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Last updated: 12 July 2022
If you’ve been searching usave for a new mobile phone contract, you may well be wondering what data allowance you need. The best mobile phone deals
will include a data plan which isn’t too large or small for your needs, and also fits your budget. If you’re using less data than is on your current plan, then your data allowance is too generous. But if you’re running out of data before the end of the month, you might need to increase your allowance. If you can’t afford this, you may need to cut down your usage.
How can I check how much mobile data I’m using?
You can log into your account on your mobile network’s website. Most networks will also have mobile apps that you can use. On your account, you will be able to see how much data you’ve used this month, as well as how much you’ve used in previous months.
You can also find out your mobile data usage in your smartphone settings.
- For iPhone users: Settings > Cellular > Cellular data usage. This displays how much data you’ve used since you last turned your phone on.
- For Android users: Settings > Data > data usage.
What data allowance is right for me?
How much data you need depends on how often you use your phone, and what you use it for. Video streaming uses a lot more data than checking your emails. Below are some estimates of how much data you’ll need in a month:
- Light user: If you barely use your phone, you’ll probably only need 500MB. If you use your phone for email, messaging, and a little bit of social media, you may need 1-2GB.
- Medium user: If you use social media often, and sometimes watch videos, you may need 2-5GB. If you also use your phone for work, for example sending emails and downloading documents and files, you could need 5MB.
- Heavy user: Streaming music or podcasts every day on top of using social media could mean you need 5-10GB. Streaming videos a few times a week will put this number up to 10GB, and streaming videos every day will push this up to 20G. Depending on how often you stream videos, you may even require unlimited data.
If you are unsure how much data you need, be sure to read our guides below to help you work out what data allowance is right for you.
2GB of data - How much is it and how long does it last?
5GB of data - How much is it and how long does it last?
10GB of data - How much is it and how long does it last?
100GB of data - How much is it and how long does it last?
How much mobile data does the average user use per month?
According to Ofcom’s Communications Market Report 2021, mobile users in the UK used an average of 4.5GB of data per month in 2020, a 27% increase compared to the previous year. This pales in comparison to the average amount of data used by fixed broadband connections, which grew by 39% in 2020 to 429GB per household.
However, remember that 4.5GB is the average amount of data used per mobile - if you’re a heavy data user, for example you like to stream music or videos on your phone, then you should be aiming for higher than this.
I think I need more mobile data, but how can I work out how much?
You can get a decent estimate of how much more data you’ll need if you know how much you use when you do things like check your emails or browse web pages. Here are some common activities and the amount of data they typically use:
- Watching a 2-hour movie in HD: 4.2GB
- Watching a 2-hour movie in SD: 1.9GB
- Streaming Netflix, BBC iPlayer or YouTube for an hour: 644MB
- Looking at 60 web pages: 140MB
- Streaming music for one hour: 80MB
- Playing online games for an hour: 43MB
- Downloading a song: 4-8MB
I can’t afford more data, how can I cut my usage?
If you’re running out of data by the end of the month, but can’t afford to add more on, you may be wondering how you can cut down the amount that you’re using. Here are some usggestions:
- Download music, films or videos before you leave the house: you can download your favourite shows and films from Netflix and iPlayer, saving massive chunks of data. However, you will need to make sure you have enough storage space on your phone for video files. With Spotify Premium, you can download as many songs as you like to listen to on the go.
- Look into data-free services: certain networks offer plans that let you use messaging and entertainment apps without eating up your data. For example, Vodafone Passes give you data-free services on Netflix, Amazon Video, Twitter and Facebook.
- Data rollover plans: these let you transfer any unused data from one month into the next, so you don’t lose what you’ve already paid for. For example, Sky Mobile store any unused data in an online ‘piggybank’ that you can use whenever you want, for up to three years.
- Control your daily usage: Google has created a new app called Datally, which helps you oversee your data consumption by showing you your hourly, weekly and monthly usage stats. The app delivers personalised tips about how you can get the most from your data allowance.