Why iPhone 6 Plus users consume twice as much data as those using the iPhone 6

More screen, more data.
More screen, more data.
Image: AP Photo/Vincent Yu
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When Apple finally released two larger-screen iPhones in the fall, the market responded with so much enthusiasm that the company ended up posting the biggest earnings in corporate history.

Now there is new data about how the devices are being used, and it suggests a huge disparity in mobile data usage. Citrix’s newly-released mobile analytics report shows that owners of the iPhone 6 Plus, consumed twice the amount of mobile data as people using the iPhone 6. (Overall, iOS is far ahead of Android when it comes to mobile traffic. A research note from Piper Jaffray in December found that iOS accounted for 61.4% of mobile traffic in the US compared with Android’s 37.5% share.)

Many studies have correlated larger screens with higher engagement, and Citrix notes that usage of the phablet-sized iPhone is mirroring tablet use, with mobile subscribers spending more time watching video on the larger 6 Plus screen.

But there may be more going on that just video usage. Both phones tout very similar 8-megapixel cameras, but the image stabilization found only on the iPhone 6 Plus allows it to capture more detail, which translates to larger file sizes. BGR editor-in-chief Jonathan Geller recently posted full-resolution photos of the same dimly lit shot taken on both phones, and the 3MB photo he took on the iPhone 6 Plus was a full megabyte larger—a 50% increase. Multiply that by the number of photos shared to Apple’s iCloud, email, messaging apps, and social media, and the discrepancy could quickly add up.

Another potential explanation is much simpler: iPhone 6 Plus owners are early adopters and hardcore enthusiasts, and so the device is overrepresented for people who are glued to their phones at all times.