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Smartphone data: How much do you really need?

How much is 500MB of internet? What about 1GB? Do you need more, or less data? Here's all you need to know about data allowance.

Smartphones have taken over laptops as the number one device among UK internet users, according to Ofcom's 2015 data. And we're now spending two hours online on our smartphone every day.

Browsing Facebook, downloading music, using apps and surfing the web are just some of the things that we can do on our phones.

But all of these use internet and internet comes at a cost.

Knowing how much internet data you need is crucial, you don’t want to pay over the odds for a data package that you don’t use.

Data-heavy activity

Some packages can be as low as 100MB or 250MB of data, with most starting from 500MB and going up to 1GB, 2GB and more. And for data hungry users, you can even find deals that offer 5GB and more.

Examples of data usage:

  • Browsing the internet uses comparatively little data. Surfing the web for an hour will use approximately 23MB. So if you browse the web for an hour every day, for an entire month, you’d use about 700MB.

  • E-mails will make even less of an impact on your monthly allowance but be wary of large attachments like photos and videos which could eat up your allowance if downloaded.

  • For heavy Twitter, Instagram and Facebook users the good news is that basic use of these services doesn’t use much data, especially if you’re using an app. But watch out, regularly uploading pictures and watching videos can rinse your usage.

  • Downloading and streaming music or videos is very data intensive. Even on the most generous data packages, excessive activity of this sort could land you with a nasty shock when you get your next monthly bill. So save this for when you’re at home or have access to Wi-Fi.

Want to find out how much 500MB or 2GB of mobile internet data will get you? Check out our mobile data calculator to figure out what you can do with your data package.

What type of user are you?

Light user - “I use it every now and then”
In a month, you occasionally browse through the internet and send the odd email. You might check your Facebook every so often. But you never upload, download or stream any media. You’re likely to use your internet for more than an hour a day.

Recommended data allowance: 500MB/month

Medium user – “I browse when I'm bored”
You browse the internet every day and check your Facebook, Twitter and emails regularly. You use a few apps each month and like to watch videos or download some songs every now and then.

Recommended data allowance: 1GB/month

Heavy user – “I use it for entertainment and work”
You regularly browse the internet, check Facebook, Twitter and emails. You use a number of your favourite apps, watch videos and download music for your phone several times a week.

Recommended data allowance: 2GB/month or more

Extensive streaming and downloading of media over the month will most likely exceed 1GB, so you might want to either limit yourself to when you have Wi-Fi access or upgrade your allowance.

What to watch out for

There are a number of things you could do to make sure you don’t go over your data allowance:

  • Use Wi-Fi whenever you can.

  • Make sure any apps you use aren’t eating up your allowance.

  • If you take your phone abroad, turn the "data roaming" option off and don’t use your phone for anything web based, unless it’s over Wi-Fi.

  • If your phone uses iOS 9, turn off the “Wi-Fi assist” option as your phone can automatically use you mobile data when your Wi-Fi connectivity is poor.

Does 4G use more data? No it doesn’t. But chances are that because of its speed, you’ll want to use more data, hitting your allowance quicker than you would have if you were on 3G.