How much data do I need on a mobile contract?

How much data do I need icon

Picking the right allowance on a new mobile deal can feel daunting - after all, you’re probably going to be stuck with it for a couple of years.

In the digital age, staying connected is more than a convenience - it's a necessity. But with the myriad of data plans available, it can feel overwhelming to find the one that fits your lifestyle.

How much data do I need?

The first step in your journey is understanding your own data consumption. While the average mobile user gets by with about 5.6GB per month (according to Ofcom), this is a mere starting point.

What's your usage?

  • Always on Wi-Fi, occasional 4G use: For those who seldom stray from the comfort of Wi-Fi, a light plan with 1-2GB should suffice
  • Browsing, email, and Facebook: If your online activity orbits around these basics, a light plan with 1-2GB could be your match
  • Frequent app and social media use: For the app aficionados and social butterflies, a light to medium use plan with around 5GB will fit
  • Using various apps, browsing, and some video watching: If you're a moderate user indulging in a bit of everything, aim for a medium plan with 5-10GB
  • Streaming music or podcasts daily: For the audiophiles, a medium to heavy plan ranging from 5GB-10GB will keep the tunes rolling
  • Sending documents frequently: Office warriors may find a plan with around 10GB keeps you in the business loop
  • Watching videos or TV using data a few times a week: Heavy data users will need at least 10-20GB to never miss a show
  • Daily streaming of TV shows during commute: For the binge-watchers and serial streamers, a heavy duty plan with unlimited data is a must

Other things to consider

When choosing a data plan, there's more to ponder than just your current habits:

  • Contract length: As time goes on, your data needs may increase. It's wise to consider how your data usage may grow, especially if you're committing to a long contract of 12 or 24 months.
  • Getting a new phone: With a shiny new device, your data appetite may grow. Streaming video to a high-resolution display, for instance, devours data. Deals on top phones with no upfront costs are worth considering here.
  • Cutting down data usage: Tips to trim your data diet include hunting for Wi-Fi hotspots, downloading shows and playlists on Wi-Fi instead of streaming them, and reining in background data.
  • Specific data offers: Some providers offer free social media data, allowing for endless scrolling without denting your data.

Find out how much data you use

To tailor your plan, first measure your current data usage:

  • Network provider app: Tools like My EE, My3, and My Vodafone are at your disposal
  • Phone settings: On an iPhone, go to Settings > Mobile data, or Settings > Cellular. For Android users, navigate to Settings > Network and Internet > Internet > Settings
  • Data tracking apps: Seek these out on the App Store and Google Play Store to keep a vigilant eye on your data diet

How much data do apps use?

Apps are the lifeblood of your mobile experience, but how much data do they eat up?

  • Email apps: Gmail and its ilk are lightweights, only using a few MB
  • Messaging apps: Messaging alone only uses a matter of megabytes, but sending and receiving lots of images and videos can push it up to 2GB per month or so
  • Social media apps: A minute's scroll uses around 2MB - that's 120MB per hour
  • Spotify: Music streaming hovers around 150MB per hour
  • Video streaming: Netflix can guzzle 1-2GB per hour

How much is 1GB of data?

To visualize what 1GB affords you:

  • 40 hours of surfing the web
  • 2 hours of standard definition TV or 1 hour of HD
  • Uploading 500 photos to your social networks
  • Dispatching 10,000 emails or tweets
  • Sending a staggering 1 million instant messages
  • A four-hour Zoom or FaceTime rendezvous

Can I get unlimited data?

For the data gluttons, unlimited plans beckon. The good news is that these are available from plenty of providers.

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