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Hungry mobile apps gobble up to 115MB an hour

Users of smartphones such as the Apple iPhone 4 or Google Android devices had better keep an eye on their mobile data plans. Bandwidth-hungry apps can consume up to 115MB an hour, according to new data from Virgin Media Business.

The research, which studied the 50 most popular smartphone apps in the UK, revealed that the average app uses around 10.7MB every hour. The hungriest software tested, Tap Zoo, consumed a whopping 115MB an hour.

Virgin Media estimates that the typical smartphone owner uses apps for around 11 hours a month - but many pieces of installed software are given a free pass to send and receive information behind the scenes even when not in use.

According to the research, a typical app can gobble around 119MB a month or 1.4GB a year - potentially a costly business, as network carriers impose caps on data plans and moves are being made towards metered access.

The pace of smartphone adoption means that this kind of background data grazing could even threaten the very capacity of mobile networks, leading to a poorer quality of service for all.

As tech commentary site GigaOm notes, users are given a clear indication of how large an app is before they download it - maybe it's time the same logic is applied to data usage, with an up-front warning over an app's consumption being provided to users before they choose to download (and pay for) their software.