According to Nielsen’s ( monthly analysis of cellphone bills for 65,000-plus lines, smartphone owners — especially those with iPhones and Android devices — are consuming more data than ever before on a per-user basis. 

This has huge implications for carriers since the proportion of smartphone owners is also increasing dramatically, according to the research group.  (Currently, 37% of all mobile subscribers in the United States have smartphones.)

In just the last 12 months, the amount of data the average smartphone user consumes per month has grown by 89% from 230MB in Q1 2010 to 435MB in Q1 2011. A look at the distribution of data consumption is even more shocking: data usage for the top 10% of smartphone users is up 109% while the top 1% has grown their usage by an astonishing 155% from 1.8GB in Q1 2010 to over 4.6GB in Q1 2011, according to Nielsen.

Growth in smartphone data usage is clearly being driven by app-friendly operating systems like Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, says the research group.
Consumers with iPhones and Android smartphones consume the most data: 582 MBs per month for the average Android owner and 492 MBs for the average iPhone user. Also of note, Windows Phone 7 users doubled their usage over the past two quarters, perhaps due to growth in the number of applications available.

Even as data usage has almost doubled, most users are paying around what they did a year ago for data. That translates to a lower cost per unit of data consumed.  The amount the average smartphone user pays per unit of data has dropped by nearly 50% in the last year, from 14 cents per MB to eight cents.