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How much data do I need each month?

How much mobile data do i need each month

Most of us are concerned with the amount of data we use each month on our phone contracts. But what exactly is data, how much do you need, and how can you bring your data usage under control?

These days, data allowance is the most important component of your mobile contract. Where once its was the number of remaining minutes and texts that had us anxiously checking out plans come the end of the month, it’s now all about the megabytes.

Just why is that? How much data do you really need? And which activities consume the most data? Read on for the answer to these and many other questions.

What we mean when we talk about data

Put simply, data is the informal name for what your smartphone uses every time you do anything that connects to the internet over a mobile connection. Wi-Fi doesn’t count here.

This can include a wide variety of tasks, including surfing the web, sending messages on WhatsApp, checking your Facebook app, streaming a film or series on Netflix, or playing a move against a friend in your favourite game.

Data is most commonly measured in megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB). There are around 1000MB in 1GB (1024 specifically, but companies tend to round down).

Moving down the scale, 1MB is made up of 1024 kilobytes or KB, though you won’t tend to see that smaller unit referenced quite so much on modern mobile contracts and app listings.

How much data goes into my daily activities?

We’ve defined what data is, and how it’s measured. But how much data does it take to do the everyday things we all do on our smartphones?

Here are a few common examples:

Using Facebook

Skimming through your feed for five hours would eat up around 100MB of data, though if you’re the sort who stops and watches multiple videos that number could easily balloon.

Surfing the web

Surfing the web for around four hours would typically use up around 100MB of data, though this is a very rough estimate.

Streaming music on Spotify

If you streamed an hour or so of music from Spotify in a day, you’d probably use up around 100MB of data.

Streaming video on Netflix

Watching a two hour Full HD film on Netflix will each about 6GB of data. This is one of the more data-intensive things you can do with your phone, so be aware.

How do I pick a suitable data allowance?

With the above information as a rough guide, you should be able to plot out how much data you use in a day, week, and ultimately month.

It’s important to do this sort of calculation because mobile contracts always give you a monthly data allowance, which needs to be rationed over a four-weekly period.

Here’s a rough guide on what you’ll get from some common mobile contract data allowances. We’ve used Three’s data-estimation tool as the basis for the following calculations, so do check it according to your specific requirements.

Alternatively, there are similarly useful data calculation tools provided by the likes of Vodafone and GiffGaff.

1GB monthly data allowance

Split 1GB out evenly over a month and it’s 250MB per week, or around 35MB per day. That really isn’t a lot at all, so we’d make this your absolute minimum data allowance unless you’re literally on Wi-Fi all day every day.

To be more precise, 1GB of data will cover an hour of web or social media browsing per day, or about 20 minutes of music streaming per day.

8GB monthly data allowance

Now we’re starting to get somewhere. On an 8GB mobile data plan allowance, you’ll be able to indulge in six hours of web browsing per day.

8GB should be good for around three hours of HD Netflix streaming, or an hour of music streaming.

30GB monthly data allowance

So far we’ve discussed practical data usage in individual cases, but in real world use it’s the mixed scenarios that really see it totting up.

For example, you’d ideally want a 30GB data plan to cover an hour of browsing, 25 emails, an hour of social media usage, an hour of music streaming, and 15 minutes of YouTube video streaming combined per day.

Tips for conserving data

Here are some practical methods anyone can use to bring their data usage down each month. Do this, and you might be able to lower your data plan and pay less come the end of the month.

Only download and update apps on Wi-Fi

Download new apps and app updates and eat a lot of data, particularly when it comes to games. We’d recommend only doing this when you’re connected to Wi-Fi.

Make sure your phone isn’t set to automatically update apps whenever they become available.

On iOS go to Settings, tap your Apple ID at the top, enter iTines & App Store, and turn of Use Mobile Data.

On Android go into the Google Play Store, select Settings from the side menu, tap Auto-update apps and select Over Wi-Fi only.

Reduce the load from data-heavy apps

The likes of Netflix and Facebook can really run away with your data allowance if you let them. But both have built-in tools to help lessen such an impact.

In Netflix, go into the Settings menu within the app and change the video quality to Standard. Your videos will look marginally less sharp, but they’ll also use around a third of the data.

Video content can be a major data hog in Facebook too, especially when it plays automatically. To disable this, dead into the app’s Settings menu, then Videos and photos, and change the Auto-Play setting to On WiFi connections only.

Turn mobile data off when not needed

This is a blunt but very easy and effective method. If you’re going into a situation where you don’t need to use any mobile data (going into a film, a meal out, work or school for example), why no turn your mobile data connection off altogether?

You’ll still get your calls and texts through as normal, but none of the apps running in the background will be able to make use of your data allowance.

On both iOS and Android, simply drag down (or up on older iPhones) and hit the mobile data shortcut to cut your phone’s supply altogether.

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