How much mobile data do I need?
Whether you're sick of running out of data before the end of the month, or looking to cut back on your mobile data usage to save on a plan, we're here to break down the numbers for you.
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We're all guilty of spending too much time on our phones, but do you actually know how much mobile data you're burning through each month?
Finder's own surveys show that Australians spent $181 million collectively on excess data charges in 2017, with 15% of Aussies admitting to regularly exceeding their monthly data limits.
Understanding how much data you actually need can help you save on excess charges, and give you a better understanding of what type of mobile plan is best for your needs.
Mobile data usage calculator
To give you an estimate of how much mobile data you currently use each month (or plan to use), use our calculator below.
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.
What does mobile data usage mean?
Mobile data usage is how many MBs of data you've downloaded or uploaded over your phone's network connection. This does not include data used on a Wi-Fi connection. You can estimate how much data you go through each month using our mobile data calculator.
A 2019 Finder survey found that over one in four Australians broke their data cap sometime during the year. If you're consistently breaking your data cap, it's either time to cut down or find a better mobile plan.
Why is my phone using so much data?
If you are like most users, your data usage will be spread across many apps instead of one. Video apps are data-chewing machines, but others come close. These include the following:
- Messenger apps, such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp (especially if sending videos or files to friends and family)
- Video conferencing
- Social media apps, like Twitter or Instagram
- Streaming services, like Spotify or podcast apps
How to check your mobile data usage
You should be able to find out which of your apps consumed the most data via the "Settings" section of your phone.
- Checking your data usage on an iPhone: Once you're in the Settings app, click on "Mobile" or "Cellular". Scroll down until you see a list of apps and its data usage under the heading "Mobile data".
- Checking your data usage on Android: In the Settings app, tap the "Wireless & Networks" option, then choose "Data usage". You should then be able to see how much mobile data each app on your phone is using up.
What uses the most mobile data?
Not all apps are created equal, with some types of apps needing more mobile data. Your actual usage will depend on how much you actually use these particular apps.
Netflix uses 300MB-3GB of data per hour, depending on video quality. Standard definition YouTube uses around 400MB per hour.
A standard definition Netflix video will use about 700MB in an hour, while high definition is up around the 3GB mark. Video streaming is the most data-intensive activity for mobile users, so reducing playback quality can save you heaps of data each month.
A one-on-one Zoom call will use around 270MB per hour, while a group call uses about 450MB.
Video conferencing is not as data-intensive as you might think. Increasing the quality of the call and adding more people to it will increase how much it uses.
For feed scrolling without videos, social media consumes about 120MB per hour. Videos and interactions can up this to 200MB per hour.
Basic scrolling won't make much of a dent in your monthly allowance. Posting high definition videos and watching plenty of video content will.
Streaming audio (music, podcasts, audiobooks)
Audio streaming uses about 150MB or less every hour, depending on the service you use.
This is great news if you like listening to music or podcasts wherever you go since you won't need to budget your data too much.
Simple Internet browsing will only use around 60MB per hour.
Going from website to website won't cost you much, so you can read the news or visit your bank page worry-free.
Here's a breakdown of how much data using a couple of popular apps would take up. Again, it really depends on how often you're using these apps, so we've split up the numbers by how much data you'd likely use in 30 mins, 1 hour and 3 hours when using that one particular app. We've done our calculations in GB since your mobile data allowance is usually given in GB, too.
|App||Activity||GB/30 mins||GB/1 hour||GB/3 hour|
|SD video streaming||0.25||0.50||1.50|
|HD video streaming||1.50||3.00||9.00|
Need more data? Compare big data mobile plans below
Did your results from the mobile data usage calculator show that you need more data than you currently have on your plan? Never fear — we've got your back. The mobile plans showing in the table below all offer over 40GB of data per month. If you don't need that much, you can adjust the data limit by filtering your results.
We update our data regularly, but information can change between updates. Confirm details with the provider you're interested in before making a decision.
How do I stop my phone from using so much data?
Want to avoid excess data charges without having to keep a close eye on your usage? Here are some basic steps to passively reduce your data use.
- Wi-Fi is your friend. Latch onto fixed-line connections or free data hotspots whenever you can. This should completely prevent any data consumption while you're connected. This is especially useful if your home Internet plan has unlimited data.
- Disable background data. Many apps run in the background by default, refreshing feeds and sending notifications without you opening them. Disabling this feature in your app settings will prevent unnecessary downloads.
- Restrict auto-updates. Apps can auto-update on your mobile data without asking first. Set them to only update on Wi-Fi or wait for manual confirmation before downloading.
- Disable auto-play. Facebook, Instagram and other apps auto-play videos by default. Turn this function off so you spend data only on videos you want to watch.
- Pre-download files. Keen on watching videos or listening to podcasts while you're out? Download the episodes on Wi-Fi ahead of time and save your mobile data.
- Lower streaming quality. Stepping down from HD to SD can save you gigabytes per hour on Netflix, for example.
- Enable data saving mode. This mode only allows apps to get background data using Wi-Fi, meaning data won't be used without your permission.
- Monitor usage. Many providers offer free data-monitoring apps. These give an up-to-date breakdown of your current usage. We'll go into more detail on how this works further below.
Checking your mobile data usage with your provider
While you can track your data usage using your phone's own settings, there are easier ways. Several mobile providers have custom apps for their customers that track data use plus some other functionality depending on the provider.
If the above methods don't work for you, you should always be able to check your usage when you receive your mobile bill. Here's a rundown of common providers who allow you to check your usage easily:
|Via phone||Through online account||Provider app|
|TPG mobile usage||❌||✅||❌|
|Telstra mobile usage||❌||✅||✅|
|Optus mobile usage||❌||✅||✅|
|Kogan mobile usage||✅||✅||✅|
|Aldi mobile usage||✅||✅||✅|
|Boost mobile usage||✅||✅||✅|
What if your mobile data usage isn't accurate?
You're entitled to make a complaint if you're being charged for data you haven't used. The first step is to contact your provider and see if you can sort it out with them. Otherwise, you can contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) on 1800 062 058 or through their website.
You will probably need some evidence to prove that your actual data consumption is lower than your bill claims.
Frequently asked questions
Do I want mobile data on or off?
Should you turn mobile data off when using Wi-Fi?
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