Last updated by Shanti Langdon-Rourke
Mobile Data can be tough to measure. Sometimes, 100MB will feel like it stretches an entire month, while sometimes it can be breezed through in a matter of minutes due to the crazy fast speed of LTE data service.
A common question we see is in regards to objectively measuring the data you use with Ting. While our usage dashboard is a great way to know how much you've used on a certain day after the usage occurs, there are ways to roughly calculate how much data will be used by certain actions like listening to music/podcasts, browsing social media, downloading an e-Book, and other internet activities.
In this article, we'll explore different ways by which data is used, and discuss approximately how much data is required by certain actions.
Audio files (songs, Podcasts, audiobooks)
Audio files vary wildly in size depending on something called bitrate. Bitrate is an objective measurement of how much data is used by one second of audio. A common bitrate for music is 128Kbps (Kilobits per second). Kilobits are different than Kilobytes, in the same way, that 1 byte is equal to 8 bits. Therefore, 128 Kilobits per second is equal to 16 Kilobytes per second.
A common streaming platform, Spotify, uses the following bitrates:
- Normal Quality (96kbps)
- High Quality (160kbps)
- Extreme (320kbps)
Keep in mind, these bitrates are for the mobile phone version of Spotify. The desktop version uses a higher bitrate, as home internet comes with much more bandwidth than cellular services.
Therefore, you should expect to use about 100 minutes of Spotify on normal quality to use 100MB of data.
Keep in mind that other streaming platforms will use different bitrates. Apple Music, for example, uses 256kbps by default, and therefore 100MB will grant you significantly fewer songs than 96kbps streaming will.
When it comes to Podcasts, most platforms will display the full file size of a podcast before downloading. For example, a 1-hour podcast could range anywhere from 25MB to 60MB, given that they require a lower bitrate than music. Audiobooks are very similar in file size as they are, in essence, very similar to podcasts in regards to recorded content. There is usually only one individual speaking at a time with little-to-no music involved, which requires a lower bitrate than music does. A commonly-used bitrate for Podcasts is 96kbps, with a generally accepted range of 64kbps-128kbps.
Social media used to be somewhat data-conscious, with Facebook showing mostly status' and Twitter being a more text-focused experience. Lately, social media has become heavily focused on being a visual experience with pictures and videos being loaded automatically for you and constituting a majority of the content you see, whether it's on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
An educated estimation of data usage for Facebook would equal about 1.5MB of data use per minute. This is an average gathered by usage statistics between light, normal, and heavy users of Facebook. "Heavy" usage would comprise of someone continuously scrolling through their news feed and would use much more than 1.5MB per minute (potentially upwards of 10MB per minute).
Android users who are concerned about data usage on Facebook can download an app called "Facebook Lite" on certain devices. Facebook Lite is meant to be a version of Facebook that requires less data to run than the regular Facebook app.
Finally, take a peek at our blog post regarding saving data while using Facebook. There are some handy tips and tricks in there to ensure your data usage remains under control while using Facebook.
General Web Browsing
Browsing the internet through a mobile device uses much less data than browsing on a computer or laptop does but still can use large amounts if the websites you're accessing contain plenty of visuals (pictures, videos, .gif files, etc).
While each website varies wildly in its data weight, a general guideline would be to expect a website to use about 0.2MB (200KB) of data per page. Again, this value can and will vary if the website is something like an imageboard that pre-loads picture thumbnails, or somewhere like Reddit where videos pre-load and play as you "hover" over them (stop scrolling while centered on the video as opposed to scrolling right past it).
By using this estimate of page weight, you could expect to view about 500 web pages on your mobile phone to hit 100MB of data use. A more conservative estimation would be about 300 web pages due to how much pages will vary in weight based on their content.
This general weight range raises significantly if you tether your phone to your computer and load web pages on your laptop. The average desktop website weighs in at close to 2MB, so you could expect to load about 50 average websites while tethering to a laptop through mobile data.
While it is not recommended to access video streaming services over cellular data while attempting to restrict data use to 100MB per month, pictured below is a chart displaying a rough estimate of how much data you can expect to use while watching a video on Youtube:
|Youtube Video Quality||Data used (MB/minute)|
Bear in mind that these results came from a video that is exactly 60 seconds in length being streamed at various qualities on a laptop computer and not a mobile phone. The video file is essentially the same file but being displayed on a different sized screen. Your mileage may vary, but this is a general guideline. Also, keep in mind that these weight values are in MegaBytes, not Megabits. That is to say, you might be able to get away with watching about 50 minutes of 144p video to use that 100MB up, but there won't be any data left to use after that. It's generally recommended to avoid watching videos over cellular data if you're interested in keeping your data costs down!
Other cellular functions
Certain functions on a phone will also use small amounts of data. Email, push notifications, location services, Google Services, diagnostics, tower pings, background data, etc. will all use small amounts of data if they are enabled.
These functions don't use a significant amount of data on their own, but a month's worth of occasional use of each of these operations will add up to use a sizeable portion of your 100MB over 30 days. For information on how to disable these background functions, check out our blog post regarding restricting background data.
For some further reading on saving data, here's a compendium of blog posts about saving data that you may want to check out to maximize your savings with Ting!