Could Smartphones Be the End of Home Internet Service?

By Clair Jones

home-internet-smartphone

For many Americans, the smartphone has all but replaced the personal computer. You can email, check social media, shop, apply for jobs, and even binge watch your favorite shows all on one compact, handheld device. But can the smartphone also replace a home Internet connection?

More than 60% of American adults own smartphones, up from 35% in 2011, according to a Pew Research Center Report. Further, 10% cite their smartphone as their only access to the Internet. If the number of people exclusively relying on smartphones for Internet use grows at the same rate as smartphone use on the whole, the days of paying for both a data plan and home Internet service could very well be numbered.

But before you put in an order to cancel your home broadband account, there are some pretty significant details to consider. Here’s a breakdown of the major factors that might influence your choice.

Speed

smartphone-data-internet
Photo by Cristian Ungureanu/Flickr
Smartphone: If you like fast Internet (and who doesn’t?), smartphone 4G and LTE connections usually have the juice to get you online and surfing like a fiend in the blink of an eye. Pages load quickly and videos play without interruption. Some carriers offer download speeds up to 24 Mbps — a speed that isn’t even possible for some lower-tier home Internet plans.

Home Internet: Even though 4G can outpace slower DSL or dial-up services, there are plenty of dedicated home Internet packages that are faster. The average download speed for residential broadband connections across the U.S. is nearly 31 Mbps, and more providers are rolling out plans that offer speeds up to 1 Gigabit. Not everyone needs speeds that fast, but for users who like to stream video and play live online games, a smartphone simply can’t compete with the faster speeds offered by home Internet.

Reliability and Access

smartphone-internet-reliability
Photo by Pabak Sarkar/Flickr
Smartphone: One of the best things about accessing the Internet on a smartphone is that you can take it with you wherever you go. As cellphone carrier networks have expanded, it’s nearly impossible to lose your connection if you’re anywhere near civilization. That means you can conduct business or catch up on funny cat videos from the park, the grocery store, or the beach. Access whenever and wherever you want is something home Internet can’t provide.

Home Internet: What home Internet services lack in flexibility, they make up for in reliability. Over the course of the last year, several major mobile carriers have had their 4G and LTE go down, leaving thousands of mobile customers without Internet access for long periods of time. Wired home connections aren’t quite as finicky — unless something affects the lines running to your home or you live in an area with a lot of network traffic, your connection will be pretty consistent.

Cost and Contracts

cost-home-internet-service
Photo by Alan Levine/Flickr
Smartphone: Most smartphones come with Internet accessibility built in, so you don’t have to pay for the basic connection — just the data you use. In addition, there are usually more contract-free options available for smartphones than for residential Internet, which makes it easier to change your data plan as your usage and needs change. That means you won’t be stuck with a big plan that you’re no longer using to its full extent.

Home Internet: Even though home Internet plans may lock you into a contract, keeping that extra bill in place may be the smarter financial option for avid Internet users. Mobile data limits can be tricky to navigate — even plans touted as “unlimited” often have caps that lead to pricey overage fees when surpassed. While residential Internet plans aren’t exempt from capping or throttling, the data limits are usually much higher, so consumers who rely on the Internet for gaming, video streaming, or file transferring will have a much smoother — and possibly cheaper — experience with a home Internet connection.

Function

smartphone-privacy-security
Photo by Esther Vargas/Flickr
Smartphone: Those who rely on their smartphone as their only Internet access are doing more than posting updates to social media. Many of them use their phone’s Internet connection to apply for jobs or access healthcare information. Once again, smartphone flexibility is a huge boon here. Users can easily connect with potential employers, do research, and send email correspondences remotely.

Home Internet: Though home Internet options aren’t great for on-the-go correspondence, they definitely outrank mobile devices in overall usability. Because the Internet has been a computer-based service for so long, plenty of websites aren’t yet compatible with mobile phones or tablets. Other software-based activities, like working with Word documents and Excel spreadsheets, are also easier on a desktop or laptop computer.

Security and Privacy

home-internet-security
Photo by Alessandro Valli/Flickr
Smartphone: Recent years have seen a significant uptick in the number of malware and virus infections on connected devices. However, smartphones are significantly less vulnerable than computers, largely due to the way that apps and programs are regulated. So while it’s not impossible to get a virus on your phone, you’ll be a lot safer downloading Angry Birds from an app store than you would from a third-party site on your computer. However, the amount of personal data a mobile carrier can collect from your phone is significantly higher than the data they can see about you on a personal computer.

Home Internet: Setting up a private wireless network — something only residential Internet subscribers can do — can go a long way in preventing data breaches. Mobile Internet users often take advantage of public Wi-Fi networks or hotspots in an effort to conserve data. However, people who conduct all of their online activity via public Wi-Fi on their cellphone are far more vulnerable to hacking and identity theft, as it’s much easier for the bad guys to access banking info, credit card data, and personal details when you’re on public network. You can encrypt and protect your home computer far more effectively than you can your smartphone.

At the end of the day, the choice to use a smartphone or a home Internet connection will depend on your personal usage habits and needs. Weigh the pros and cons of both options and if you find yourself in need of a faster home Internet connection, see what deals Movearoo can find in your area.

Featured photo by miniyo73/Flickr