Mobile apps can be a double-edged sword: useful for sharing, learning and collaborating, whilst consuming large amounts of expensive data. Here is our list of apps to watch and how to stop them from causing bill shock

Do you have any idea how much data mobile apps are consuming on your corporate plan? Failing to monitor and manage application usage is one of the top causes of bill shock in enterprise mobile management– that awful moment at month-end when the cost of mobile working in the smartphone age can really hit home.

Some apps are worse than others so it’s important to know the main offenders. Consider that the average US smartphone user notched up 733mb of monthly data on average in Q1 of this year. The majority of that can be blamed on these popular apps and data types.

YouTube, Netflix, Vimeo and beyond

Video streaming applications are by far the worst culprits for employee mobile data consumption on any mobile device. Whether it’s watching a film or TV programme whilst waiting for a flight, or content snacking between meetings, video costs dearly. Even viewing for just ten minutes a day can consume 1GB in less than a month. Adding HD to the mix will consume twice the amount of data that standard videos do.

Video Calls

Closely related to streaming video are video calling apps which can use between 5mb and 30mb for a 5-minute session.


As games go mobile and multiplayer becomes the mode of choice, gaming’s share of data consumption is going up and up. Massively multiplayer mobile games can require data rates of up to 17mb for every 10 minutes of play. Each new generation of games also improves on the previous version’s graphics and these – especially 3D – mean large file sizes, some within the 200mb range.


If left unchecked, streaming music apps like Spotify or Pandora can exhaust a standard data plan in less than a month. Choosing a lower bit rate can help – but how many people will opt for lower sound quality on their favourite songs when full, rich sound is available? Even streaming at a mid-range of 160 kilobits per second can eat-up roughly 1.2MB per minute.

Social Media

Whilst social media apps on their own tend to be small files, the sharing that takes place within them can use considerable amount of data – photo sharing in particular. The more actively you view and share images, the more data you’ll consume. A more recent development has been social media apps embedded in device operating systems (See Android’s Facebook Home) which leave the app in an ‘always on’ mode. The constant communication between the device and the application’s remote servers could also lead to bill shock – especially if data roaming is switched on whilst travelling abroad.

Top Tips: Holding Back the Data Deluge

As always with cellular data, staff should be directed to use a secure Wi-Fi connection whenever possible. 3G and 4G/LTE plans will provide the required speed in most cases but the data costs are prohibitive. That’s true for streaming video, but for video calls as well. If a video call or web conference must be made whilst on the move, Skype is currently the least data hungry of the popular apps.
Updating and sharing via social media is now a mainstream activity and increasingly a valid mode of professional communication too. The challenge is: how to distinguish between personal and professional use?
Where games and streaming music are concerned – every organization will have a different level of tolerance for personal apps. Your AUP should be very specific with regards to these however. It may be feasible to ban them outright, or if you prefer, to leave it to individuals’ judgement. In either case we recommend stipulating a personal data usage cap, and clarifying what the cost will be for exceptional personal usage.
To gain that level of flexibility and control, you’ll need to add Mobile Data Optimization (MDO) technologies to your management toolkit. MDO can help you separate, for example, gaming traffic from other acceptable data/usage types and tell you how much data a user is consuming on games – so you can charge it back to them.
MDO solutions work by raising granular visibility at the user level of the data types and apps that are pushing up costs. MDO then uses data compression to tackle video and images. I can also block un-productive websites and caps users at an allocated personal data limit.
Read: The Amazing Disappearing Mobile Data