Why Angry Birds just got a whole lot angrier

30 million downloads. 15 million people use it each day. It’s kicked Angry Birds right off their Number 1 perch. And it’s made its developer OMGPOP very, very rich indeed – according to TechCrunch’s Josh Constine, rich to the tune of the $200 million (give or take a few) that Zynga has apparently paid to buy OMGPOP.   

So any guesses yet as to what “it” is, and more importantly, why it’s worrying people so much? 

 It’s called “Draw Something” and it’s an interactive gaming application, based on a very simple concept: one player sketches out clues using their smartphone or tablet and the other tries to guess what the drawing represents. 

Even though I’m no Picasso, oddly enough, I’m finding it really addictive, so I wasn’t surprised to find out that it only took five weeks to become the biggest game on Facebook. 

So it’s fun, hugely popular, interactive and free. So what’s the problem then

One of the commentators on the MacRumors forum explains: 

Let’s face it, a ton of people play this game. And frankly I’m wondering/worried about how much data it potentially uses. I’m deciding which data plan to go with (Either 1GB/20$ or 2GB/30$), my usage will be incredibly light on the go, mostly email and web browsing, no video. But I do worry how much data this game could chew through due to how it sends a video of each play. Any guesses/estimates of how much data a round of this game takes?” 

I decided to find out for myself how much data the app actually uses to transfer the animated drawings during one game session. 

Using another app “My Data Manager”, I ran a few tests to make the calculations and discovered that an average session consumed between 160-1,000KBs. 

Since I play against 3-5 people every day (yes, I did mention that I’m addicted…) and approximately 10 games with each one, I calculated that I’m using up approximately 11 MB a day – this means I’m using over 300MB a month, just by playing “Draw Something”. 

Players are starting to notice the drain on their data and are trying to find out more information all over the Internet: 

Take “Lesley5”, who already put two and two together (and realized it added up to a lot): 

“My daughter uses Draw Something on her iPhone 4S… admittedly we are in Australia, but do you know generally, if she`s not on free WiFi, will it use up much data? We have received a horrendous phone bill this month” 

Or “Bob”: 

How much data/internet does Draw Something use? I’m only on a 250mb data plan and I’m afraid to play/draw something without wifi because I don’t know how much data it uses...” 

Lucky for Bob that he asked before starting to play, because if he was using the app as much as I do, he would have easily exceeded his data plan by the end of the month. 

Apps like this,which are being released with no information about how much data they use up, are very bad news for the consumer’s pockets. This lack of information has to change – my guess is service providers will start to work harder to educate customers about measuring data usage, and also to proactively warn them when they’re reaching their limits. That’s because even if they’re relatively simple apps, when you add up the subsequent capacity demands, they’re also bad news for 3G networks struggling to deliver. And yet another reason for looking to wifi to reduce some of the load from mobile networks. As Informa’s Thomas Wehmeier explains

“Wi-Fi should no longer be viewed solely as a complement to mobile networks, but increasingly should be looked at as a potential disruptive substitute” 

 In the meantime, keep drawing and having fun, but do keep an eye on your data usage too.



  1. Posted April 3, 2012 at 2:37 am | Permalink

    Data use as well as battery life are going to be important moving forward.
    We’ve had this app craziness for several years so I guess it is time to start and maturing.
    Luckily for developers – there are tools for that now as well. Check out this one from AT&T that allows developers to optimize their apps for data usage as well as other aspects: http://bloggeek.me/optimizing-mobile-apps/

  2. Posted April 3, 2012 at 2:43 am | Permalink

    The only thing I’m drawing (sorry; couldn’t help it)…is a conclusion that programmers could stand to make more bandwidth-efficient apps — in parallel with next steps in smarter, more liquid networks.

  3. Posted April 3, 2012 at 4:52 am | Permalink

    @Tsahi & @Brian: Reducing the data usage is always great but simplifying the usage consumption to most customers is what required.

    When you buy a Western Digital external hard drive, it translates the Tera and Giga into understandable measures like: number of songs, images, movies you can store, etc.
    Try to imagine Service Providers indicating that with your monthly data allowance you can watch X amount of YouTube Clips, draw Y amount of images etc.
    In this way, customers will be able to understand and get a real perspective on their data usage.

  4. Posted April 3, 2012 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    In days of old, critical resources were scarce: food, fresh water, disk space. People then used resources with more respect: mastering the art of preserving reources.
    Resources that were in abundance gradually got exploited – some to extinction. The Middle East, for example, was once covered with thick forests. Now we pay the bill by planting trees, and dreading the next mega fire.

    It is not that different with IT resources. The solution of the industry is to create abundance, rather than to become economic. Ran out of HDD space? no sweat, we’ll create a larger capacity one; Your apps need more memory? no prob, we’ll throw more memory in. Larger displays, higher bandwidth etc., is the standard answer.

    How about mastering the art of resources left available? Any extra feature means draining just a bit more of the device. In some cases, not a tiny bit.

    Now here’s an idea for grabs: rank devices and applications by a footprint index: less memory, less space, less network is better. It will be interesting to see developers’ and manufacturers’ response to such rating

  5. Posted April 4, 2012 at 1:24 am | Permalink

    If you play “Draw Something” on Android you are twice more likely to get a bill shock:

    “Looking at network usage on both iPhones and Android phones in the U.S., comScore found that just 29% of iPhone owners restrict themselves to mobile networks when browsing the web, compared with a whopping 68% of Android users. Just 32% of Android owners use Wi-Fi some of the time, but on iPhones, it’s 71%.”

  6. Posted April 4, 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Excellent post, Shai. Your Western Digital example is exactly what we are working towards with our My Data Manager. We are not quite there on our iPhone version but you should check out our Android version that provides per app visibility to subscribers so they truly understand how their behvior translates to their data consumption and ultimately their bill. Chris @Mobidia.

  7. Posted April 5, 2012 at 1:21 am | Permalink

    @Chris I’m an apple fan boy so all my devices are iOS and my wife won’t let me touch her Samsung so I can’t take a look at your app.

    I think that policy management can help in controlling the bill from the data consumption perspective.

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