Some time ago I noticed a tweet claiming 75 % of "social messaging" data traffic is caused by Snapchat.
Vodafone: 75% of UK social messaging data traffic is Snapchat
— Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) May 21, 2015
Seventy five percent sounded absurdly high. Even with a limited set of platforms ("social messaging"), surely other apps like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram and such could make up over one fourth of the traffic? But contemplating further, I leaned more and more to the conclusion that it probably could be true. Snapchat only shows the messages for a short, finite time, so the data is not really cached on the user's device. Further more, text-based messages have a very small role in Snapchat communication. The amount of data used by video and image transfers towers over text messages' data usage.
During the past week, I conducted a small experiment to compare my own data usage with the 75 %. I'll admit right away that I am an avid Snapchat user. I send tens of snaps during the day and view more than that. As a control subject I chose our CEO Juho.
From Monday to Monday, I transferred 3.2 GB of mobile data. Out of this amount, Snapchat's part was a whopping 1.7 GB. Snapchat's share of my week's total amount was around 53 %. When compared to my other messaging apps, Chrome, Facebook, Instagram, Mail, [Facebook] Messenger, Safari, Twitter and WhatsApp used a cumulative 714.8 MB. This would put Snapchat's share of my mobile data traffice usage around 70 %, so a bit under the UK's three fourths.
How about Juho's mobile data usage? Looking at Juho's statistics, Snapchat fares quite well even at minimal usage. Juho did not have any sent videos during the week. On Juho's device, Snapchat used 319 MB of mobile data, with the total mobile data traffic being 3.85 GB. Snapchat's share of the total amount is really small, but it should be noted that 1.22 GB of Juho's data traffic was under "Tethering and Mobile hotspot" (sharing of your phone's internet connection). Other messaging apps, Chrome, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Gmail and a few other apps that used less than 20 MB, produced a sum of 1450 MB of data traffic (Chrome making up over 800 MB of that). In any way, Snapchat's share of the data traffic was very small, and didn't reach anywhere near 75 %.
Snapchat was, however, Juho's fourth largest source of mobile data traffic. The top three was made up of Tethering, Chrome, and DNA TV. Snapchat is arguably the most representative of "social messaging" apps.
It's been a while since I last visited London or other UK cities, so I have no clue of what the current scene for smart phone communication is. I don't think Vodaphone's claim is in anyway impossible. It would be interesting to hear some numbers from other countries and a breakdown of how much of Snapchat traffic is sent over WiFi compared to mobile data networks. It would also be interesting to hear which apps were actually categorized as "social messaging".