How Much Mobile Data Do I Need?

25 October 2016

Like most cell phone owners in the US, many users frequently worry about their mobile data plans, the remaining amount of data left, and how much money the data package may cost per month. 

Staying under your monthly data allowance can be a challenge for some. Fortunately for you, we've created this genius guide below that will explain where your data is going, and the many ways you can keep your data usage in check.

Americans average 2.5GB of data/mo per person. If that's you, click to compare plans.

Compare Plans with 2GB+ Data/mo

Data Usage Breakdown

Are you exceeding your data allowance each month? In this guide, we'll show you the many different ways smartphone users diminish their monthly allowance, and ways to avoid over-consumption. 

If you're consistently exceeding your monthly balance, take a look at the guide below to find ways to save data.

GB plan GB plan 10 GB plan 20 GB plan 50 GB plan
Uploading Photos
Web Surfing


Streaming Music

Streaming Podcasts


1GB plans 5GB Plans 10GB plans 20GB plans 50GB+ plans


Have you ever wondered how much data your phone eats up when you send and receive email? 

Since email access is available on almost every smartphone, users should know email only takes up a small amount of data, especially when compared with the many other ways your phone consumes megabytes. For example, sending a standard email (only text) without an attachment equals about 20KB of data. However, emails sent with file attachments will, on average, use around 300KB.

Althoguh basic email hardly uses any data, there are still ways sending emails can eat into your data plan. This mainly happens to email users who send hundreds of emails per month, usually with large files attached. This behavior increases the amount of data needed to transmit or open the message. 

If you're one of those on-the-go type business people who has a small data plan and a heavy email addiction, it's possible to exceed your data if you send too many emails. Don't go over, compare carriers with larger data plans.

Emails sent per dayEmails sent per month Min. Suggested Data
2 per day 60 per month 15MB/mo
20 per day 600 per month 150MB/mo
40 per day 1200 per month300MB/mo

Uploading Photos & Video

The millennials have changed the game by introducing hundreds of new, innovative ways we as humans now communicate with one another. This new age of information and technology focuses on three things which millennials are good at: taking photos, shooting videos, and using up tons of data. 

With Instagram and Snapchat taking over our lives, how much data are we actually using when uploading media? Depending on the size of the photo, users of Instagram can expect one image to be equal to about 250KB of data. Now assume you upload four photos around the same size, you'll have used 1MB of data (1024MB = 1GB). 

Depending on how you use Snapchat, this app can be extremely demanding in terms of data usage. Sending pictures isn't noteworthy, but using Snapchat's video services can be rather draining on data life. If you're doing a lot of Snapchatting, be aware that sending videos can result in many gigabytes of data usage.  Learn more about how to upload photos and GIFS here.

Photos uploaded per day Photos uploaded per month Min. Suggested Data
2 per day 60 per month 1GB/mo
10 per day 300 per month 2GB/mo
30 per day 900 per month3GB/mo

Facebook Usage

Are you or your family constantly on Facebook? If you've been wondering why your data amount seems to be deflating like a flat tire, Facebook is probably the main suspect. 

We tested out Facebook's data usage by browsing photos, watching videos, clicking links and doing a bit of chatting. Our test averaged 1.5MB per minute, with usage even reaching as high as 3MB per minute, however this was less common. The average Facebook user apparently spends more than 8 hours per month online; that adds up to 720MB at 1.5MB per minute, if you only access your feed using your phone. 

If you're on a 1GB per month data cap, that's a huge chunk of your allowance gone, so heavy FB users should keep this in mind. The good news? There has been talk of some carriers possibly adding a data-free Facebook app in the future. 

Facebook hours per day Facebook hours per month Min. Suggested Data
30 min per day 15 hrs per day 3GB/mo
1 hr per day 30 hr per month 8GB/mo
2 hr per day 60 hr per month15GB/mo

Web Browsing

Many smartphone users simply enjoy browsing the web via Google, and exploring a variety of websites. We've found that this practice typically uses anywhere between 1MB-4MB of data per minute. Naturally, loading massive amounts of web content, web applications or interactive parts of websites can be rather taxing on data usage.

Most users average around 48 hours per month of web browsing. On average, web browsing on your phone is equal to about 2.5MB of data use per minute. Small data plan (1GB or less) owners should be aware that browsing for 8 hours will consume around 1GB of data. 

If you have a small data plan, and find yourself going over your monthly amount, we recommend you do your web browsing on a Wi-Fi connected desktop, or check the available internet providers in your area.

Hours browsing per day Hours browsing per month Minimum Suggested Data
1 hour per day 30 hours per month 4GB/mo
2 hour per day 60 hours per month 8GB/mo
4 hour per day 120 hours per month 15GB/mo

Gaming Online

If you're an online gamer, its important to know how much data your favorite game is using. Some games require access to your data network, and have the ability to eat up your data much quicker. 

Games where the users send and receive messages, play against multiple players, or make in-game purchases, mean your phone needs data to deliver you the game content. Fortunately, most online games are not any more demanding than Facebook or Instagram, and average about 1.5MB per minute of data use.  

The positive aspect about many mobile games is that thousands will not use ANY data at all once the game has been downloaded. The only way you'll ever use data on those type of games is when you download the game from the app store for the first time. Need a better phone for more demanding games? Check out our best phones for gaming.

Note:  Some of the more data-draining titles will burn through data limit more quickly than others. We recommend checking your available data amount before and after using the game, for a general idea of how gameplay is afffecting your plan.

Hours gaming per day Hours gaming per month Minimum Suggested Data
1 hour per day 30 hours per month 500MB/mo
2 hours per day 60 hours per month 1GB/mo
3 hours per day 90 hours per month 2GB/mo

Music Streaming

If you're using apps such as Apple Music, Google Play Music, Spotify, Pandora, Soundcloud and iHeartRadio, the average use is around 1-2MB per minute, which isn't too bad. The downside is that the data usage amount is consistent throughout the entire song, which means a 4-minute track can use 8MB of data.

A full hour of streaming music will result in around 60MB of data use. Although this amount isn't too draining, users who do this throughout the month - for example, on their daily commute - may find their data amount being used up quickly, or even being exceeded before their billing cycle is up. 

If you love music too much to give up streaming, check out T-Mobile's Music Freedom plan geared toward music enthusiasts, or similar free-streaming deals from Boost MobileVirgin Mobile and MetroPCS

Music hours per day Music hours per month Minimum Suggested Data
1 hour per day 30 hours per month 500MB/mo
2 hours per day 60 hours per month 1GB/mo
3 hours per day 90 hours per month 2GB/mo


Podcast listeners will experience similar data usage rates when compared to streaming music. The initial amount of data usage is truly unsubstantial, roughly 1MB per minute. The problem is that data consumption ends up coming from the length of the podcast, and the consistent network access it demands.

If you enjoy your podcasts, we recommend downloading your fave shows rather than streaming them. By downloading the file, you'll likely save data by using the network to download the podcast over 10-15 minutes, rather than consistently draining your allocated data over the duration of the podcast (most streams average 1-2 hours). When listening to or downloading podcasts, having a Wi-Fi connection is ideal.

Podcast hours per day Podcast hours per month Minimum Suggested Data
2 hour per day 60 hours per month 500MB/mo
3 hours per day 90 hours per month 1GB/mo
4 hours per day 120 hours per month 2GB/mo


Streaming on YouTube is super fun: you can view a wide range of amazing content like music, movies, podcasts and pretty much anything you can set your eyes on. The problem is that streaming video is one of the biggest data killers out there. 

YouTube can average up to 6MB per minute which, once again, is not a substantial amount. But because most users tend to watch dozens of videos over a month, data use accumulates quickly - particularly if those videos are lengthy, or being watched in high definition. If you have a small 200MB plan, then you’ll use up the whole thing in under half an hour watching YouTube in HD. 

Overall, YouTube is best for users who have data plans of 10GB or more per month, or customers on T-Mobile's Simple Choice plans with Binge On zero-rated streaming. Interested in more data? Compare plans with 10GB of data or more here.

Youtube hours per day Youtube hours per month Minimum Suggested Data
1 hour per day 30 hours per month 10GB/mo
3 hours per day 90 hours per month Unlimited Data/mo
4 hours per day 120 hours per month Unlimited Data/mo


Netflix delivers easy mobile access to the hottest TV shows and new-release movies around -  in return for the majority of your cellular data. Watching movies or TV shows on Netflix uses about 1 GB of data per hour for each stream of standard definition video, and up to 3 GB per hour for each stream of HD video.

Customers who exceed their monthly data limit can, however, take advantage of data control settings by limiting the amount of data that can be used per day. Netflix members with small mobile data packages should either increase their monthly data limit, or switch to broadband internet as the primary source for streaming Netflix.

Although Netflix can accessed through your phone, we recommend that mobile Netflix users stay connected to Wi-Fi to avoid using all their data, or even exceeding their monthly data allotment completely.

For the full details on how much mobile data you need for Netflix, check out our comprehensive guide.

Netflix hours per day Netflix hours per month Minimum Suggested Data
1 hour per day 30 hours per month 40GB/mo
3 hours per day 90 hours per month Unlimited Data/mo
4 hours per day 120 hours per month Unlimited Data/mo

Get the right cell phone plan

We unpack 100,047 complex mobile phone plan combinations from 32 suppliers so you can find find a new plan in seconds.

Start Comparing

  • Sprint
  • T-Mobile
  • Verizon Wireless
  • Cricket
  • The People's Operator
  • Ting
  • AT&T
  • Boost Mobile

Compare phones and plans from the following carriers...

Mobile Deals

Cell Phone & Wireless Deals Every Week

Cell Phone & Wireless Deals Every Week

Our pick of the Hot Deals from every carrier, handpicked and fresh

T-Mobile Cell Phone Deals

T-Mobile Cell Phone Deals

All the deals on T-Mobile every week

Sprint's Wireless Deals & Best Plans

Sprint's Wireless Deals & Best Plans

All the deals from Sprint, updated every week

Straight Talk Cell Phone Deals

Straight Talk Cell Phone Deals

All the deals from Straight Talk, updated every week