated Leo with an Apple fanboy mindset until I found Windows Weekly. I’m originally from Santa Rosa CA, just about 20 minutes north of Leo’s cottage, but somehow got transplanted to Akron, OH teaching Information Technology to Career Ed students.
    Anyway, I guess I’ll be keeping my unlimited data plan when I switch from iPhone to to the Focus. Here’s my usage according to AT&T. Nov 09 through March 2010, averaged 0.2GB/month; April 2010 to present, averaging about 1.1GB per. Love that AtBat 2010 app from MLB (it better appear for WP7)! GO GIANTS!
    P.S. Is there any word on GPS apps other than AT&T Navigator?

  21. Cheers for the post Paul,

    By the way I don’t suppose you got your hands on a htc7 trophy to play with?
    Looks like thats the only wp7 flavor we are going to get down here in New Zealand.
    I checked out endgadget’s review of it and sounds like it will not be to bad as a mid range smart phone.

    Cheers mate

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  28. bsimser says:

    Hey Paul, I posted a twitpic from my data plan ( that shows hourly usage of data even though the phone is just sitting there doing nothing. One hour it sent 7mb and the next another 6mb. This added up to around 30mb for the day. On Telus, we have a 500mb limit so you can see that in a month if this were consistent we would blow past that. This is for corporate phones and we’re seeing a lot of the phones with this behavior. We don’t run any apps and there’s nothing in the background.

    One thing I did find is that there’s a setting for feedback and to use the cellular network for sending feedback to Microsoft. I’ve turned this off now and see if that causes the mysterious 30mb to stop being sent. The hourly reports of data usage might be Telus and that they only report every hour, but for sure I’m not downloading files or watching movies at 3am!

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