Video streaming eats up data plan; smashing iPad with hammer will break it

The Wall Street Journal has an article today that profiles a user that was surprised his data plan was used up by streaming video to his iPad.

Despite what WSJ would have you believe, this isn’t an iPad problem — streaming video is going to eat up a data plan on any device. The Journal chose the iPad because it makes for a good headline, not because it’s accurate.

Here’s another tip for the user and Wall Street Journal — don’t hit your iPad with a hammer because it could damage the device.

  • rwitt

    4G LTE is fast. APPLE IS DOOMED

  • DaveD

    Funny. Just yesterday my son was asking me what data plan he should use if he wants to run netflix on the iPad I was giving him. I said “Don’t watch movies on 3G”. Folks just don’t understand what data volumes are associated with various media.

    • xp84

      Nah, I used to watch 45 minutes a day of Netflix on 3G and never broke 2GB on my old iPhone 3G and 4. The current 3GB AT&T plan or the 4GB promo plan on Verizon is more than enough for aggressive video watching.

  • Nitpickiking is a national hobby. It’s extra fun when Apple is involved. Superficial people.

  • NEWS JUST IN: Some users are reporting that their new iPad is susceptible to scratches, when driven over several times with a large truck. When asked for a comment, Apple PR said they suspected the customers were driving over their iPad wrong, and also morons.

  • In related news, people who use their credit cards more often get bigger bills at the end of the month.

  • Ian

    Did anyone else notice the iPad was mounted to his dashboard of his car while he was watching, I hope he was not driving.

  • Honest question: what is the point of having LTE speeds if you can’t use them? It’s like giving someone a Ferrari and telling them you have to stay under 40mph for their own safety.

    • Actually, it’s more like telling them to stay under 10mph.

    • Ian

      its more like buying a Ferrari then complaining about it’s gas mileage.

    • Dpauw

      Not to nitpick but it is more like you can only travel 40 miles regardless of having a fast or slow car.

      • Ben

        you speak the truth.

    • Tom

      This is an asinine analogy.  Seriously.

      • Killing__Time

        not asinine. its more like if you went to buy a ferrari but as you got the dealership you realized you could only afford a VW.

        • kibbles

          no its more like if you wanted a hamburger but ended up getting a chili cheesedog. 

          • xp84

            No, it’s more like if you wanted a Ferarri but when you got to the dealer they told you that peanut butter sandwiches cost extra, so you decide to go to a strip club instead, but then when you get to the club all the strippers are trannies.

      • His Shadow

        Unless you are trying to explain quantum mechanics, analogies are almost universally asinine.

    • Pipsqueak

      How about buying a Ferrari and then being told they have to obey the speed limit like everyone else.  Which is the actual deal when buying a Ferrari, if I’m not mistaken.  Buying an iPad doesn’t release you from the digital laws of nature.

    • Brendan Dery

       Actually, I would argue that it’s more like buying a Ferrari, then sitting in it with an iPad and watching movies over LTE using your iPad, then complaining about how fast you go through your data plan.


  • Jason S.

    The article says he’s a “web developer.” How did he not know this would happen?

    • Andrew Montgomery

      I think you overestimate web developers.

    • shigmas

      Seriously.  Does this guy have no concept of bandwidth?  Does he use hi resolution images for thumbnails?


    • trashbat

      Hence, the Internets.

  • “Take regular video: Verizon estimates that streaming it over an LTE connection runs through 650 megabytes an hour. That’s double the amount of data used streaming the same video over a 3G link, because the fatter pipe lets more data through.”

    Are you kidding me? Same file uses more data because of a fatter pipe!? No, it downloads faster because of the fatter pipe, but the data amount is the same.

    Who’s writing this stuff, politicians?

    • Ian

      Streaming video has detected connection speed for a while now. it gives you the best quality with the smallest amount of buffering. It also helps the server cope with load by serving lower quality video under high demand situations.

    • “No, it downloads faster because of the fatter pipe, but the data amount is the same.

      no it is not. “Netflix does attempt to scale their streaming quality based on your available bandwidth and if there are any slow-downs with the network, which allows for the best video quality your connection can support”

      I noticed that on the PS3 (my main netflix viewing platform) I was “stuck” at SD when I was on a pokey DSL connection, when I upgraded to cable, Netflix automagically added HD to the end of the signal strength indicator. If I use the network for something else while streaming, netflix would pause and re-buffer (on DSL)

      Don’t forget it’s in the servers best interest so stream in the smallest files possible. there’s an incentive for them to tune the stream.

      since you can configure your netflix usage manually – they definitely have more than one version of the file available.

      Netflix is now letting U.S. users dial down the quality of streaming videos to avoid hitting bandwidth caps.

      Users can choose from three quality settings by visiting the “Your Account” page on Netflix’s website and looking for the “Manage Video Quality” link. “Good quality” consumes up to 0.3 GB per hour, “Better quality” burns up to 0.7 GB per hour, and “Best quality” consumes up to 1 GB per hour for standard definition or 2.3 GB per hour for HD. 

  • Hilarious. I had EXACTLY the same conversation with someone.. he complained he burned through a gig on the first day, so he turned LTE off…  of course he was thrilled with the fact that Netflix doesn’t buffer when you’re on LTE, so that was his demo app of choice. 

  • LD

    Normal people don’t understand what or how much data is. My mother in law is a good example. She has a Verizon mifi 5GB plan. We can’t FaceTime when she travels because it eats through her cap. She didnt understand the messages Verizon texted her. She thought someone was stealing her wifi signal. Normal people don’t and shouldn’t understand this stuff. Unfortunately the caps are so low that normal people can’t do normal things like video chat. The carriers don’t get it.

    • Sticknick

      Sadly enough, I think the carries do get it. By that I mean, they get the fact that normal people have no idea how this stuff works. This lets carriers charge and charge and charge…

      • True, it also makes her want to move to another provider, until she realized they all have similar caps.  Why do carriers hate their customers?

  • Nice to have a big fat 40GB data plan for $25 a month.

  • Nick

    Silly headlines aside, this does point out a real problem with our data options in the US. I wish I had the option to stream video on my hour long train ride each day, but I know I’d destroy my 2GB / month plan instantly. 

    It makes me wish Apple sold one iPad that did both ATT and Verizon, I think the direct competition month to month for peoples $ would have helped to drive down cost and increase data caps. 

    • joeYYY1

      In a way, it did. You can get a Verizon iPad use LTE data (and 3G EVDO) from your Verizon plan, and also stick in it an AT&T micro sim to use 3G HDPA from your AT&T plan.

      Since the iPad is unlocked and comes without a contract you can even buy a Verizon iPad and use it only with an AT&T plan.

      The only drawback, you can’t use AT&T LTE since they use a different band.

    • Killing__Time

      doubt it would drive down prices. i thought the same with the iPhone when it came to Verizon but everything pretty much stayed equal.

  • crateish

    Crap. Why didn’t Apple warn me? So much for my plan to stream episodes of ‘Alf’ in HD all day at work.

  • anw1

    When is Verizon going to release shared data plans. This $30 a month is BS.

  • HAL9000point5

    Even Julius Caesar had his detractors.

  • Killing__Time

    skimmed the article. thought its sentiment was fine really. it used the iPad as a jumping point but i don’t feel it blamed the device but the “catch 22” of faster speeds.

  • Les Carr

    The phrase “dumb pipe” doesn’t refer to the wireless delivery of data to your iPad but the wireless removal of cash from your wallet

  • deemery

    And playing computational & graphics-intensive games on the new iPad causes the 4 core processor to generate heat.  Shocking!!

  • sigma8

    I read the article. I don’t think it deserves this kind of harsh critique. The point seems to be about how, with LTE, we’re getting less than we used to. With 3G, the streaming video maybe looked a little crappier, but maybe you could get 20 hours worth of it before you ran afoul of your limit. Now with LTE, video quality is better, but you can only watch 2 movies and suddenly you’re at the cap. 

    To me, the article is more about how Carriers are pricing 4G bandwidth the same as 3G bandwidth, and how perhaps that’s not appropriate…because if it stays that way, what’s the value of it? Who wants to buy more bandwidth if you can’t use it?

  • deviladv

    I’m not sure I agree with the assessment here.  I have no particular kind of special love for the WSJ, but reaction to the article appears to be a case of geeks looking down their nose at people over to what they think is obvious.  Non-techs have no idea what amount of time watching movies constitutes 2 or 3 GB.  Oh yeah that’s about an hour or twos worth of HD video.  REALLY?  That’s news.  It’s not news to us, because we complained about it years ago.

    The iPad is supposed to be a digital device that’s connected and easy and accessible to do simple tasks really easy for a large portion of people.  It makes watching video easy.  But there’s a problem, and I think this quote sums it up nicely:

    “”All the advantages of the iPad device are completely neutralized by the two gigabyte data limit,” said Steve Wells, 56.”

    That’s a problem with the carrier, and we should be encouraging WSJ to hit on that point over and over, because it’s true, and the general populace doesn’t know it until they start reading these kinds of stories or get hit with the problems themselves.  The news about data caps is outside of the tech bubble, now let’s run with it.

  • Wifi!

  • That article is really bashing the carriers for their crummy plans more than anything else. Using the iPad name was obvious, how else would they get people to read the thing?

  • satcomer

    Wow they came out with an article that I have been saying all along sense the LTE networks came out: 4G LTE is just a way to speed to your data cap.

  • I have a headline for ’em: Writing For The Wall Street Journal Can Cause Lazy Linkbaiting

  • Does WIFI get chosen over 3G when both are present and active? I think it shows the WIFI status even when 3G is enabled and cell data isn’t restricted to WIFI. it would be nice for iOS to make a point to indicate WIFI is on but not used, or prioritize the use of WIFI over 3G, but it doesn’t. Not doing any of this is mean-spirited. Just saying “hey, streaming over 3G!” would take care of most of the issue.

    • RalfBuescher

      Go to Home Screen. Go to the Settings app, find entry “General” in List, in there find “network”, turn the switch on “cellular data” OFF and your iPad will only see the internet when you are on WiFi. 😉

      RTFM, where F means friendly 🙂

      And yes, if, WiFi and 3G is available, these iOS devices use WiFi only for data.

  • Adrian

    To be fair, sites serving hires images to Retina iPad will consume data plan faster. For example, Apples homepage goes from ~500 KB to ~2 MB when on the new iPad:

  • sohot

    Noooo its like buying a ferrari for 5G and the price of gas is is a mere hundred dolkars a gallon!