How Much Data Do I Need?


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Everyone who owns a phone needs a data plan, but do you know how it works?

How much data do you need? And which platforms consume the most or least data? Internet data usage depends on the types of apps and services you use on your mobile, laptop, tablet, computer or any other device that works through data.

At times, you end up exhausting all of your data while you have data left in your account on other occasions. So what is the reason behind it? We will answer all such questions in this guide, which will eventually help you understand how much cellular data you need. Let’s start by discussing how data works.

How does data work?

Whenever you use a web-based service or an application that needs an data plan or home internet plan to be functional, you use some part of the bandwidth from your data pack. It can be as simple as using email, downloading a photo or surfing a video on YouTube. Some other examples are listening to music on Spotify, watching movies on Netflix and getting on a video call with your friends on Zoom. Even if you download something from Netflix or Spotify, you’ll need data for the same.

We measure this data in kilobytes (KB), megabytes (MB) or gigabytes (GB), where KB is a smaller measure:

Most internet plans or cellular data plans are calculated in MB and GB since KB is very small in comparison. Your internet consumption will be limited to a maximum amount of data unless you have a plan that offers unlimited internet. Also called the transfer capacity of your internet plan, this maximum amount can be 1 GB, 2 GB, 2.5 GB or something else, depending on your package.

How do I calculate my internet consumption?

Internet packages can range from 100 MB to 100+ GB. And then some packages offer unlimited internet. The price for a higher internet data package will be higher, of course. Before taking a data plan, you need to be sure of your internet data usage needs. To calculate your internet usage, you can either:

  • Check your current internet usage if you already have an active internet package. You can refer to your smartphone settings to get this information. We will talk about how to do it in a while.
  • Estimate your internet usage depending on the types of internet-based services you use. Usually, a 2 GB per day plan works for everyone but go for a higher package if you feel you need more internet data.

If you’re not sure of your internet data usage, here is a quick estimation table for your various internet services to help you with it:

Internet activityInternet consumption
1 hour of reading emails
2 MB
1 hour of GPS navigation
2.2 MB
Download MP3 music
5 MB
Downloading an application
5 MB
1 hour of web surfing
15 MB
1 hour of gaming
40 MB
1 hour of music listening
40 MB
1 hour of social networks
50 MB
1 hour of streaming video
150 MB
1 hour of video call
200 MB
Data consumption by activity

How to check data usage on iPhone

Here’s how you can track your internet data usage on your iPhone:

  • Go to Settings.
  • Click on Cellular or Settings.
  • Then, go to Mobile Data.

If you have an iPad, you may see Settings > Cellular Data instead. Here, you will be able to see which apps are using your internet data along with the overall data usage.

How to check data usage on Android

Here’s how you can track your internet data usage on Android:

  • Open your phone's Settings app.
  • Tap on Network and Internet.
  • Next to your carrier, tap Settings.

You'll see the total data used at the top. If you want to see graphs and more details, tap App Data Usage. You will also have the option to track internet data usage for a fixed period: a week, a month and more.

How much data does streaming video use?

Video streaming data consumption can vary depending on the quality of the videos your surf and the device you use. Usually, you will use less cellular data for streaming a 720p (HD) video on your phone as compared to when you stream it on a laptop. Here’s a brief comparison of internet data usage for YouTube and Netflix: the two most popular video streaming platforms.

Platform/ServiceData Usage Per Hour
  • 480p video: 264MB
  • 720p (HD): 870MB
  • 1080p (Full HD): 1.65GB
  • Standard definition: up to 1 GB
  • High definition: up to 3 GB
  • Ultra-high definition (4K): up to 7 GB.
streaming video data consumption

Audio streaming, on the other hand, consumes less internet data. For instance, you need 500 KB of data to stream a one-minute song on Spotify. There are 1 million KB in 1 GB, which means that you can stream music on Spotify for approximately 33 hours and 20 minutes with 1 GB of data.

Good to know

Streaming music services offer their music with different quality settings. Audiophiles may enjoy streaming high-definition audio, but it can consume data quickly. Consider an unlimited data plan, connecting to wifi or download audio to your device before heading out.

How much data does video chatting use?

On average, a two-minute video call consumes 11.5 MB of data, but it can vary depending on the video quality and device.

For instance, Zoom, a popular video calling app, uses about 900 MB of data in an hour if you use HD video and have it on your laptop. For one-on-one video calls, it consumes between 540 MB and 1.62 GB per hour. For group calls, you will be using between 810 MB to 2.475 GB of internet data per hour.

FaceTime, a popular app for iPhone for video conferencing, uses around 3 MB of data per minute, i.e., up to about 200 MB per hour. You can use FaceTime for 5 hours with 1 GB of data.

How much data does social media use?

If you just scroll through social media and do nothing else, you will use around 2 MB per minute from your cellular data plan. It’s one of the lowest offenders on our list. The data usage will be higher if you watch videos on social media, such as Instagram Reels, TikToks and Snapchat video stories. Here’s a quick overview of data used by TikTok and Snapchat:

  • TikTok, on average, uses 840MB of internet data every hour. You can exhaust a 4GB data plan in less than five hours by just watching TikTok videos.
  • Snapchat uses 1 MB of cellular data for each snap, i.e., around 160 MB per hour. If you video call with your friends or watch videos on Snapchat, it will consume more data.

How much data does Google Maps use?

If you use Google Maps for five minutes, you’ll use 3 MB of internet data, which equates to 36 MB of data for an hour-long trip.

Google Maps is an app that many people use daily lives to navigate their way to the office, home or a new place. Google Maps also works offline but offers limited features. For instance, you can’t search for a place and get its location in the offline mode, but you will get to know your location from the app.

Tips for getting the best home internet provider

Other than the speed of the internet connection and its stability, here’s what you can do to ensure that you get the best home internet provider:

  • Make sure that the operator has an office in your area or city to offer prompt help if needed.
  • Compare plans from different vendors to see if you can negotiate with your current provider or switch.
  • Carefully read the terms of service and cancellation before finalizing anything.
  • Consider the monthly cost of the plan and the possible increase in price over time.
  • Check if the cost of installation and equipment, such as a modem, is included in the overall price. Many vendors give a complimentary offer to first-time customers.

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Tips for getting the best data plan in Canada?

Many Canadian service providers offer affordable cellular data plans. Here are some tips to get the best data plan in Canada:

  • Know your monthly internet data requirement and compare plans from different vendors. If you’re not sure about your internet data usage, you can use our calculator.
  • Choose the service provider that has minimal to no downtime in your area.
  • Make sure that the speed of the internet is fast and stable.

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How can I reduce my internet consumption?

An unlimited plan comes free of the worry of using up your data, but even those plans plans often have a limit. Even if you have a high limit, you might end up using it all at times. For instance, assume that you are on a road trip with your friends, and none of them have a connection in that area. They are going to use your device as their personal data hotspot, and you won’t be able to say no. Would you be? In such a case, your data will get exhausted quickly. Here are some tips to help you reduce your internet consumption:

  • Make sure to close apps once you have used them since they can use data in the background.
  • Adjust the settings to restrict background data usage.
  • Download the lite versions of apps if possible since they use less data as compared to their normal versions.
  • If you’re using your phone as a hotspot for your computer or laptop, set your connection as metered.

How to reduce data usage on iPhone

  • Go to the Settings menu.
  • Then Cellular Data.
  • Scroll down to the bottom, then click System Services.
  • You can then consult the data consumption statistics of an app over the current period and the data consumption statistics for each application.
  • Manage the usage accordingly or set a daily limit.

How to reduce data usage on Android

  • Open the Settings application.
  • Then click on Network and Internet and Data Usage.
  • Under the Mobile section, you can view the total mobile data you have used and manage the usage accordingly.

You can also set a daily data limit. Alternatively, you can set a daily limit for screen time on your phone or for particular apps. You’ll get a notification when you cross the limit, allowing you to stop using your phone or that app and save data.

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