Should Microsoft lift the 20MB download cap for Windows Phone? They already have.

When Windows Phone 7 rolled out in 2010, it had one feature that was met with some mixed feelings: over-the-air download limits for apps and games tied to your cellular connection. In short, Microsoft imposed a 20MB cap when you were on cellular to help limit data usage for people on the go.

What some don’t realize is this limit was lifted recently by Microsoft (we don’t have an exact date). Now users of Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 can download files up to 50MB, matching the iPhone.

At least going back a few weeks, we’ve been able to download files less than 50MB, which is a nice doubling plus of the previous 20MB limit. Interestingly, this change has not been documented (as far as we can tell) by Microsoft in their Dev Center.

But as you can see above, our Lumia 920 (and Lumia 900) can both download games like Bug Village (41MB) over-the-air just fine.  In fact, on Windows Phone 8 you’ll notice the more information better detailed.

We’re not 100% sure if this is also influenced by carriers, so we’ll rely on you folks to test it out yourselves and let us know in comments (we tested on AT&T).

Perhaps an option in settings to enable/disable this feature would be best in the long run for Windows Phone, as clearly some people still have unlimited data plans or just don’t really care about those limits (especially if you’re on LTE, where they still apply). Still, we think Microsoft has other priorities for the immediate future of Windows Phone.

Thanks, Kurtsh, for piquing our interest to write this

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

  • Stil annoying at 50MB... I have unlimited data... so why the hell should I have a limit on what I can download. I can go use netflix and stream hundreds of gigabytes of films, but I cant download one 55MB game. Its stupid, it should just be a setting that you can turn on and off.
  • Yep, this needs to be optional. My podcasts generally can't be downloaded over cellular through the Marketplace, but I can jump into PODCASTS! PRO and download with no issues. That's just inexcusable.
  • Where do you get podcasts in the Marketplace? I was just wondering if any were available but couldn't find any...
  • It's region restricted, don't even ask me why. Microsoft doesn't host any of the podcasts, all it does it index them. Just braindead.
    I actually had to flash a custom ROM and use an app to temporarily change the Marketplace region to US, subscribe to the podcasts I wanted, then switched back. You might be able to achieve the same if you change the regional settings over to US, but I haven't tried.
  • Dude I want to know your cellular network provider that lets you download/stream hundreds of gigabytes.
  • Used 24gb of data last month via tmobile
  • I downloaded 240GB last month and 195GB the previous month. My network provider is Three UK on their "The One Plan" with all-you-can-eat-data and their super-fast DC-HSDPA 3G network with speeds of up to 42Mbps via 3G. Awesome!!!
  • I had 80 Mb limit before portico
  • But the cap still applies to podcasts....had to connect to wifi today to get them...most are under the 20MB data to begin with but must have wifi.  Also just booted up the old LG Quantum(at&t) for my wife and required wifi to download nearly all games including bug village.
  • Its for Windows Phone 8.
  • There should be an option in the Settings "app" to turn off these cellular data caps. I pay for 2GB of data and rarely use more than 500MB. I don't always have access to WiFi, but I'd like to be able to download podcasts and apps >50MB all the time. Likewise, I'd like to be able to use my extra 1.5GB of unused data to upload full resolution photos to SkyDrive. I understand that not everyone has extra data to use liberally, but there should be an option for those who do and want to get the most out of it rather than pay for it (because AT&T has no 500MB-1GB data option) and let it go to waste.
  • You know what they should lift for wordlwide users? This
  • Agreed. I want full quality uploaded immediately, not low res now or high res on wifi.
  • I find this limitation both ignorant and ironic, consdiering that even Chinese bikes have a better Internet access than the US, yet they can only upload low quality pictures... 
  • You are royally messed with there.
    Feel sorry for you, but I guess it's the choice of your local provider?
  • No, if you change the region to US it works fine and I bought carrier unlocked phone
  • I'd appreciate an override. Sometimes I might want to wait until I have more bandwidth, but I'd appreciate an option to just let the download proceed over wireless. The podcast limit can be annoying at times, especially if the size happens to go over on some of my favorite podcasts. We can already stream video as much as we want (depending on data plan) so why should we be limited to any size for downloading through the marketplace?
  • I like the article view. Have an option for people that don't have data limits or for us that don't care if we go over.
  • It is the most annoying thing about a phone os.
  • I notice that a while ago, Using my L900 on Claro Dominican Republic
  • I listen to one certain podcast, where episodes are over 100mb, I have to use wifi and plug in to charger my L920, fricking lame. Here in Finland we don't have these 3rd world data caps...
  • Dont protect me, let me do as I want.  If i want to download 2 gbs let me  do it in peace!
  • That's an awful lot of dust you have under that FFC. And is that a chip on the left top? Tch tch
  • Remove the cap,...I'm adult enough to be responsible for my usage.
  • A on/off switch would be the best for everybody. I have full super nice data and speed so....kind of annoying to have too look for my WiFi which is slower.
  • I have unlimited data... just let me download what ever I want
  • Haven't tried it lately but I haven't been able to download podcasts of any size on my 900 on the ATT network since I've had the phone.... 6 months and the allow is selected. I'll test it....thanks!
  • It's really about options. Just let me decide in some cases. Just like how the wi-fi behavior should have been instead of doing it one way or the other.
  • This is another one of those things where I wouldn't mind it as much if I was given a reason. If carriers don't want us to use that much data at once or if there is some technical problem where it can't hold that much data and then install from it, then fine. Just let the consumers know.
  • 50mb cap over in northern Cali. Running 2GB plan on at&t.
  • I have all you can eat data from three uk. I get through about 10GB+ per month!! And Microsoft feel the need to restrict me to 20 or 50MB whilst letting me use SkyMusic and YouTube freely... Work it out!!
  • Really this should be part of DataSense on all WP's, just DataSense could mean more when carriers opt in. But the basics should be, show you how much data you have used, and allow you to turn restrictions on or off. This should all be pretty simple and built into the OS.
    This is one area where Android wins hands down over iOS and WP.
  • Oh, good to hear. MS should delimit download size. Those of us who rely solely on cellular connection really suffer a lot. We can't enjoy interesting games from the market. Hoping to hear favorably from MS
  • Instead of MS setting a cap, they should put a switch in the Setting and let the user have the choice.
  • Completely agree with your last sentence Dan. Lots of other priorities.
  • I agree with everyone that there should be an option to remove the limit.
    Also, you should be able to set your own limit in case you have even smaller data plans, so you don't accidentally download 20MB when you only have a 250MB cap.
  • Then how freaking big is pacman?!
  • It shouldn't have been lifted for WP7 users, anyone not willing to upgrade his/her Windows Phone device to a WinPhone 8 device is not worthy of that much support from Microsoft!!
  • Perhaps its precisely limitations like this, that are causing some people to ditch WP for droid? No such limitation existed on Windows Mobile... I've been on WinMo 5, 6.1, 6.5, WP7 and currently pre-ordered my WP8 Lumia 620, which I dont have yet simply because Nokia dont release it in the UK till 28th, so im loyal to Microsoft, more than most, and i dont agree that there should be caps on how much a device can download. I have unlimited data on an HSDPA2+ network from 3UK (entire network is HSDPA at the least), so why would i worry about downloading data? How about Microsoft give me the option to remove the cap? As i previously said, they allow me to stream away till my hearts content, yet won't allow me to download a decent game or big app over my unlimited data 3G network... It should be my choice, it was on WinMo, and it should be on both WP7 "and" 8. Besides, many people adopted WP7 with the best of intentions, many people were still purchasing Lumia's as late as July this year with no idea they wouldn't be upgraded to 8. I purchased my 710 in April, im just fortunate that i bought it outright and im not tied into a contract, and have the cash to buy a Lumia 620 outright immediately - most people dont, so dont be so damning on WP7 users!!
  • They knew Apollo was coming and no promise of upgrade was made by either Nokia or Microsoft - they should have waited if they wanted the latest MS phone OS. MS didn't even have to give 7.8 to those who decided to invest into an aging OS.
  • How many people "knew Apollo was coming"? How many people know what version of android or IOS they're running? How many people have a WP handset and know the difference between 7 and 8. I think you're very disillusioned to think that everyone is on the same level as we are... We are but 0.000001% of the smartphone userbase. Most people buy a smartphone to use as a smartphone, and have in knowledge or interest in the industry. All they see is x app is missing and x app is available... Making core apps and features only for WP8, and ditching all support for WP7 devices, which are still being sold, will only lead to the mass public thinking... Im not buying one of them crappy windows phones again, only had it a few months and everyone was saying it was obsolete, or I can't get half me bloody apps on it, so ill go to android or back to IOS etc... The continued support of WP7 is integral to the future success and mass-adoption of the platform. Don't shit on the customers you already have, when you have a fledgling product. Those of us in the know, know Microsoft screwed up with WP7... Most WP7 users however, will be blissfully unaware, at least unless support suddenly gets cut.
  • I completely understand why they cap download sizes from the store, otherwise they would be inundated with complaints from the less than educated about WP causing excessive data charges on limitted contracts when haphazardly downloading apps. However it would be nice to have a switch to disable the cap entirely for those of us on unlimitted data plans. I do find it rather funny that I can set my 920 to share internet over wifi, connect to it using my iPad and download any app (even ones which are a couple of gigs) over the phone's 3G connection. Handy when out and about as the iPad is wifi only, but ironic when I can't download a 51mb app on the phone.
  • I still have the limit on AT&T in Chicago. Trying to download a 36MB podcast over LTE and it says I need WiFi.
  • On Verizon...Checked...anything over 50MB says needs wi-fi....but, 40-45-47mb showed nothing about needing wi-fi (could not find anything at exactly 50mb or 49mb)
  • People who demand updates for Windows Phone 7.5 apps are actually harming the whole Windows Phone environment as developers may waste their time developing apps for an operating system that is being phased out. Perhaps after WinPhone 7.8 there could be given about 3 months of support and the app market closing completely before Oct 31 this year, so people could buy new phones running WinPhone 8 in November, both for themselves and as presents for their families. The more effort goes into WinPhone 8 the better image of WinPhone among those who haven't used it yet. WinPhone 8 needs a lot more apps to compete with Android and iOS, so the fewer developers work on WinPhone 7.5/7.8 apps the more time can be spent on developing WinPhone 8 ecosystem.
  • WP7.5/.8 apps when coded correctly, should be backwards compatible with 8.0. Where an app takes advantage of something that is is unique to WP8 hardware/software, and/or cannot easily be re-coded into a 7 version, then fair do's, but right now the market for WP7 devices is massive, bigger than the market for WP8 devices, so no developer in their right mind would choose not to make an app backwards compatible, except for as a result of a limitation within the WP7 platform. The OS was rebooted by Microsoft because they went the wrong way in the first place, admitting at the WP8 dev conference that they screwed up with 7 as it was always supposed to be what 8 became, but they ran out of time. They're still selling, even releasing, WP7 devices, and it is an awesome way of lowering the price and raising the profile of windows phone. Microsoft may be many things, and Nokia may be too, but one thing they know, is how to command the committment and loyalty of their consumer base, and ditching them suddenly is clearly not the way. Id rather see support for 7 phased out I've an 18 month period like seems to be happening, so early-mid 2014, than lose all WP7 users who haven't upgraded to IOS or android. Windows phone isn't in the position to be losing customers to the competition right now.
  • With a low level of market share for WinPhone 7 there's  probably no need to invest into WPhone 7 customer  loyalty as losing all WPhone 7 customers  for  Android wouldn't  probably cost MS a lot.
  • I still can't download anything over 20MB. Needed to connect to WiFi to download a 22MB podcast. I have it where it doesn't need to be on WiFi to download. I have the 8X on T-Mobile.
  • This limitation is ugly stupid I almost hate Microsoft for this anciet times idiocy.
  • Apple just raised their cellular network download limit to 100 MB. I can't use my newly purchased 8x as a phone. At my home there is no high speed broadband available. I have unlimited data with Verizon. MS is still in the Stone Age.
  • I have a lumia 625 and i can't download apps and games above 20 mb..It needs wifi and it is not possible to get wifi anywhere anytime for me .Android has no limitations..The limitations sucks ..It is full of wastage of my 10 GB 3G internet balance..Wanna exchange it :(
  • Please remove the limits asap. I donot have wifi ...but have 3g on my phone. Really hurts when i trying to dowload games like asphalt and nfs.. MS cannot restrict us ...they should give an option to choose.   
  • I have Lumia 630. I cant download any game even less than 20 mb. What can I do?