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Mobile data usage

Here’s how to get the right amount of mobile data for your daily needs.

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Normal mobile phone plans come with a set amount of data per month, but it turns out that nearly half (43%) of Australians regularly exceed that limit, according to Deloitte's 2017 Mobile Consumer Survey.

There's no need to keep shelling out for excess data charges. We'll help you figure out how much data you actually need on a monthly basis as well as provide some tips on cutting down your usage without too much effort.

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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.

Sick of running out of data? Compare big data mobile plans now

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.

Video streaming icon

Video streaming

Video conferencing icon

Video conferencing

Social media icon

Social media

Audio streaming icon

Streaming audio (music, podcasts, audiobooks)

Internet browsing icon

Internet browsing

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.

AppActivityGB/30 minsGB/1 hourGB/3 hour
spotify-logo-smallSpotify/music streaming0.080.150.45
youtube-logo-smallSD video streaming0.250.501.50
Video streaming iconHD video streaming1.503.009.00
zoom logoVideo Calling0.140.270.55

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.

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 phoneThrough online accountProvider 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?

This depends on your personal needs. Without data, you won't receive live notifications or be able to surf social media. Some map apps, like Google Maps, may have limited function offline and be able to offer driving instructions for local areas. However, you won't get live updates or access to public transit or maps outside your area, unless you've saved them manually.

One alternative is to restrict your mobile data rather than disabling it or to place your phone in data saver mode.

Should you turn mobile data off when using Wi-Fi?

When connected to Wi-Fi, your mobile data will mostly remain unused. Some functions, like MMS messages, will still use mobile data as will certain background apps. In most cases, it shouldn't matter, though you can turn off your data as a precaution to be absolutely sure.

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