Knowing how much phone data you need is crucial so you don't end up overpaying or running out of data.
And if you're changing or updating your data plan, it's useful to know how much you can do with these different data plans.
Here's all you need to know about your phone data allowance.
What is mobile data?
Your phone data allows you to access the internet - which includes your Instagram, TikTok and Spotify - without having to be connected to Wi-Fi.
Your mobile network provider should automatically switch you to Wi-Fi if a nearby network is available. But if there's no network available, this is where phone data plays a role. This means as long as you have signal, you can be connected anywhere you go.
There are also different speeds of mobile data. 3G is the slowest and 4G is faster and good for watching videos. But most recently, 5G has made an arrival to most mobile phone providers, which can be as fast as fibre-optic broadband.
What uses data on a mobile phone?
If you're not connected via WiFi, you need mobile data to:
- Stream music
- Watch videos you've not already downloaded
- Downloading apps
- Use map navigation
- Send messages via WhatsApp
- Use most mobile apps
Many apps and mobile games say that they can be used 'offline'. This usually means they don't save any information to the cloud or have online functionality.
What's the average monthly data usage?
According to Ofcom's Communications Market Report, the average monthly use of data is around 5.6GB in 2021.
This is up from 2020, where people used 4.5GB of data each month.
Using 5GB a month would allow you to:
- Stream for 20 hours on Netflix
- Use TikTok for about 5 hours
- Use Google Maps for up to 2500 hours
- Stream music on Spotify for 35 hours
How do I check my data usage?
You can check exactly how much data you're using by logging into your mobile network's app or browser.
Once logged in, you should be able to find a data 'usage' section. If you're unsure, you can always contact their customer services to find out how much data you're using.
If there's a lot of unused data left at the end of the month, that's probably telling you that you're spending too much on data than what you actually need.
Some cleaner apps can tell you which apps are using up the most data. If you need to limit your data usage, this is a good way to work out the worst offenders.
How many GB of data do I need on my phone?
When you compare mobile phones through us, you can filter the data plans to see:
Here we look at data requirements based on how often you use your phone on mobile data.
Light user - 'I use it every now and then'
In a month, you occasionally browse 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 less than an hour a day.
Recommended data allowance: 3GB/month
Medium user – 'I browse when I'm bored'
You browse the internet every day and check your social media 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: 5GB/month
Heavy user – 'I use it for entertainment and work'
You regularly browse the internet, check Facebook, Twitter and emails. You use several of your favourite apps, watch videos and download music for your phone several times a week. Extensive streaming and downloading of media over the month is likely to exceed 1GB. So you might want to either limit yourself to when you have Wi-Fi access or upgrade your allowance.
Recommended data allowance: 10GB/month or more
Super user - 'I use it all the time'
You rarely connect to Wi-Fi and you can't live without your army of apps. You love to download and stream music and movies and heavily use your data on the go. You also regularly use your mobile data as a hotspot so you can access work emails or for entertainment purposes.
Recommended data allowance: 50GB/month or unlimited data
If you want to find out more about how much 500MB or 2GB of phone data should get you, check out our mobile data calculator.
How can I save mobile data?
There are several things you could do to make sure you don’t go over your data allowance:
- Use Wi-Fi whenever you can.
- Download services over Wi-Fi so apps can be used offline - for example, Google Docs and maps.
- Delete apps that are using up the most data.
- Turn off permission for apps to use data when you're not using them (otherwise this can drain your data in the background).
- Be aware of file sizes when downloading and uploading.
- Get the best mobile data deal. You can either get a data rollover plan where networks let you use any left over data at the end of the month into the next month. Or a flexible contract where you can choose a tariff that lets you change the data every month.
- Be careful of data roaming charges when going abroad.
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