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Data download grows with phone addiction

Date

James Manning and Vince Chadwick

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If you have noticed more people than ever are wandering around distracted, noses buried in a smartphone, you are right.

Australians' intensifying addiction to phones as an internet source has been underlined by statistics showing the amount of data downloaded skyrocketed by a third in just six months.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics found 32 per cent more information was downloaded on phones between April and June this year than for the final three months of 2011.

For computers, the amount of data downloaded in the same period rose by 20 per cent.

Across Australia there are more than 16 million mobile handsets in use - a 7 per cent increase compared with the end of last year.

An Australian Communications Consumer Action Network spokeswoman, Elise Davidson, said more than half the population had a smartphone.

"That's growing quickly," she said. "The amount of data being downloaded on mobile handsets is increasing exponentially."

According to research by Google, Australians have the second-highest per capita uptake of smartphones in the world behind Singapore.

Increasingly, smartphones are running on faster 4G networks. The type of 4G networks in Australia are known as LTE or Long Term Evolution, and allow access to much faster download speeds - basically, more data in less time.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority issued a warning last month about the risk of bill shock - consumers having to pay more than they expected due to the speed at which 4G networks download data.

Brent Coker, a lecturer in internet marketing at Melbourne University, said the new statistics reflected a shift in how often people reach for their phones.

"Whenever there's a moment in time when we are not doing anything - whether it be standing in line waiting to catch our tram, or catching a ride on the elevator, on an escalator in the mall, waiting to be served - any of those times is a prompt, so we pull out our phone and check it quickly," Dr Coker said.

Complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman about people being hit by more expensive bills than expected rose by 120 per cent last year.

There were more than 4000 complaints specifically about the rising cost of mobile internet use.

The telecommunications industry writes off $113 million a year in bad debt due to consumers being unable to pay their bills, according to the consumer action network.

Phone companies have not been compelled to monitor customers' data usage, but this will change next year.

From September 2013, amendments to the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code will force internet providers to notify consumers when they have used 50 per cent, 85 per cent and 100 per cent of the value of their plans.

Advertising of mobile plans will also be made clearer, with terms such as 'unlimited' and 'cap' strictly regulated.

59 comments

  • My theory is that smartphones have replaced cigarettes. People need something aimless but vaguely pleasurable to do during their downtime, during procrastination breaks, or while they're waiting around for something to happen. Smartphones have filled this role now that fewer and fewer people are smoking, and in smoke-free public places.

    Commenter
    ssscrambled
    Location
    Ashfield
    Date and time
    October 10, 2012, 7:42AM
    • Totally agreed with Scrambled, except I do both.

      Commenter
      cal_t
      Date and time
      October 10, 2012, 9:01AM
    • trouble is, people don't just have their noses in smartphones during "downtime", they also do it during meetings, during conversations, during dinner etc, and there is nothing more antisocial and annoying than trying to talk to someone but they are paying more attention to a damn smartphone. Can't stand the things personally. I spend more than enough hours on computers as it is.

      Commenter
      C
      Date and time
      October 10, 2012, 9:18AM
    • Couldn't agree more C, this sounds like addiction to me, not to mention very rude. It's different when the smart phone is used for a specific purpose, but when it replaces normal social interaction that's when it becomes a problem.

      Commenter
      blue chili
      Date and time
      October 10, 2012, 11:46AM
    • Most annoying is the dining experience where people think the smartphone is more important than the people they are dining with. Look around any restaurant and it seems that most are absorbed by the machine. Couples talking to people on their phones. Kids with games. groups talking or texting. A good friend has a nice reminder. She asks 'Who's life are you trying to save?" Unless it's an emergency. if they are not there, they can wait.

      Commenter
      Quantum of Solace
      Location
      Somewhere out there
      Date and time
      October 10, 2012, 4:06PM
  • The speed of data downloads shouldn't be a real factor in increased totals. If a person, whether they have a 3G or 4G/LTE phone, maintains their usage patterns then they shouldn't be a "victim" of bill shock.

    It's just a matter of keeping an eye on what they're doing.

    Commenter
    Martin
    Location
    Gippsland
    Date and time
    October 10, 2012, 8:58AM
    • You can still get a shock even if your usuage pattern may not chage.
      Change to a new device and you may find that the apps are constantly checking for updates, and may even be updating automatically. Play that free game you downloaded, and you'll be paying for all the ads that are constantly being downloaded while you play.
      For the non-techies, it's a minefield.

      Commenter
      Chris
      Date and time
      October 10, 2012, 9:13AM
  • Fairly obvious observations. More rhetorically, would things be the way they are if Facebook or the iPhone weren't invented?

    Commenter
    Lm
    Location
    Sydney CBD
    Date and time
    October 10, 2012, 9:09AM
    • My smartphone isn't an iPhone and I rarely use Facebook... it's the games that do it for me, even before I had a phone that made internet browsing less painful.

      Commenter
      MerriD
      Date and time
      October 10, 2012, 9:35AM
  • People like technology, this does not mean they are "addicted" and I think the use of this term whenever describing technology is highly inappropriate. As the person mentioned above, phones are a good time killer but believe it or not they can also be used for work and study purposes, such as work related podcasts, lectures, and catching up on work emails.

    Commenter
    Blue chili
    Date and time
    October 10, 2012, 9:15AM

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