Mobile data usage calculator: How much could you save?

We'll estimate how much mobile data you need and how to manage your usage.

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These days, the quality of a mobile plan is pretty much squarely rooted in how much data is included. More than 75% of mobile plans we list on have unlimited calls and texts to standard numbers – meaning discerning users need to look elsewhere to compare and find the best deals.

Unfortunately for most users, excess data fees are still a reality, with over 43% of Australians often exceeding their limits each month according to research done by Deloitte. To help, we’ve created a mobile data usage breakdown tool to help you find how much data you really need. Move the sliders to the usage levels that match yours and see the results update as you do.

Adjust the sliders below to indicate your general habits per activity or type of usage.
If you're on mobile, you may need to refresh this page to use the widget below.

This estimate provides a general guide and your own requirements may be very different. Remember that other factors may also influence your data consumption.

Data usage breakdown by app

App Activity MB/hour Description
instagram-logo-small Instagram 750 Instagram is one of the most popular – and data intensive – apps out there. You should be careful to ensure that any idle browsing doesn't turn into a huge data blowout.
facebook-logo-small Facebook 150 The Facebook app is one of the most data-hungry apps out there. "Facebook Lite", a lightweight, low-data alternative for Android is a great option for those looking to save on data.
snapchat-logo-small Snapchat 150 Snapchat, like most media-sharing platforms, is another heavy hitter. Enable "Travel Mode" or disable cellular data entirely to curb excess charges.
spotify-logo-small Spotify/music streaming 150 Spotify and other typical music streaming platforms typically consume about 100-150MB of data per hour, but be careful of high-quality services such as TIDAL's HiFi; these can be up to three times more draining.
youtube-logo-small SD (standard) video streaming 500 Standard definition video streaming on services such as YouTube typically uses about 250-500MB per hour. Subscription services such as Netflix or Stan typically use much more.
netflix-logo-small HD video streaming 3000 Netflix, and most other subscription streaming services, use about 3GB per hour for HD content (1080p+). Their standard definition content streams 1GB per hour, more than double YouTube's rate.
whatsapp-logo-small WhatsApp/Messenger 40 For most, using your favourite instant messenger app will hardly make a dent on a typical mobile plan, but be careful of in-app video sharing and downloading as these will be the real killers.
skype-logo-small Video calling 100 Video calling using apps like Facetime or Skype aren't huge data hogs these days, but extended usage can drain your data allowance.

Tips to reduce your data usage

If you don’t read the fine print, you can find yourself with excess data charges on your bill. However, there are many simple actions you can take that can make a big difference.

"Unlimited" data plans
Recently, providers have begun experimenting with "unlimited" data plans, making excess charges a thing of the past, but speeds are affected.

  • Set videos on social media to not auto-play
  • Turn auto-updating off on your apps
  • Set your phone to data saver mode
  • Download SD rather than HD movies/TV shows
  • Install "light" versions of data-hungry apps
  • Your smartphone may have options to monitor your data usage on a day-to-day basis

What does an average user need?

So what's "average" in this context? The average Australian mobile phone handset internet subscriber used around 630MB of data per month in 2014, according to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). That means you'd want at least 500MB per month on your plan as a bare minimum, and 1GB would be a safer choice.

It's also worth considering that most plans run for a couple of years, and these figures are only trending upwards. In 2013 the average monthly usage figure was around 250MB per month and in 2012 it was only around 200MB per month. So if you're signing up for a mobile contract now based on those figures, it's reasonable to suggest that your future needs may be substantially higher by the time your contract actually runs out, and you should choose a higher figure.

How can I check how much data I'm using?

One obvious way to determine how much data you need is to look at how much data you're already using. If you're still stuck on a plain old feature phone there's nothing you can really check, unless you're tethering your phone to use as a simple 3G modem. For smartphone users, however, the tools to track your ongoing data usage are already baked into your phone, or can be easily added.

Most telcos provide tracking tools to give you an ongoing figure, either via a mobile website, or increasingly via a specific app for your smartphone. The one issue to be aware of here is that they're often slow in updating your data usage, sometimes by as much as 24 hours.

If you're using an iPhone, head to Settings>Mobile and scroll down to check your mobile data usage for the current usage period, as well as how much data each app has used over that time period. If you're an Android user, the same data usage can be found by going to Settings>Data Usage. Windows Phone users have an app that handles data usage called Data Sense that allows you to enter your existing data plan provisions and then see your current mobile and Wi-Fi data usage.

It's quite likely that your usage will vary over time, so the larger the amount of usage data you can draw on, the more realistic picture of your ongoing data needs you're going to be able to produce. Even if you've only got a small sample, however, extrapolating out for a full month and giving yourself a small buffer to cover for times when you might use more data than you expected can be a useful guideline.

How much data do Australian telcos provide?

Given that 650MB average, any plan under 500MB is unlikely to be worth your time. Most carriers tend to agree with that picture, with only the absolutely lowest-cost entry level plans offering less than 500MB. These plans are OK if you're more of a calls and text user, but excess data usage charges can quickly add up.

The current trend for mid-tier plans costing around $50 per month is to offer between 10GB and 30GB of data. Based on that average figure, that should be easily enough for most users, although again heavy download usage such as video streaming can blow that out.

If you pay $70 a month or more, you can expect to get between 40GB and 100GB of data, although it's important to note that some of these larger plans only include a slower 3G connection instead of 4G.

That's more likely to suit if your mobile is your only Internet connection point, or you do a significant quantity of data heavy activity such as high bitrate music streaming or moderate standard definition video watching.

Find the best plan for your data needs

To find the perfect plan to suit your needs, click the "Filter results" button below and enter the "Total GB" amount from the mobile data usage tool above in the "Data usage per month" filter. Remember that other factors may also influence your data consumption, and that the above is an estimate based on typical usage.

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