Mobile Bandwidth/Data Usage

There seems to be a large concern about data usage in the mobile version of the app, so I decided to run a few tests.

I ran a test where I opened a fresh browser window with no data cached, no cookies, etc, - this would reflect the state of a mobile browser the very first time you open the site up. I went through the site for about 11 minutes, and read about 30 threads, including all the largest threads. Here are the results:

After this, I went back and started the tracker over, but didnt empty out my cache. This reflects how the majority of you will use the site - once youve been on the site once, your mobile browser will cache several files, such as the javascript, css, and many images. On this test, I used the forum for 30 minutes, viewed another 40+ topics, replied to a few, and read the largest threads several times over. Here are the results of that:

As you can see, once you get past the initial load of the site, your data usage goes way down, because modern browsers are smart enough to cache larger repetitive files.

I came away from this test with some other info that might be useful:

  • The site does send out a data request every 10 seconds or so. This has little to no impact on data usage though. If it doesnt find a new post, it uses 0 bytes. If it does find a new post, it usually brings back < 1kb of data.
  • There is a chance this could affect battery usage slightly since it will be accessing the wireless antenna often, but it wouldnt affect the battery any more than any other app that polls for data like twitter or facebook. And it doesnt poll for data at all when the phone is turned off, so when not in use, it wont have any affect on the battery. I will make a request to the forum developers to see if they can maybe institute some kind of "Pull to refresh" feature, instead of doing constant polling.
  • The biggest issues with data come from outside image links. 2mb of the 7mb in the first test was from one image link to imgur.com. If users upload images to the site, they are compressed. If they are linked and embedded from other sites, they dont get compressed.
    • Note: you can upload images from other websites. When you click the upload button, you have the option to upload a file from your computer, or upload a file from a URL. Please do this, as it allows the images to be compressed instead of loaded at full resolution.

So, not counting the 2mb data file, almost an hour of browsing, and viewing almost every thread resulted in less than 7mb of data being used.

But we are still trying to do more to lessen that impact as much as possible.

Future steps we're taking include:

  • Following up with the forum developers for a barebones image-less mobile layout (they responded and said its not on the roadmap right now, but could be a feature they visit after their next major release)
  • Checking the gzip compression used on the server and potentially increasing it if possible (The inital load of css and javascript took about 700kb. As stated before though, this is a one-time load for most uers, as most mobile browsers will automatically cache it. However, if we can increase the gzip compression it might be possible to make the one-time load even smaller)
  • Modify our mobile CSS to position a reply button on the screen at all times, so users dont have to scroll to the bottom of a thread to reply (If you are forced to scroll to the bottom of a long thread, you would be wasting data loading the entire thread, because the forum loads threads 20 posts at a time)
  • Ask the the forum developers if we can reduce the number of posts loaded at one time for mobile. Instead of loading 20, maybe we could set it to only load 5. This would reduce the amount of data used when visiting large threads that you dont plan on reading all of (loading 5 posts and leaving vs loading 20 posts then leaving could save a good bit of bandwidth)

In summary, based on what I saw, it doesnt look like the site uses a ton of data. The original poster had mentioned his data cap was 500mb, but from mobile plans I've been looking at, that seems like it would be on the low end of the spectrum for most users. I obviously dont know what plans everyone has, but a lot of the ones I saw started at 3GB. I think you would have to use the site, non-stop for 10+ hours a day, only on 3G/4G to even break 1GB. If your phone is connected to a wifi network, that shouldnt affect your data limit.

Obvious disclaimer: this is based solely on my test, and your experience may differ.

If anyone has more questions, I will be happy to answer them to the best of my ability.

3 Likes

Great research and explanation. Thank you for posting your results. Hopefully that is the case with the initial data surge being the main hit and not as much follow up data. I think one key is to not view pictures that aren't compressed. Imnot sure if I read your post right. Is it possible to prevent people from linking uncompressed pics? Or to post a warning on the thread? Thanks again for this post!

I forgot to add that to my list of "possible future steps"

One thing we might be able to do as a community is restrict photos to certain post types. Like Trip Countdowns, Social threads, or Review threads. That way people on mobile apps could know to avoid those topics when on a 3G or 4G connection. It would take a bit of moderating, to make sure no one posts images in the wrong place, but if people are still seeing data issues on mobile, this is certainly one of the easiest solutions to implement.

What about only allowing picture links instead of allowing them in the thread itself like it is in the current client? That way everyone can decide whether or not to view the picture.

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Thank you for looking into this. I have a few comments: 1) At Verizon, there were choices for 500MB, 1GB, 2GB and up.I personally have 2GB. Most of the larger numbers are for "family share" plans, so that full 3+GB would not be available for Lines only - or even one phone.. 2) Lines is not the only thing I use data for. I am constantly on the go, so much of my data is used for work related activities, hence the concern of large amounts of data usage. 3) For security reasons, my cache is wiped clean upon every shutdown of the browser. Since I often have only a few minutes to Line, I could expect that 7.1MB to need to be downloaded several times a day -- which DOES eat up a lot of data. I'm glad you guys are looking at this, but as @EJJ said, one of the best things about Liines was the clean, simple, low bandwidth interface of the current chat. Hearing that a imageless mobile layout is a long way off depresses me.

Hi I admit I don't understand most of what was said here Not a Clue what I do know is that I checked my usage, went of forums for about 15 minutes checked again and it had used the about 200 MBs about the same as a TV show streamed. This was Virgin Mobile Broadband to go which is my only option at home

This. Exactly this. Why, if I post a URL to an imgur image, does the forum automatically embed that image in the post? Just leave it as the link. If someone wants to see it, they can click on it themselves. Or at the very least, make it a configuration option for users to decide whether to have the image embedded or left as a link.

Alternatively, since we have the ability to "upload" from a different website, how about if someone posts a link, rather than automatically embedding, the software automatically downloads & compresses, as if we had uploaded it?

I should have been more clear about what i meant by "The first time you visit". I meant the first time, ever. Unless you are clearing out your browser cache, files and images should stay cached even when turning your phone off and on.

@mritty This would be a somewhat fair compromise. I guess it all comes down to whether this forum is becoming focused more on desktop users. Those with a desktop may like to see the image without clicking. Mobile users for the most part probably don't. I'm all for the option to click to see, but I am a mobile user.

@NotThatKevinSmith Been a long time since I did any web programming, but couldn't it be decided by the User-Agent? If it's a desktop browser, embed the image. If it's a mobile browser, just give the link.

But as I stated in my post, my default security setting has to clear the cache completely upon exit. So if I open up the forum again, I must download the 7.1MB again. If I do that 10 times in a day, besides anything else, we are talking about 70 MB. Now I may not be the typical user, but THAT is an issue for me.

Based on the feedback over on the chat, there seem to be quite a few people that only use their phones or a mobile device to view touring plans and chat.

If touringplans has been using any kind of data gathering metric (like google metrics, etc) the breakdown of browsers and methods used to view the site and all it's areas should be easily identifiable. Then the developers can use this to help fix the bandwidth and mobile issues.

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@mritty Possibly. That would be great. I'm not at all familiar with this type of programming. My knowledge is limited to the end-user side.

@Agent_C I have the same issue with my company-issued phone. But I have a feeling we are in the ultra minority on that so I can't blame them there. They have to pick their battles.

There was actually a setting for this, and I thought I had turned it on, but I guess I hadnt. I just enabled it, so we'll see if it works,

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Ah, my bad. Hmm. We're definitely doing all we can to reduce the data usage, but being required to have that default setting could be an issue. Further efforts to reduce large images will probably help a bit, but in terms of keeping your data usage very low, it could be a while before a text-only layout can be made.

Sadly, @NotThatKevinSmith might be right for now just because there's nothing immediate we can do, because its outside of the normal flow that most users will experience. I had brought up the text-only mobile interface to the forum developer team, and they liked the idea, but didnt feel it was pressing enough to work on immediately - but it could be a possibility in the near future.

Um... It's not pressing enough?? If a majority of subscribers to touring plans (the active ones, the ones that input the wait times, etc) are using it on their mobile devices, I would say that the mobile issue is a pressing concern. And if Len is paying for this software, then as a customer, his business should be a pressing concern for the developers. But that's just me.

I didnt say it wasnt pressing for us, just that it wasnt pressing for the forum developers. The forum software is 3rd party software. We cant force them to work on a feature - the best we can do is offer compelling reasons to include the feature, and see if they will add it. They liked the idea, but dont have time to add it to the next version for release. They said they would re-visit the idea after that.

@daybreaker, let's compare apples to apples. Can you do a similar test for the old chat. I suspect it won't be anywhere near 7.1mb... or 1.5mb for that matter. And what if the tp team changes the css or javascript at some point? Must. clear. cache. Right? smile Thanks for the research. Would love to see an apples-to-apples, thanks.

Ha, As an IT guy, I knew it had to be "3rd party". It's so not lines/TP. Len & the team have a certain "feel" about what they do & how they do it, and it's brilliant/streamlined/efficient/light-weight. Not so this forum. Would love a forum that had no graphics/likes/images/gifs/avatars/white space/fancy colors/hearts/flags/bloatware. I just want people's words & conversation, loaded as quickly as possible. Period. Kind of... well... like the existing chat function. wink Go well. Thanks again for the research, much appreciated.