Aside from the phone its self, mobile phone contracts generally provide a set monthly allowance of three different utilities – minutes, texts, and data. The amount of minutes and texts you use may be hard to pin down, however doing so is fairly self explanatory – a text is 160 characters. Anything longer than this will send as multiple texts, and a minute is, well, a minute. Pinning down how much data you use however can be much harder to visualise. It’s also worth noting at this point that if you see data allowance referred to as a download limit, this does not just refer to you saving a file locally to your computer. If you watch a video online or using Facebook you are effectively ‘downloading’ it where this term is concerned.

Where mobile phone contracts are concerned data allowances are measured in unites of megabytes (MB) or gigabytes (GB), with one gigabyte being equal to 1024 megabytes. Let’s turn this into terms we can visualise.


The amount of data that video consumes depends on the pixel density of the video, for example watching one hour of standard definition video on YouTube (480p) would use up about 400 MB, whereas watching an hour of video in Full HD (1080p) would use up about 1.4GB of your mobile data.


Like with video, the amount of data streaming music uses depends of the quality. With the Spotify App, if you listen to music on the highest quality setting you will use about 115 MB per hour, whereas if you listen to music at the standard quality setting and hour of listening will use about 34.56 MB


Facebook data consumption is a hard one to pin down as it varies considerably according to adverts, images and video that may be on-screen. If you’re looking to cut down on Facebook data usage it’s a good idea to turn off the video auto-play feature. Most people use between one and two megabytes of data per minute browsing Facebook.


Skype, and other video conferencing apps like Apple’s Facetime typically eat through about 30MB per minute or about 1.8 GB for an hour.

Web browsing

Obviously this one varies wildly depending on what kind of sites you’re looking at, but you can expect to go through between 10 and 30 megabytes of data browsing informational websites & shopping sites that aren’t actively streaming video, however this shoots right up when looking at image boards. Apps like Tumblr and Pinterest are rich with images and scrolling through these at high speeds and eat up lots of mobile data, even when compared to streaming video.


Over the course of a month, this can all add up to a lot of data usage, however you may not always be using mobile data to look at things on the internet on your phone. Restaurants, shops, buses, trains and even public parks often have free WiFi that you can tap into which, provided you take advantage of them, can drastically reduce your mobile data consumption. The proliferation of free WiFi hotspots and increased data allowances makes browsing the internet on your phone ever more affordable. As a general guide, if you use your phone to send emails, and check Facebook and the web 500MB should be fine. If you browse the web often and use messaging apps like Whatsapp and Facebook chat you’ll want 2GBs+, and if you’re consistently streaming music and videos then you’ll want at least 5GB data allowance a month. With video streaming in particular you’ll want to keep an eye on your data usage regardless.

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