Wish: The new app that’s giving wireless network operators something to worry about

The Wish app offers mostly nonbranded products at steep discounts compared with branded products. (Wish)

Shopping app Wish today offers more than 300 million items for “thrifty” shoppers. And it’s also offering some concerns for the nation’s wireless network operators.

According to new data from Strategy Analytics’ AppOptix service, the Wish app is among the top 10 most data-hungry Android smartphone applications in the nation. The shopping app sits just behind the likes of YouTube, Facebook and Netflix in terms of the amount of data that it pulls from the network.

Specifically, according to Strategy Analytics’ AppOptix, the Wish Android app consumed an average of 481 MB per month per user in the fourth quarter across both cellular and Wi-Fi networks. While that figure is below the 1.4 GB per month per user that the Snapchat app consumed in the fourth quarter, it’s higher than the 406 MB per month per user consumed by Twitter and the 351 MB consumed by Pinterest.

(It’s worth noting that YouTube is the app that generated the most data usage across cellular and Wi-Fi networks in the fourth quarter, at a whopping 4.5 GB per month per user. Netflix was third at around 2 GB per month per user.)

Not surprisingly, Strategy Analytics’ AppOptix data shows that a majority of Wish’s data traffic is actually going over Wi-Fi networks rather than the nation’s cellular networks. The firm found that, in the fourth quarter, the Wish app generated almost 100 MB of data per month per user across cellular networks, notably below the 384 MB per month per user it consumed across Wi-Fi networks. That Wi-Fi-over-cellular trend bares out across most smartphone usage.

So why is Wish becoming an issue for wireless network operators like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile? Apps that consume significant network resources—as Wish’s shopping images likely do—are often flagged by network operators looking to ensure their networks are ready for traffic spikes. For example, an Android-based instant messaging application "caused an overload of T-Mobile's facilities for an entire city” in 2010. Such situations aren’t common on today’s LTE networks, but they’re still something for engineers to consider.

Indeed, Strategy Analytics’ AppOptix data shows that Wish traffic spiked in November, likely due to the holiday shopping season.

As for the Seattle company behind Wish, it was founded by ex-Google engineers in 2011 and has enjoyed significant success since. As TechCrunch noted, Wish’s app became the No. 1 shopping app in the U.S. last year in terms of downloads across iOS and Android, according to data from App Annie, Sensor Tower and Apptopia. Indeed, the publication noted ecommerce giant Amazon recently introduced a “$10 & Under” category likely geared as a competitive response to Wish.

Strategy Analytics’ AppOptix data comes from a panel of 4,000 Android phone users annually who agreed to let the firm monitor their data usage and also who provided their demographics and network plan information.