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How much data do I need? Understanding mobile and internet usage

Netflix, TikTok, YouTube and group video calls may all be responsible for burning through your data allowance.

Nothing hits worse than knowing you've run out of mobile data mid-commute on the train or sitting somewhere where the Wi-Fi connection is spotty.

That level of concern is lukewarm when using the internet at home, for instance, because unlimited data plans are now the norm and more affordable.

But whether you're using your mobile network or Wi-Fi, it's still good to understand how much data you use so you can sign up for plans accordingly.

The most recent ACCC Internet Activity report shows the average Australian uses:

  • 481GB per month using their NBN connection
  • 315GB per month on a home wireless broadband connection
  • 7.5GB per month on a prepaid mobile plan
  • 15.9GB on a postpaid mobile plan
  • 12.3GB on a mobile broadband plan

You'll mostly use the same amount of data to carry out an online activity, whether that's using the mobile network on a handset or the internet on the desktop.

The difference in data usage will come down to the resolution of a Netflix TV show you're streaming and the quality of your stream.

Based on our research, group video calls, streaming TV in High Definition on platforms like Netflix and Disney Plus, and uploading videos on Instagram or TikTok can eat into a bit of your data allowance.

How much data do you need?

There's no one-size-fits-all answer to this because you might have the itch to scroll through social media for hours each week, but someone else only uses their phone for calls and texts.

Here's a quick overview of how much data various online activities can cost you, according to the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).

Keysuitable = suitablecaution = cautionneed more data = Need more data
Activity
3GB
10GB
15GB
20GB
Emailsuitablesuitablesuitablesuitable
Web surfingsuitablesuitablesuitablesuitable
Facebooksuitablesuitablesuitablesuitable
Skypesuitablesuitablesuitablesuitable
Music Streamingcautionsuitablesuitablesuitable
Online gamingcautionsuitablesuitablesuitable
Youtubeneed more datacautionsuitablesuitable
Streaming TVneed more dataneed more datacautionsuitable
Downloading movies and TVneed more dataneed more datacautionsuitable
Downloading video gamesneed more dataneed more datacautionsuitable

How much data does YouTube use?

How much data YouTube uses will depend on the playback quality of your video.

There's no official guide from YouTube, but Android Authority ran some tests and found data usage ranges for different playback qualities:

YoutubeData usage:
  • 480p: 480-660MB per hour
  • 720p: 1.2-2.7GB per hour
  • 1080 High Definition (HD): 2.5-4.1GB per hour
  • 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD): 3GB per hour

How much data does Spotify use?

Spotify also doesn't offer exact figures for data usage but what we do know is it'll vary depending on your audio quality.

You can always switch on 'Data Saver' if you're worried about exhausting your monthly data allowance.

SpotifyData usage per hour:
  • Low quality: 10.8MB
  • Normal quality: 43.8MB
  • High quality: 72MB
  • Very high quality: 144MB

How much data does TikTok use?

It's easy to burn through data if you're an avid TikToker, doomscrolling for hours each day (or using the platform for work).

TikTokData usage per hour:
  • Default settings: 840MB
  • Data saving mode: 360MB

How much data does Google Maps use?

The good news is Google Maps uses less data than some other apps you're likely using daily.

You can always download a map offline to bring your data usage down to almost nothing.

Google MapsData usage:
  • 3-5MB per hour

How much data does FaceTime use?

This question is specifically for iPhone users as FaceTime allows people with Apple devices to make high-quality video calls to each other.

How much data FaceTime uses will depend on several factors, such as your phone and the app's settings. However, rough estimates are as follows:

FaceTimeData usage:
  • Per minute: 3MB
  • Per hour: 180MB

How much data does Kayo use?

Fortunately, Kayo Sports gives its own breakdown of how much data it takes to stream content on its platform.

KayoData usage per hour:
  • Standard Definition (SD) 360p/480p: 0.3-0.5GB
  • High Definition (SD) 720p/1080p: 1.5-3.25GB

How much data does Zoom use?

You'll end up burning through more data with group calls as opposed to one-on-one video calls on Zoom.

ZoomData usage per hour:
  • One-on-one call: 540MB to 1.62GB
  • Group call: 810MB to 2.5GB

How much data does Snapchat use?

This will depend on how much of Snapchat's quirky features you use each day and for how long.

According to estimates, Snapchat will generally consume:

SnapchatData usage:
  • Messaging: Up to 1MB for 50 texts
  • Sending and receiving snaps: 1-5MB
  • Light user: 5-20MB per hour
  • Moderate user: 20-55MB per hour
  • Heavy user: 55-100MB per hour or even more

How much data does Discord use?

Similar to other apps, how much data you use on Discord will depend on what you're doing.

SpotifyData usage:
  • Chat conversation: 280KB per hour
  • Voice chat: 28MB per hour
  • Video calls: 270MB per hour

How much data does Instagram use?

Endlessly scrolling through Instagram or uploading videos is probably costing you heaps of data.

Here's a look at the general data consumption for the app:

InstagramData usage:
  • Scrolling: 600MB per hour
  • Uploading images: 2-4MB per photo
  • Uploading videos: Around 8MB per video

How much data does Disney Plus use?

Fortunately, Disney Plus gives its own estimates for data usage based on the quality of your stream.

Disney PlusData usage per hour:
  • Standard Definition (SD): 0.6GB
  • High Definition (HD): 1.2GB
  • 1080 HD: 4.2GB
  • 4K Ultra HD: 7.7GB

How much data does Stan use?

Stan too gives estimates for how much data you'll burn through by streaming TV shows, movies or documentaries on its platform based on your quality setting.

StanData usage per hour:
  • Low Standard Definition (SD): 0.57GB
  • Medium Standard Definition (SD): 0.57GB
  • High Definition (HD): 2.89GB
  • 4K Ultra HD: 7GB

How much data does WhatsApp use?

This will depend on how frequently you message or call using WhatsApp. In general, you can expect:

WhatsAppData usage:
  • Messaging: 1-2MB per hour
  • Voice calls: 20-30MB per hour
  • Video calls: 300MB per hour

How much data does BINGE use?

BINGE breaks down how much data you'll burn through based on the quality of your video stream.

BINGEData usage per hour:
  • Standard Definition (SD): 0.3-0.5GB
  • High Definition (HD): 1.5-3.25GB

How much data does online gaming use?

Online games will use up more data than if you were to game offline. The data usage will also depend on the type of game you're playing.

For example, graphically demanding games or those with frequent online interactions will burn through more data.

Online gamingData usage:
  • Small game: 5-50MB per hour
  • Standard online game: 50-150MB per hour
  • Data-intensive game: 200MB or more per hour
  • Fortnite: 45-100MB per hour
  • Roblox: 100-600MB per hour

Tips to save on your data usage

It's so easy for apps to chew through your data allowance without you even realising it.

We've laid down a few tips to ensure you're not left high and dry each month. They're mostly for mobile data use as it's rare to come across a truly unlimited data plan.

1. Use Wi-Fi whenever you can

Mobile data is akin to precious cargo if you're not signed up to a plan with heaps of data.

When you're at home or in the office, see if you can keep your phone connected to the internet where possible.

2. Track your data usage

Look at your last few bills or log into your provider's app or online portal to see how much data you use each month. It's easier to track app activity on a smartphone via your settings.

This can help you understand where you may need to cut back or perhaps, it'll push you to switch to a plan that is better suited to your data needs.

Consider a mobile plan with data rollover. This allows you to bank unused data for future use. A Finder survey found on average, 33% of Aussies value data rollover as a feature on their mobile plan.

Or, compare NBN plans with unlimited data to see if they fit your budget.

3. Restrict data use or switch on data saver

Change the settings for your data-intensive apps so it only streams and downloads over Wi-Fi. Limit push notifications for things like breaking news or emails.

You can also switch to data saver quality settings for some apps such as Spotify or choose a lower video quality on YouTube for instance as it'll burn through less data.


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