Monday, February 29, 2016

Free Android app costs MWC attendees millions of Euros in roaming-data charges

Did you install the Mobile World Congress (MWC) app for Android? You need to block this app from using your mobile data NOW! After one week in MWC, we found that it was hogging huge amounts of background data. A rough estimate shows over 5 million Euros of roaming charges could be wasted by this app’s background data usage.

Last week, Barcelona was awash with over 100,000 mobile industry execs, marketers, startups, nerds and geeks from all over the world. To meet them, you need to shell out on expensive flights, over-priced hotel rooms and, what’s more, roaming-data charges.
Using Opera Max on Sony, Samsung and HTC devices, we observed over 70 MB of background data usage per day by the MWC app. All three device owners did not use the app for anything except entering the Fira. In total, these people ended up with spending 280 MB on average on background data.
Disclaimer, Opera Max is an app I product manage at Opera. At MWC I met with Techcrunch, Venturebeat, Tom’s Hardware, Kompas and other media to discuss how background data management is a huge problem for Android users. Android apps can burn up huge amounts of background data, making data plans inefficient and costly for people in emerging markets and cost-conscious consumers in general. To address this, we’ve just released an update of Opera Max with a Smart Alerts feature, which exposes the Android apps on your device that are burning excessive background data, compared to other apps.

This Smart Alerts feature in Opera Max (version 1.6) is how we figured out how data hungry the MWC app really was.  So, we investigated it via Opera Max’s data usage timeline. We were shocked to find that the MWC app was using data more than 50 times per day, all in the background and averaging over 70 MB in background data usage.
If you are like me, and were using roaming data, the MWC Android app is insanely expensive to have on your device. This app could cost MWC attendees at least 5 million Euros in roaming data charges, just for the background data alone. Here is my back-of-the-napkin calculation:
A. 1 MB of mobile roaming data (most likely on Telefonica) costs .50 Euro pence.
B. MWC 2016 had 100,000 attendees. Let’s say half of them used Android.
C. Duration of MWC was 4 days.
D. The MWC mobile app used an average of 70 MB in the background without the user knowing.
E. 71% of MWC Android users used roaming data.
The math :
A. 70 MB background-data  usage per day x .50 Euro pence x 4 days = 150 Euros per day in background-data usage.
B. 140 Euro x 50,000 Android attendees = 7,000,000 Euros in background-data charges!
Let’s apply a 29% discount on this for those users who turned off their mobile data completely. So instead of 50,000 Android-using MWC attendees with the app installed and using roaming data, let’s assume it’s 35,500. This makes the total 5,000,000 Euros in background-data charges applied due to the MWC app.

This is terrible. Most people noticed and complained about how much battery life was consumed by the app. What most folks did not realize is that the battery was  being burned up by the massive amount of background-data usage.
The GSMA should be leading the industry and app developers towards being very aware and responsible with how much data their apps use. If we want to onboard the rest of the world population onto mobile networks, we need to take seriously the idea of app developers being responsible for how they design their apps to consume data. There is absolutely no way that emerging market networks will survive the onslaught of data if apps are as careless and inefficient as they are now, 3 years from now.
I sincerely hope that, next year, GSMA does the responsible thing and leads the industry by example towards more efficient and cost effective use of data.
In the meantime, do yourself a favor - block the MWC 2016 app from using your mobile data or simply uninstall it. Read on for the details, and for a tip on how you can avoid this scenario in the future.
Please note this post, and all blogposts on are my own thoughts and opinions and not of my employer or former employers.


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