As unlimited data plans grow more popular, Wi-Fi loses its dominance

Folks across the U.S. are ditching Wi-Fi in favor of unlimited wireless. That, at least, appears to be the conclusion that OpenSignal has drawn in its latest report published this week. As major cellphone service providers continue to re-introduce unlimited data to their content-hungry customers, it looks like folks are spending more time surfing the web on their phones in Wi-Fi free zones, rather than looking for free Wi-Fi to connect to.

As per OpenSignal’s data, time on Wi-Fi has fallen for three out of the four major carriers (the big four being Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint). The top two carriers, AT&T and Sprint, actually saw the greatest reduction in time spent on Wi-Fi, proving that as more folks opt for unlimited data, they care less about saving data by ducking into Starbucks at every opportunity. Instead, they’re just relying on their 4G and LTE networks.

To be fair, OpenSignal is not observing drastic reductions in Wi-Fi time — AT&T and Verizon both saw 3-point reductions, from 52 percent to 49 percent, and 54 percent to 51 percent, respectively. T-Mobile customers spent 41 percent of their time on Wi-Fi, down from 43 percent a year ago. Only Sprint stayed steady at 51 percent.

“As competition in the U.S. market grows, all four operators have launched competitive unlimited data plans, and as more and more customers migrate to these plans, users are likely becoming more confident about consuming data over cellular networks without worrying about racking up big bills,” OpenSignal noted in a blog post explaining the results.

And although more significant decreases in time spent on Wi-Fi were observed for AT&T and Verizon, T-Mobile customers actually spend the least amount of time on Wi-Fi. This isn’t all that surprising, given that the company has offered unlimited plans for more than five years, and has been particularly vocal about its cap-less plan this year.

But as more people spend more time on data rather than Wi-Fi, there are some negative consequences. In OpenSignal’s most recent State of Mobile Networks: USA report, both AT&T and Verizon saw drops in their 4G speeds. T-Mobile still leads in both 4G speed and availability metrics, and alas, Sprint has stayed in last place (though it’s making gains of its own).

Even as Wi-Fi use appears to decline, it doesn’t mean that these networks are ever going to fully disappear. After all, data-intensive activities still require Wi-Fi, and most people still would rather connect to Wi-Fi while at home on their computers than depend upon a hot spot. Still, as unlimited data plans continue to evolve, we’ll have to see how much longer Wi-Fi maintains its relevance.

Mobile

5G is going to cost you a few bucks more, at least on Verizon

Verizon is in the midst of a massive 5G rollout. In addition to fixed 5G service, it will also begin deploying mobile 5G in the coming months. Here's everything you need to know about Verizon's 5G network and when it will be in your town.
Mobile

Google Fi: Phones, plans, pricing, perks, and more explained

Google's wireless service, formerly Project Fi, now goes by the name of Google Fi, and it's now compatible with a majority of Android phones, as well as iPhones. Here's everything you need to know about Google Fi.
Computing

Sending SMS messages from your PC is easier than you might think

Texting is a fact of life, but what to do when you're in the middle of something on your laptop or just don't have your phone handy? Here's how to send a text message from a computer, whether you prefer to use an email client or Windows 10.
Mobile

Free yourself! How to unlock a phone from the icy hands of your wireless carrier

Do you want to know how to unlock a phone through your carrier or a third-party service like DoctorSIM? Regardless of which way you want to go, we've compiled a list of requirements and methods for doing so.
Mobile

Google hit with another fine by the EU, this time for $1.7 billion

Google has been fined for the third time by the EU, this time for breaching antitrust laws by requiring third-party websites using its search function to prioritize its ads over competitors.
Deals

Get your hands (and ears) on Apple’s new AirPods — here’s where to find them

Apple's new AirPods with wireless charging are the latest version of the much-loved wireless earbuds. Unfortunately, they aren't widely available yet. Here's where you can find them right now, and where they will show up soon.
Product Review

There’s almost nothing bad to say about the Mi Mix 3, but you still shouldn’t buy it

The Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 is good-looking, really well made, packed with features, and is a powerful, modern, desirable smartphone. But you probably shouldn’t buy it. Why? Nothing wrong with the device itself, but Xiaomi itself is mostly to…
Mobile

You can now use the innovative Red Hydrogen One on Google Fi

The Red Hydrogen One was first announced in 2017 and has been delayed a few times since then. Now, the Red Hydrogen One is finally available, featuring a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage.
Mobile

Apple’s AirPower wireless charging mat may be coming soon

At its September event in 2017, Apple unveiled the AirPower, a new wireless charging mat that will allow you to charge multiple devices at one time. It has not yet been released. Here's everything we know about the device so far.
Deals

The best Apple AirPods alternatives for Android, Windows, and iOS devices

Apple AirPods might be new and improved, but they aren't the only game in town. Other makers are offering their own truly wireless earbuds, with attractive features. These are the best AirPod alternatives on the market today.
Deals

Here are 20 portable tech gadgets you’ll want to use every day

If you're looking for portable tech to keep you charged up while on the go (or for some great small gift ideas), we've rounded up 20 must-have gadgets. You'll find everything from a mini gaming controller to a folding Bluetooth keyboard.
Mobile

The latest Google Doodle lets you create Bach-like music of your own

Google is celebrating the life of German composer Johann Sebastian Bach, and to that end the company has released a new Google Doodle that allows you to create Bach-like melodies and harmonies of your own.
Mobile

Amazon’s new Kindle has an adjustable light and costs less than $100

Amazon has taken the wraps off of a new Kindle model, which boasts a number of great features and comes at a very affordable price. Perhaps the best thing about the new Kindle is that the device has an adjustable.
Mobile

Apple iPad Air vs. iPad (2018): Which Apple tablet is right for you?

The new iPad Air replaces the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, but it doesn't pack quite the same punch. It is a fair bit cheaper, starting at $500, but it's a lot more expensive than Apple's 9.7-inch iPad which starts at $330. If you're shopping for…