by Matt Kapko

Top Social Media Apps Are Serious Data Hogs

Feb 25, 20152 mins

The top five mobile apps in the United States drive nearly two thirds of total mobile data consumption, according to a new report, and three of those five apps are social media services.

Mobile social media applications are insatiable data hogs, according to a new report from wireless infrastructure vendor Ericsson. The top five social apps — Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, Instagram and Snapchat — account for 61 percent of all mobile traffic in the United States, Ericsson says.

Overall, the top five mobile apps in all three of the countries included in the report (the United States, Spain and South Korea) account for two-thirds of all mobile network traffic, according to the data. Video streaming and social networking services led the surge in increased data use by a wide margin.

[Related Slideshow: 10 Simple-to-Use Social Media Monitoring and Analytics Tools]

Facebook is responsible for the highest amount of mobile data usage in all three countries: 16 percent in the United States and 20 percent in both Spain and South Korea. Facebook and Instagram combined represent a quarter of all mobile data consumed in the United States.

YouTube was responsible for 15 percent of all U.S. mobile traffic, Netflix drew 12 percent, followed by Instagram and Snapchat, both with 9 percent of traffic.

Video Drives Data Use on Social 

Ericsson’s predicts video traffic via apps including Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat will increase significantly through 2020, and the line between social media and video apps will blur on mobile devices as the two types of apps converge. 

[Related Slideshow: 9 New Twitter Features and Tweaks Coming in 2015]

Social networking sites consumed 15 percent of all mobile traffic last year, according to Ericsson, and that number is expected to remain flat during the next five years. However, mobile video traffic is projected to grow 45 percent annually during this period, representing a ten-fold increase over 2014’s mobile data use.

[Related News Analysis: Snapchat Says Its Weaknesses Are Actually Strengths for Advertisers]

It’s not surprising that mobile data consumption continues to surge. Mobile traffic increased by 55 percent year-over-year, according to Ericsson, and it is expected to rise at a compound annual growth rate of around 40 percent through 2020, resulting in an eight-fold increase in overall traffic.

Ericsson says smartphones will outnumber basic phones in 2016 and will increase to 6.1 billion total active subscribers by 2020. This last prediction is particularly noteworthy, because smartphone subscriptions hit the one billion mark just a few years ago in 2012.