The world runs on data these days, and making sure you have enough to get the most out of your phone, while not paying for more than you need, is a crucial balance to find.
When it comes to data plans, the best size correlatesto how you use your data. Do you use your phone primarily for email and social media? You can probably get away with a smaller data plan. Using your device as a game console, or for video streaming? You’ll want to opt for a larger or even anunlimited plan. We’ve given yousome numbers to work with below, so you can see exactly how much data certain tasks use up andget a real sense of what your monthly data needs will be. We’ll also breakdown the plans available from each of the four major U.S. phone companies to help you in making the right decision.
Howmuch data are you using?
Not all apps use the same amount of data. It’s important to know where your data is going and how much you’re using to find the best plan for you. Before webreakdown the data usages for different apps and features, it’s worth mentioning ways to mitigate data use. No matter what your data limit, it’s always a smart idea to connect to a Wi-Fi network whenever you can. This is an easy thing to do while at home, as most people have wireless internet these days, but when out and about, it can be tricky. Coffee shops and restaurants often have a network customers can connect to (though you may want to use a VPN), and connecting to your workplace’s Wi-Fi may also be an option.
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Why is connecting to Wi-Fi important? If limiting data usage is your goal, then Wi-Fi is going to be your greatest ally. Any data used while connected to a wireless internet network will not affect your monthly 3G/4G allocation from your carrier, so you can stream, download, post, and email to your heart’s content. Most devices and apps also have settings to limit the use of certain features while not connected to Wi-Fi, which takes the guess work out of tracking what apps you should and shouldn’t be using.
Many of us use social media apps on smartphones. But how much data doour tweets, likes and Instagram posts use up? Updating your Facebook feed takes up about 50KB on average, each time you open the app. Updating your Twitter feed takes about 70KB. Instagram, on the other hand, can utilize anywhere between30 and 150KB per picture. Posting also takes up a little bit more data than simply updating your feeds. If you post10 times a day — for instance — you’ll use about 0.07GB in a month, while posting 200 times day willuseroughly 1.43GB in a month. That’s an unrealistic number for even the most obsessive socialite, so unless you’re going hog wild with your status updates, social media isn’t going to make much of a dent in your monthly allocation.
Depending on the webpages you visit, surfing the web on your smartphone is economical on your data budget. Of course, every website is different, and your data numbers will be higherif you tend to visit pages with lots of multimedia features. If you are planning on doing some light browsing on your phone, then you should expect to use less than 100MB of data a month. On the other hand, if you are browsing some data-heavy sites that aren’t optimized for smartphones, you could find yourself using more than 1GB of data. There is a big differencethere, but unless you know for sure that you are going to be surfing a lot, you shouldn’t be using more than roughly200MB a month.
Alongside social media and web browsing, email is probably the next most-used feature on smartphones. Luckily, even if your inbox is constantly being flooded and you’re responding toemails all day long, your data isn’t going to take much of a hit. Let’s say you’re sending 500 emails a day — a gross overestimation for the majority of people — you’ll wind up having used just 0.5GB of data by the end of the month. A more realistic estimate of about 10 to 20 emails equates to a measly 0.02GB of data; that is,assuming they’re text-only.
There is a big difference between text emails and emails with attachments, though. If you were to send 5,000 emails, each with a picture attachment, you could be looking at more than2GB of data a month. However, most of us don’t take and send that many pictures, so you’re more likely looking at around 100MB of data resulting from sending a couple of emails with images a day.
Streaming music and podcasts
Now we’re getting into the more data-intensive apps. Whetherusing a music app likeSpotify or a podcast app like Stitcher, streaming audio is going to eat up your data plan quickly. Streaming two hours of audio every day for a month is going to use more than3.5GB, andsince it’s not hard to imagine spending more than two hours a day listening to music or podcasts, one could easily rack up 6GB a month or more streaming audio data alone. This is one feature you’ll likely want to use when connected via Wi-Fi. T-Mobile and Sprint areexception to the rule, as they both allow for unlimited music streaming.
Here’s the big one. Apps such asNetflix and YouTube may allowus toeasily to catch up on our favorite shows while on the go, but they alsogobble upamonstrous amount of data in the process. Watching a mere 60 minutes of standard-definition video a day can utilize up to8GB of data in a month, while that same amount of time spent watching HD videos can take up nearly30GB. Thatbeing the case, we suggest holding off on that next episode of House of Cardsuntil you’re connected to Wi-Fi.
All the major carriers throttle streaming video speeds beyond a certain point or limit the resolution you can stream video at to 720p or sometimes 480p. AT&T offers unlimited streaming of video through DirecTV Now — but any non DirecTV video counts against your data allotment, even though the company now offers unlimited plans (your connection may be slowed after 22GB of used data each month). Verizon is similar with its own unlimited offering, and they too might throttle your connection after 22GB. Sprint does the same after 23GB, and T-Mobile after 50GB of use.
Apps like Netflix now also let you download certain movies and shows to your device, so you don’t need a data connection to watch them later — we recommend downloading these when connected to Wi-Fi.
With phones becoming more and more sophisticated, their potential as dedicated gaming machines only becomes greater. Smartphones support 3D graphics and even online multiplayer, which makes them suitable for games more complex than ThreesandCandy Crush. However,what’s their data footprint like?
As long as you’re sticking to single player games, your data usage should be limited — the effecton battery life is another issue, though. Online modes and multiplayer games are going to take up a chunk of data, butexactly how much varies from game to game. Short sessions ranging between 10 and 30 minutes for a game likeCandy Crushwill certainly add up, but likely won’t push you into data overages. However,it’s still best to connect to Wi-Fi if you’re planning on indulging in intense multiplayer matches for an afternoon; it’s likely a more reliable connection, anyway.
We discussed using Wi-Fi above, but another strategy for reducing data usage is to stick to using media that you’vedownloaded directly on your device. Try to downloadpodcasts, playlists, or videos for your commutes and long trips in advance while connected to Wi-Fi. Doing so will help you stay within data limits each month, leaving plenty for downloading smaller files like email attachments, new apps, and similar content on the go.
So, now that you’ve hopefully got an idea of what kind of data your apps and activities will take up, what comes next? It’s time to find a plan that’s right for you. The following pages detail the plans available from each of the four major U.S. carriers (i.e. Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T). You may also want to check out the best cheap phone plans.
Sprint haseliminated its Better Choice plans in favor of itsUnlimited Freedom plan. The planisone of themost affordable options available, but the network isn’t the best in most areas (although markedly better over the past year). Still, it’s a great choice for those looking for a budget plan with decent device and service selection.
Sprint’s unlimited planstarts at $60 per month for a single line, which is one of the cheapest options available. You can get a second line for $40 per month, but then add another three lines for no additional monthly fee until 1/31/19 when they’ll revert to $30 per month. You’ll also find yourselfpossibly facing throttling — they call it “data deprioritization” — after 23GB of shared data use.
Unlimited Single Line
For single lines, Sprint offers a flat-rate unlimited plan at $50, plus access charges.
Check out Sprint’s websitefor more information regarding the company’s data plans.
AT&T drastically changed its plans, introducing a much simplified plan structure in February, in two plans called Unlimited Choice and Unlimited Plus. Unlimited choice offers unlimited talk, data, and text, standard definition video streaming (480p), throttled data up to 3Mbps, and roaming in Canada and Mexico. Upgrading to Unlimited Plus removes the data speed throttle, gives you all the features of Unlimited Choice, plus adds 10GB of full speed hotspot use and a $25 discount on either DirecTV orDirecTV Now.
In both cases, you run the risk of being throttled after data usage exceeds 22GB in any given month. Unlimited Choice plans are $60 per month for the first line, $55 for the second, and $20 for any additional lines ($10 per month for wearables). Unlimited Plus plans are $90 per month for the first line, and the same price for any additional lines. All plans require autopay and paperless billing for the best rates.
Check out AT&T’s websitefor more information regarding the company’s data plans.
Verizon boasts the largest 4G LTE network and provides the most coverage of all four phone carriers in the United States. Big Red hasan unlimited option of its own.It isgenerally higher priced than its competitors, but if you need consistent and dependable coverage, Verizon is hard to beat.
The company’s prepaid plan is a basic option, one that doesn’t require you to selectand juggle multiple features and services at once. The packages are set and offer three flat rates, allowing you to choose between a 2GB plan for $40 a month, a 5GB plan for $50 a month, or a 10GB plan for $70 a month.Other data devices can be added onto your plan for an access fee of anywhere from$15 a week for 500MB of data to $100 for 10GB of data good for two months.
More Everything Plan
Verizon offers four different data plan options ranging from $35 per month for 2GB up to $65 per month for unlimited. You’ll have to pay access charges per device, which are $20 for smartphones, $10 for hotspots and tablets, and $5 per month for all other connected devices. You’ll receive a $5 per month discount if you elect to use autopay, the company’s site says.
Check out Verizon’s websitefor more information regarding the company’s data plans.
T -Mobile plans
T-Mobile now offers just one post-paid plan — T-Mobile ONE — which includes unlimited data, talk and text. T-Mobile is probably the best option for data-heavy consumers. There are a few things you should keep in mind, though, to make their modelwork for you.
A prepaid plan on T-Mobile nets you unlimited talk and text, along withdata and4G LTE on a single line. However, the 4G LTE allowance isdifferent from the unlimited data access on thenetwork.Your speeds will reduce after you finish your 4G LTE data, but you won’t incur overage charges. The cost per month is also dependent on the amount of 4G LTE data you opt for, whether it’s $40 for 3GB, $50 for 5GB, or$60 for 10GB. There are several extra features that can be added to your plan, such as international calls and texts, plus there are additionalprepaid plans that do not include data, if for whatever reason you’d rather not utilizesaidfeatures.
As we’ve said previously, T-Mobile ONE is the sole option for non-prepaid accounts. It’s $70, and includes unlimited data. T-Mobile has the highest “data prioritization” threshold at 50GB. If you’d like to add additional lines, the second one is $50, and any other additional lines beyond that $20 per line. Fora family of four that’s $160 per line, not a bad deal at all.
Tablets get unlimited data for $20 per month, and wearables $5.
Check out T-Mobile’s websitefor more information regarding the company’s data plans.
Update: We checked this article for accuracy and added some useful links.
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How big a data plan do I need? ›
10GB is the perfect amount of data if you need answers and need them now. You'll be able to download 10 apps, stream about 10 minutes of video & 50 minutes of music, visit 80 web pages and send about 150 emails per day. See this plan.How do I choose the right data plan? ›
- Determine Your Data Usage. The first and foremost thing that you need to do is determine your data usage. ...
- Consider Your Activities. ...
- Compare the Plans. ...
- Check the Coverage Area. ...
- Choose a Reputable Service Provider. ...
- Read the Reviews.
How much is 10GB of data? According to Ofcom, the average person uses around 2.9GB of data per month, a statistic which is rising each year with the evolution of technology. That means 10GB is most likely more than enough for the average phone user.Is 2 GB of data enough for a day? ›
Browsing the net with 2GB will last for around 33 hours. So you could browse for around one hour per day before reaching your limit. Similarly, you could use social media for less than an hour each day.How much data is enough monthly? ›
To ensure you never run out of data, you'll probably need a monthly data allowance of around 20GB.What size is considered big data? ›
“Big data” is a term relative to the available computing and storage power on the market — so in 1999, one gigabyte (1 GB) was considered big data. Today, it may consist of petabytes (1,024 terabytes) or exabytes (1,024 petabytes) of information, including billions or even trillions of records from millions of people.What is a good data management plan? ›
A data management plan documents the lifecycle of your data.
A good data management plan will ensure the availability and accessibility of your research results after your project is complete and you have published the results, increasing the value of your research and possible reuse by other researchers.
Apps. Apps are likely the biggest data users on your phone. Anything that needs to connect to the Web to update, refresh, or download will use cell data. This means all your social media and streaming apps, from Facebook to Twitter, Spotify to Netflix, will quietly eat up your data.How do I get the best cellular data? ›
- Move up a floor (or multiple floors). Signal tends to be better on higher floors, as you're able to clear obstructions closer to ground level. ...
- Move closer to a window. ...
- Go outside. ...
- Move to higher ground. ...
- Find our where your closest cell tower is.
With your 10GB of data, you'll be able to browse the internet for approximately 120 hours per month, to stream 2,000 songs online or to watch 20 hours of online video in standard definition. In this article, we'll discuss what you can do with 10GB of data and how long you can expect your 10GB allowance to last for.
Is 40 GB data enough for a month? ›
With your 40GB of data, you'll be able to browse the internet for approximately 480 hours per month, to stream 8,000 songs online or to watch 80 hours of online video in standard definition.Is 25 GB data enough for a month? ›
With 25GB of data, you could stream audio for a very long time each month, though it's unlikely you'd find time to listen to 578 hours of music! Needless to say, you would have more than enough data to browse the internet and social media. You'd also have plenty of room to watch videos too.Is 1 GB data enough for a day? ›
As a rough guide, 1GB of data would let you do one of the following: Watch one hour and 20 minutes of video at Standard Definition. Stream roughly eight hours of high quality music (320kbps) Send or receive about 1000 emails.Is 20 GB data enough for a month? ›
20GB per month is considered to be a fairly large amount of mobile data, alongside 30GB and 50GB. Ofcom's 2021 report claims that most users have an average of 4.5GB of mobile data for the month, so 20GB is definitely above average.How long does 5GB of data last on iPhone? ›
Mobile Data Limits. A 5GB data plan will allow you to browse the internet for around 60 hours, to stream 1,000 songs or to watch 10 hours of standard-definition video.Is 1 GB of data enough for a month? ›
How much is 1GB of data? Ofcom's 2021 report states that phone users (on average) opt for 4.5GB of mobile data for the month. In comparison, a 1GB bundle is a fair bit below average. This is a reflection of how much data we use these days - 1GB simply isn't enough for most!Is 30 GB data enough for a month? ›
For most people, 30GB of data will be more than enough to last for an entire month's allowance. When you're out and about, your phone needs to consume data to complete tasks you ask of it, such as browsing the internet or watching videos.What are the 3 types of big data? ›
- Structured data.
- Unstructured data.
- Semi-structured data.
What are examples of big data? Big data comes from myriad sources -- some examples are transaction processing systems, customer databases, documents, emails, medical records, internet clickstream logs, mobile apps and social networks.What are the different data sizes? ›
- Bit is an eighth of a byte* ...
- Byte: 1 Byte. ...
- Kilobyte: 1 thousand or, 1,000 bytes. ...
- Megabyte: 1 million, or 1,000,000 bytes. ...
- Gigabyte: 1 billion, or 1,000,000,000 bytes. ...
- Terabyte: 1 trillion, or 1,000,000,000,000 bytes. ...
- Petabye: 1 quadrillion, or 1,000,000,000,000,000 bytes.
What are examples of data? ›
Data can come in the form of text, observations, figures, images, numbers, graphs, or symbols. For example, data might include individual prices, weights, addresses, ages, names, temperatures, dates, or distances.What uses data the most? ›
Streaming apps such as Netflix, Stan, Disney+ and BINGE. Social media apps such as Tik Tok, Facebook and Instagram.What's my data plan? ›
Open your Settings app. Mobile data plan. To check your plan: At the top, see your current data plan status. To buy more data: Under "Buy data," tap the offer you want.What data carrier has the best coverage? ›
Verizon has the most nation-wide coverage, while AT&T and T-Mobile are neck and neck, and Sprint is far behind coming in last place. The group of four major cell phone providers in the U.S. is known as the Big Four, and it includes Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint.How do I get the best LTE signal? ›
- Get a New Phone/Hotspot. If you're using an old device, a new phone or hotspot may allow you to connect to new bands. ...
- Use External Antennas [Best for Hotspots] ...
- Use a MIMO Signal Booster [Best for Phones]
- Restart your phone. ...
- Find the top mobile data–draining apps. ...
- Turn off inactive background apps and programs. ...
- Pause resource-draining apps the easy way. ...
- Install an ad blocker. ...
- Try a data speed booster. ...
- Clear the cache on your mobile browser.
Indeed, according to NPD, the average U.S. smartphone user now consumes a total of 31.4 GB of data on a monthly basis (a figure that includes both Wi-Fi and cellular consumption). That's up fully 25% from a year prior.Is 50GB a lot of data for a month? ›
Is 50GB of data enough for me? For the above average phone user, 50GB looks to be more than enough to last for a whole month's activity, particularly when you consider that you probably won't need to use your mobile data for that entire time if you have Wi-Fi at home.Is 15 GB good for a month? ›
By most standards, 15GB is considered a fairly large data bundle. According to Ofcom's 2021 Market Report, the average monthly data used per mobile data connection was 4.5 GB. Considering this, 15GB is over triple the average!How long does 2GB of data last on iPhone? ›
2GB of data will therefore get you around 6 hours of video time. Apple's Facetime application is slightly more efficient, using around 180MB per hour, depending on your settings. If you're sending images through an app like WhatsApp, you'll usually be able to send around 2,000 photos before you run out of data.
How much is 50 GB per month? ›
With your 50GB of data, you'll be able to browse the internet for approximately 600 hours per month, to stream 10,000 songs online or to watch 100 hours of online video in standard definition. In this article, we'll discuss what you can do with 50GB of data and how long you can expect your 50GB allowance to last for.How long does 40 GB of data last? ›
How long does 40GB of data last? A 40GB data plan will allow you to browse the internet for around 480 hours, to stream 8,000 songs or to watch 80 hours of standard-definition video.Is 5GB data enough for a month? ›
For most trips, 3GB or 5GB of data will be enough to cover common internet usage. However, if you are planning on using the internet more or if you are traveling for a month or longer, you might want to consider cards with up to 7GB of data.How long should 20 GB last? ›
A 20GB data plan will allow you to browse the internet for around 240 hours, to stream 4,000 songs or to watch 40 hours of standard-definition video. Nowadays, the key difference between mobile phone price plans is how many gigabytes of data it comes with.How much does 1 GB of data cost? ›
|Characteristic||Average price per cellular gigabyte in U.S. dollars|
A 1GB data plan will allow you to browse the internet for around 12 hours, to stream 200 songs or to watch 2 hours of standard-definition video.How many data GB do I need on my phone? ›
If you play a lot of mobile games and/or take a lot of high-res photos, you'll want at least 128GB. However, if you don't use many apps and stream most of your content (like movies and music), you'll probably be fine with 64GB.How many GB of data do you use in an hour? ›
How much DATA you are using? Streaming 2 hours of music daily would use about 3 GB of data each month. General Internet browsing, accessing Google Classroom, and playing online games uses between 60-150 MB per hour. Streaming Netflix for just one hour would use about 3GB of data in just that time alone.How much data do I use Iphone? ›
View how much mobile data you're using
To see how much mobile data you've used, go to Settings > Mobile Data or Settings > Cellular. If you're using an iPad, you may see Settings > Mobile Data. Scroll down to find out which apps are using mobile data.
A 30GB data plan will allow you to browse the internet for around 360 hours, to stream 6,000 songs or to watch 60 hours of standard-definition video.
How many GB should I leave free on my iPhone? ›
Check Your Total Usage
You don't need to understand these numbers deeply. To update iOS, you'll want to have up to 6GB of free space. If you simply want to have enough free space so you can take new photos and install new apps without worrying about hitting an obstacle, give yourself at least 2GB of free space.
In 2021, the average data used per smartphone per month worldwide amounted to 11.4 gigabytes (GB). The source forecasts that this will increase almost four times reaching 41 GB per smartphone per month globally in 2027.How many GB does average person need on iPhone? ›
128GB: enough for the average user
An iPhone with 128GB storage capacity is suitable for the average user. With the new iPhone 12 models, this is the minimum storage capacity. With 128GB, you have enough space to store some photos, music, and videos locally.
2GB of data (or 2000MB) a month is a plan aimed at those who don't use mobile data often, but is enough to browse the web for around 80 minutes a day, or use social media apps for at least around 40 minutes per day. However, it is not suitable for those who stream lots of movies, or want to watch a lot of other videos.Is 100 GB data enough for a month? ›
Your data should normally refresh every month or 30 days, so theoretically you have an average of 720 hours to fill a month. 100GB can last almost non-stop for the entire month, so you'd never have to connect to Wi-Fi if you didn't want to.Is 50GB of data a month enough? ›
For the vast majority of phone users, 50GB is more than enough. Take a look at the table below to see how much data you use, on average, for each activity on your smartphone. For reference, a MB is a 'megabyte', and approximately 1,000MB make up one GB.Is 100GB data enough for 5g? ›
100GB of data is close to being unlimited, and is far more than most people will use. However, it still comes in handy if you want to watch lots of films in the best possible quality. You could watch for example around 17 movies in top quality on the Netflix app with this allowance.How many GB do I need on my phone? ›
Overall, for most casual smartphone users 64GB phone memory is enough, although many people prefer to choose between 128GB and 256GB. Those who use their mobile phone to the absolute maximum should consider phones with storage of 512GB and 1TB to avoid running out of storage space and suffering with a slow phone speed.How many GB does the average person use per month on home internet? ›
It can also feel a little esoteric and difficult to grasp. According to that OpenVault broadband study I mentioned earlier, it all adds up to the average US household using approximately 514GB of data monthly. That data usage number is steadily on the rise. It's up 11% from the same time in 2021.Is 5GB a lot of data for a month? ›
How much is 5GB of data? 5GB of data is a difficult one to place - for the average user (defined by Ofcom's 2021 report), it's not too much and it's not too little. Yet, based on the number of plans out there, 5GB is still considered to be a smaller plan with less gigabytes to offer.
Should I allow more data on 5G? ›
Allow More Data on 5G: Enables higher data-usage features for apps and system tasks. These include higher-quality FaceTime, high-definition content on Apple TV, Apple Music songs and videos, iOS updates over cellular, and automatic iCloud backups.How much data is enough for 5G? ›
"Telcos expect data usage to go up at least 2.5 times, if not more, to roughly 40-50 GB, once you start becoming a consumer of 5G," said a telecom industry executive. He noted that data consumption in the 4G era is around 17 GB per user per month, compared with 300 MB in the 3G era.Does unlimited 5G mean unlimited data? ›
Here's what you get with 5G Start: 5 GB premium Mobile Hotspot data , then unlimited lower-speed data. Unlimited data.