30% of mobile data consumed by background apps

CMO Innovation editors
29 Feb 2016

An average of 30% of all data consumed by apps on smartphones is wasted by apps that work in the background, research from Opera Software suggests.

The conclusion was drawn through studying the usage pattern by millions of users of Opera Max, an Android app created specifically to help users better manage and save on their mobile data usage. The app is created by Opera Software, which also makes the Opera Mini and Opera browser apps.

According to Opera, Facebook Messenger and Gmail were the most data-hungry apps, with some 73% of their total data usage taking place in the background. Similarly, Google Drive and WhatsApp showed more than 50% background usage.

“Most apps are made to give a great user experience, not to save data. If you fetch background data through your data plan, it’s like throwing away $1 out of every $3 you spend on your mobile data plan,” explained Sergey Lossev, a product manager at Opera.

Excessive data use aside, Lossev noted that this background data also reduces battery life, while users may not be aware of it. A new “Smart Alerts” feature in Opera Max will automatically identify apps that use more than 10MB of data per week in the background, and offer users a simple two-tap option to block these apps from using mobile data.

It is not clear how much of the background data for WhatsApp, for example, could have been saved without preventing it from functioning normally. From the FAQ for Opera Max for Android, it is clear that the app will not work for popular social media apps such as Facebook, given that it uses an encrypted connection (HTTPS) to communicate with backend servers.

Indeed, Facebook have adopted a strategy of preloading content in order to improve the user experience by reducing waiting time. Such preloading of video and Instant Articles takes place further down the timeline as a user peruse earlier content, and is unlikely to be tracked by Opera Max.

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