How Much Data Do You Need?
It’s easy to go about your day, scroll through your phone and not really think about how much data you’re using. But knowing just how much you use can help you save quite a bit on your phone bill.
How is Data Usage Measured?
Any time you connect to the internet without Wi-Fi, you’re using cellular data (also referred to as mobile data).
If you’re surfing the web or checking social media while you’re on the go, your data usage is going to add up quickly.
Regular phone usage is measured in minutes, but cellular data usage is measured in megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB). This is using the metric system, so there are 1,000MB in 1GB.
How Much Data Am I Using?
According to Ericsson’s November 2021 Mobility Report, the average person’s data usage is 14.6 GB per month in North America. But for individuals on unlimited plans, the average data usage is between 18GB and 20GB per month.
It’s easy for your smartphone to eat up a lot of data without you realizing it. For example, Instagram uses around 720 megabytes of data per hour and TikTok uses close to 840MB. Luckily, checking data usage is easy for both iPhone and Android users.
How To Check Data Usage on iPhone
- Go to Settings
- Tap on Cellular
- You’ll see your data usage for the current period at the top (take note of this number)
- Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the settings page, and you’ll see the date your usage statistics were last reset (take note of the date)
- Use this website and enter the date of the last reset for the Start Date, and today’s date for the End Date. Check the box next to “Include end date in calculation”, and click on “Calculate Duration”
- Divide your total usage by the number of days to get your usage per day
- Multiply that number by 30 to get your average usage per month
How To Check Data Usage on Android
- Go to Settings
- Tap Connections
- Tap Data Usage
You’ll see a graph that illustrates your current usage. You can even tap on the date to go back and view data usage from historical months.
It’s a good idea to look at a few of your past months along with your current month to get a good idea of how much data you actually need.
How Can I Reduce My Data Usage?
It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your data usage so you don’t go over the limit, and so you can save some money as well. There’s no reason to pay for a plan with more data than you’re currently using. Here are some easy tips to manage your data usage:
- Always connect to Wi-Fi when possible
- Restrict background data. Most operating systems let you do this easily in your network settings. This means certain apps will only work when you’re connected to Wi-Fi, but your phone will function normally otherwise
- Make sure you’re viewing the mobile version of a website. Every time you visit a website, everything has to be downloaded. Mobile versions of websites don’t have quite as much content, which means they don’t use as much data as a desktop version
- There are arguments both for and against clearing your cache, but information stored in a cache will be able to load faster, meaning less data usage is required
Does 5G Use More Data Than 4G LTE?
You’ve probably heard a lot about 5G lately.
Users are consuming more and more media on mobile devices, and 4G LTE is becoming congested. It simply does not have enough bandwidth to support the increasing demand of cellular networks: making HD video calls, streaming 4K movies, online gaming, streaming music, and constant real-time traffic updates and maps navigation.
4G first rolled out back in 2009, to give you an idea of just how much things have changed.
5G doesn’t use any more data than 4G. It’s just a lot faster and allows for more data-heavy activities (like live-streaming in 4K and higher quality video calls). So if you’re on 5G, you’ll probably end up using more data anyway. 5G will let you browse more Instagram posts, watch more TikToks, and browse more websites in a fraction of the time as on 4G LTE. Not waiting for content to load means you have more time to consume it.
What Are The Best Data Plans?
The best cell phone plan for you is the one that meets your needs at an affordable price.
If you’re feeling stuck on choosing a cell phone plan, check out our guide How To Choose A Cell Phone Plan.
We walk you through the four steps to picking a perfect plan, as well as some of our top recommendations.
Speaking of which, if you’d just like to look at some of our favorite plans, here you go:
- Best low data usage plans: The best plans for low data users are Mint Mobile’s 4GB $15 plan, Boost Mobile’s 5GB $14 plan, and US Mobile’s 5GB $15 plan.
- Best high data usage plans: These plans are great for heavy data users while still offering amazingly affordable price points. Check out Mint Mobile’s 35GB plan for $30, Boost Mobile’s 35GB plan for $25, and US Mobile’s 18GB plan for $25.
- Best cheap unlimited plan: The best cheap unlimited data plan hands-down comes from Visible. Visible’s unlimited plan is just $25 per month for unlimited minutes, texts, and data on the Verizon network. The $25 price is thanks to Visible’s Party Pay discount, which is easy to take advantage of.
- Best premium unlimited plan: If you want priority data, which gives you slightly better performance in the select few times a network is busy, then we recommend US Mobile’s Unlimited Premium plan. It’s just $45 per month, and it includes 100GB of premium data (when activated with a 5G device), 50GB of hotspot data, 1080p video streaming, and even free international data on eSIM compatible phones.
- Best postpaid unlimited plans: If you’ve gotta go with a postpaid carrier, then you’re probably not saving much money. That said, we think the best options are Verizon’s 5G Play More plan, T-Mobile’s Magenta plan, and AT&T’s Unlimited Extra plan.
You can check out more of our top picks for cell phone plans, including why we chose them, in our Best Cell Phone Plans 2022 article.