Smartphone Quick Tips: Data Usage

How much data do you 
need? and How to Avoid Overages 

These days almost every smartphone plan has a data usage limit or usage speed-cap.  Going over your data limit can mean overage charges, snail-paced data speeds, or loss of service, depending on your mobile plan.


Here are a few quick tips on understanding, monitoring, and managing your cellular data use.

Understanding Data Usage

200MB, 1 GB, Unlimited 4G speeds up to 2 GB – What does it all mean?  Measuring minutes spent on the phone or text sent and received is one thing; but data usage is an abstract and confusing concept for most.  Let’s break it down in to a little simpler terms.

First, 1GB (gigabyte) = 1024 MB (megabytes) and 1 MB = 1024 KB (kilobytes)

Here are a few estimates of 1 GB of smartphone data use:

          11,000 set/received emails

          33 hours of music streaming

          66 hours of web browsing or 1000 web pages viewed

          2800 social media posts with pictures

          8 hours of SD video streaming (standard definition)

          3 hours of HD video streaming (high definition)

Remember to consider all usage when determining how much data you need.  Your usage is a total of all online cellular activity; email, internet browsing, streaming music and video, games, social media, etc.

So now that you know how data usage is measured, how do you keep track of personal usage?

Monitoring Data Usage

iPhone users: Tap on Settings and then Cellular.  This will give you a breakdown of your data usage by app.  It will even allow you to dictate which apps have permission to run on cellular data.  You can also Reset Statistics and see the last reset data.  Tap System Services for more usage information.  When downloading apps, their size is visible under details and information.

iPhone data usage

Android users:  Go to your Settings Menu and tap on Data Usage.  This will show your usage and allow you to set a data limit.  Once your limit is reached, cellular data will shut off, helping you avoid overages. There are also free apps available that monitor data usage.  A few popular free Android apps are 3G Watch Dogs, Data Usage Defender, My Data Manager (also on iPhone) and Onavo Count – Data Usage (also on iPhone).

android data usage

Windows Phone users: Go to your App List and tap on Data Sense.  Here you can see detailed data usage and set limits.  You can even set certain tasks to operate only over a Wi-Fi connection.  Pin the app to your start menu for live tile updates and monitoring.

windows data usage

Here are a few tips to avoid data overages and overage charges.

Managing Data Usage

Top data hogs to avoid:

  • Streaming video: i.e. Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu, YouTube, Facebook, FaceTime, Skype, Video Chat…
  • Streaming music: i.e. Pandora, Spotify, I Heart Radio…
  • Location based services: i.e. map apps, Google Maps, navigation apps, GPS tracking services and apps…
  • Games: i.e. online games, graphic heavy games, multiplayer games, free games with pop-up ads…
  • Picture and video posts: i.e. uploading media to YouTube, Instagram, Facebook…

Save downloads and uploads for when you are connected to Wi-Fi.  Wait to download apps, music, or videos and to upload videos and pictures.

Keep an eye on apps that show data usage in MB or GB.  These use the most data.  For the most part apps measuring usage in KB will not be the source of overages.

When setting up a mobile plan, start with a larger data limit.  Monitor your usage and adjust the plan if you find you are consistently below you data limit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *