Just like every precious finite resource in this world, data usage is relegated to the top one percent, with elite smartphone users consuming half of all the data. The fancier the phone add-ons, the more data used. Take Siri, for example. iPhone 4S owners download 276 percent more data than other iPhone users, in part because Siri doubles iPhone data usage, found new research from Arieso, a mobile advisory firm. That interactive fun-phone time has a price in bandwidth, and as the burden increases, phone companies are charging to keep up.
Before most phone users started using data, phone companies offered unlimited data plans for a flat rate. But as more people adopt smartphones that's not sustainable. AT&T, T-mobile and Verizon have all forgone that option for new contracts, grandfathering in those who hopped on the data train early in the game. As you rack up data overage fees for repeatedly asking Siri for an abortion, those lucky unlimited data users can rig Siri to open beers and car doors and stuff without a care in the world.
With that magic one percent number, some have adopted Occupy terminology. "I’ve already heard comments about ‘Occupy the Downlink,’" Michael Flanagan, the chief technology officer at Arieso, told The New York Times's Kevin O'Brien. Downlink a reference to the cell towers that transmit data. “But the situations are very different, and the mobile situation doesn’t break down along socioeconomic lines." Rich people don't get more data and the cause doesn't exactly worthy protest and pepper-spray. We're talking about a robot personal assistant, after-all. But data is a limited resource; some people get more than others. And those others have to pay.
This gap between extreme users and regular phone users is widening, according to Flanagan. "The hungry are getting hungrier," he told Bloomberg's Jonathan Browning. Bandwidth is not unlimited. Even those with unlimited data plans should keep this in mind as they talk to a phone as a cry for help, because the way things have gone for data packages, phone companies are on the road to eliminating those, too.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.