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How Much Mobile Data Do You Need?

Deciding how much mobile data to add to your plan or choosing an unlimited option depends on your mobile device habits.

mobile data

With each passing year, our mobile devices become more and more intertwined with our lives. This is evident by the fact that the average time spent using mobile devices continues to rise. In 2018, Americans consumed an average of 3.5 hours per day on mobile media. And we’re certainly not always at home connected to a wireless network during this time, which means we’re eating up our data. This begs the question: How much data do I need?

How Much Data Am I Using?

The first step in figuring out how much data you need is learning how much data you generally use. Fortunately, your phone gives you this information. Most phones track your overall data usage per billing cycle. The information can be found under “Settings” on iPhones and Android devices. While this information will also appear on your phone bill, your smartphone goes one step further by dissecting data usage by app so you can see which apps are draining your data. This can be very useful when trying to cut back on data consumption.

How Much Data Do Apps Use?

If you look at your data usage by app, you will notice that some apps use far more data than others. Any apps that stream video or music, such as YouTube, Netflix, Pandora and Spotify, are going to use up significantly higher amounts of data.

For example, you could send and receive 6,000 emails, visit 1,500 webpages and make 1,500 social media posts in one month while using 2.25 GB of data. You’ll use roughly the same amount of data by watching just six hours of videos per month.

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How Can I Conserve Data ?

The easiest way to limit your data usage is to simply turn your cellular data off. This means your apps will only work when connected to Wi-Fi. Once you connect to Wi-Fi, your phone stops using up data. Wi-Fi is quickly becoming ubiquitous in public locations. You may not even realize that it’s an option if you’re in a new place. Make sure to always go to your phone’s Wi-Fi settings to see if there’s a network available.

If you know you’re going to be without Wi-Fi access, do the heavy lifting at home before you go. For example, if you really want to listen to your favorite artist’s new album on your commute, make sure to download the album (which requires high data rates) when connected to Wi-Fi. Once it’s on your phone, you won’t use any data listening to it.

how much mobile data do you need

If you find that your favorite streaming apps are draining your data (and you’d like to keep using them just as frequently) all hope is not lost. Most streaming apps have several streaming-quality settings. If you lower your apps streaming quality (moving from high-definition video to standard-definition, for instance) you will lower your data totals.

You can also make adjustments to apps that have very little effect on how you use them. A prime example is with one of the most popular apps: Facebook. If you scroll through your news feed on the Facebook app, it will automatically begin playing any videos that you come across. Videos, as we know, use up more data. But you can turn off this feature. Simply go to the settings page within the Facebook app. Under “Video Settings,” you’ll find the “Autoplay” option.  From there, you can choose to “Never Autoplay Videos” or “On Wi-Fi Connections Only.”

Is an Unlimited Plan Worth It?

The answer to this depends on how much you’re using your phone. If you only use your phone for basic functions (i.e. call, text, email, etc.) then an unlimited plan is almost certainly not worth the price.

If, however, you use your phone for business and are constantly running up data charges, it might be the way to go. But even if you’re consistently going over your data allotments each month, you should still do the math before committing to an unlimited plan.

Most carriers will charge you a certain amount each month for the data plan you choose, then another charge for each increment you exceed your monthly allotment. If the carrier offers a higher data limit plan, that may be a better route than a higher unlimited plan for you. Of course, if the unlimited plan is still less than what you’re paying in overage fees, it is the better choice.

Adding another caveat into this is that carriers often have several unlimited plan offers at different price points. But how could anything be more unlimited than unlimited? While they all offer unlimited data, the higher-end plans usually offer better quality service, such as HD versus standard video streaming.

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