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The votes are in: Which mobile data provider is best?

February 3, 2014 06:30 AM ET
What do you primarily use your mobile data connection for?
(Select your 5 most frequent activities)
Getting online information (search, weather, maps, business ratings, transit trackers, etc.): 89%
Emailing: 85%
Web browsing: 72%
Social networking: 35%
Downloading apps: 26%
Using cloud storage/productivity tools (notes, tasks, calendars, contacts, etc.): 25%
Streaming and downloading music, videos or podcasts: 23%
Uploading and downloading photos: 21%
Shopping: 17%
Using your phone as a mobile hotspot: 14%
Playing online games: 7%
Making VoIP calls: 7%
Other: 7%
Source: Computerworld mobile data service survey, 2013
Base: 820 respondents

What do people use their data connection for? Primarily three things: 89% go online for information such as search results, maps, weather, transit details and business ratings; 85% use it for email; and 72% use it for Web browsing.

Social networking came in a distant fourth, with 35% of people using it for that. Apart from that, no other single use -- downloading apps, streaming music or videos, shopping, using cloud storage/productivity tools, etc. -- cracked the 30% barrier.

Our survey also shows that online mobile gaming hasn't caught on with respondents: Only 7% said they use their smartphones to play games online.

Plans, contracts and costs

Mouse over each pie slice to see its value.
Source: Computerworld mobile data services survey, 2013
Base: 820 respondents

When it comes to contracts and plans, survey respondents are a family-oriented bunch, with 50% on family plans and 27% on individual plans.

The remainder are nearly evenly split between business plans (12%) and data-sharing plans that include other devices such as tablets (11%).

Long-term contracts, rather than month-to-month or pre-paid ones, still rule: 84% of respondents have long-term contracts, 12% are month to month and 4% are pre-paid.

And despite provider attempts to the contrary, unlimited data plans are still common: 56% of respondents are on unlimited plans, 40% are on tiered plans and 4% don't know.

Those numbers are deceiving, though, because Sprint and T-Mobile customers overwhelmingly are on unlimited plans, with about 96% of Sprint subscribers with unlimited plans (only 1% say they are on a tiered plan, and the other 3% don't know), and 73% of T-Mobile users on unlimited plans.



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