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New research from Parks Associates (www.parksassociates.com) shows tiered data plans pushed by carriers such as AT&T and Verizon aren't yet affecting consumer app use. According to "Primary Data Digest: Consumer Apps 1H12," which surveyed U.S. broadband households in the third quarter of 2012:
° Smartphone owners on tiered data plans have downloaded an average of 17 apps since purchasing their phones and use seven apps on average per month;
° Smartphone owners on unlimited data plans have downloaded an average of 16 apps since purchase and use six apps on a monthly basis.
"Carriers like Verizon and AT&T are moving subscribers away from unlimited data plans at the same time phones are increasing their capabilities," says Jennifer Kent, research analyst, Parks Associates. "The iPhone 5, with its larger screen and LTE upgrade, will encourage people to use more data, but consumers are finding ways to compensate for data limits. Almost 40% of users on tiered data plans use Wi-Fi for mobile Internet access whenever possible, compared to only 22% of consumers on unlimited data plans."
Parks Associates' research also shows tablet owners use fewer apps on a regular basis than do smartphone owners but are more likely to download paid apps.
"Two-thirds of tablet owners have at least one paid app on their device, compared to 59% of smartphone users, and more tablet app users make in-app purchases," Kent says. "App developers who are proactive with their tablet strategy may see a big payoff."
Parks Associates' data show subscribers in tiered data plans track their usage more closely, which could reduce usage of data-intensive apps, such as music streaming and video apps.
"App developers are worried tiered data plans will inhibit app usage, so developers of data-intensive apps may want to explore toll-free arrangements with carriers," Kent says. "The developers would pick up the bill for any data consumed by their apps. This arrangement reduces usage barriers created by tiered data plans."