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What does 1GB get you? Mobile internet explained

All muddled up over megabytes? Can't get your head around gigabytes? We explain exactly what you get for your mobile phone's data allowance.

An Apple iPhone with social media software
If you have a phone that can surf the web, check Facebook and Twitter, or send emails, then whether you know it or not, you will have a monthly data allowance.

This is the amount of internet use you are allowed in a month without being charged extra.

That's all very well and good but how do you know what is enough, too much or too little when it comes to choosing your smartphone data package?

Helpfully, we've broken it down into terms that are easy to understand for anyone.

Mobile data explained

Firstly, it's worth explaining what each unit of measurement is worth.

Some 1,024 kilobytes (KB) make up one megabyte (MB).

The next measurement up is a gigabyte (GB), which is made up of 1,024MB.

As a point of reference, mobile data allowances of 1GB are commonplace nowadays, but deals can start as low as 100MB and rise to as much as 5GB - though this will bump up the cost of your monthly mobile phone deal.

How far does 1GB go?

We put the table below together with some help from mobile phone comparison service mobilesplease.co.uk.

It should make understanding how much data you need a little easier.

Activity

Average MB use

With 1GB

Surfing the web

1 hour surfing the web

23

44.5 hours

Facebook

1 hour's use (not including streaming videos)

20

51 hours

Watching TV

Streaming a 30-minute episode of Eastenders

100

10 episodes

YouTube

Watching a four-minute video

15

68 plays

Email

100 emails sent and received (without attachments)

3

34,133 emails

Google Maps

1 hour's use

60

17 hours

Skype

30-minute video chat

112

4.5 hours

Spotify

Streaming 1 track

4

256 tracks

WhatsApp

100 text-only messages

3

34,133 messages

How to choose your mobile phone data package 

Mark Bridge, mobile phone expert and podcast producer at thefonecast.com, offers the following tips when it comes to choosing your package:

"Make sure you know what happens when you exceed your mobile data allowance: will you be charged at a higher rate, will the service stop working or will it be restricted for the rest of the month?

"And if you're worried about how much you'll pay but are equally worried about being out of touch, look for a truly unlimited data deal."

Mobile internet and beyond

The more data we use, and the more hungry apps and services become for data, the higher the allowance we're going to need.

And with 4G offering customers much faster internet connection the amount of data we're consuming is bound to rise, and with it, the size of data deals.

Bridge says: "Wi-Fi is becoming a selling point, with everyone from supermarkets to bookshops giving away free internet access as an incentive to shoppers.

"Perhaps in the future we won't need to pay for mobile data at all – we'll simply connect via Wi-Fi in each shop we visit."

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Paul Drury

Paul Drury

Paul was a contributor and techy person at Confused.com between 2011 and 2013.

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