How much data is enough and how to avoid paying too much for data you don't need

As we use our mobile phones for more and more activities each day, the amount of mobile data we use is also increasing. Even simple tools like sending a message or making a call can use mobile data if you're using an app to do them, such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, instead of your mobile network's included minutes and texts.

We also use mobile data for video streaming with services such as Netflix and Sky Sports, music services like Spotify and Apple Music, and online gaming. Choosing a plan with the right data allowance is now one of the most important parts of choosing your phone contract - along with the network and actual phone of course.

You want to ensure have enough data every month, even if your needs change over the two years you'll have your phone but you also don't want to be paying for unused data, which many people in the UK do, with big data deals often grabbing the headlines and our attention.

A few years back, there were unlimited data plans available from nearly every mobile network so you didn't really need to worry about your monthly usage. Then along came 4G and price plans with data allowances dominated the market with plans ranging from 500MB all the way up to 50GB, with only Three that really continued to offer truly unlimited data plans.

As we've moved through 2019 however, we've started to see more and more unlimited data plans appear from all the networks, as well as bigger data allowance plans such as 90GB and 100GB, and we expect more big data and unlimited plans will be introduced through 2020 as the network's respond to our ever increasing demand for more data on our phones.

The basics

If you use your phone for more than just texting, making phone calls or taking photos, you're using mobile data (unless of course you're connected to WiFi). It's handy for everything you do on you mobile phone - listening to music, sending and receiving email, backing up photos or beating your friend's best time on Mario Run.

Data for mobile phones is measured in megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB). 1GB is 1024MB. Most data allowances start at 1GB but you will find some plans available for really low data users with just 500MB.

How much is 1GB of data?

It will vary depending on exactly which service you're using but 1GB is equal to approximately:

  • 40 minutes of web browsing or social media
  • or 10 hours of music streaming
  • or 1-2 films streamed

We'd advise getting a minimum of 1GB of data with your mobile plan, even if you're a light user as that should give you enough for browsing the web, checking social networks or email each month. You can of course also rely on your WiFi at home or in the office if you don't want to use your mobile data up.

What about 10GB of data?

10GB-20GB plans are the most popular choices for most Chitter Chatter customers. They allow for a good 6-8 hours of web browsing per day, 4-5 hours of Netflix plus music streaming each month and keeping up to date each day on social media and emails.

What about +20GB and unlimited data plans?

These are for heavy mobile data users. If you're streaming music non-stop, watching loads of Netflix or YouTube on your phone and are constantly using it for emails and social media or online gaming, then you'll want to look at one of these plans. To give you a real life example, I stream music nearly every day, watch a bit of Netflix occasionally on the train but use mobile data every day quite heavily for emails and social media for work and personal use and use around 20GB a month. My plan has 25GB of data included a month which is enough, plus a little bit extra so I'm always covered.

How much data do I use?

It can be difficult to calculate exactly how much data you need every day due to the thousands of different apps everyone uses and how much our usage habits change. Most of the mobile networks will now tell you how much data your using each month though if you log in to your account, either on your desktop or via their dedicated app if they have one.

This can give you a good idea of how much data you currently are using and therefore how much you should ensure you have included with your next price plan, whether that be an upgrade with your existing network or joining a new network.  If you're an EE customer and due to upgrade your phone, the team at Chitter Chatter can tell you how much you use each month if you give us a call on 0208 712 6808.

It's worth also remembering that your data usage may change. If you're planning on signing up to Disney+ when it arrives in the UK then you may well want more data for watching those Mandalorian episodes on the train home from work.

What can I do with unused data?

Some mobile networks allow you roll over unused data into the following month, but it's worth checking how much per month these plans cost as although it can make for a nice offer headline, if you're paying more per month compared to another network anyway, it may not be worth the benefit.

Gifting unused data

This is something EE allows you to do. If you have another family member's phone on your account, you can gift data to them via the My EE app. It can be a clever way of saving some money, as you could put yourself on a 30GB plan and your partner and children on a 1GB plan, and then gift them 5GB each every month to top them up with extra data.

How can I reduce how much data I use?

One of the easiest ways to reduce your mobile data usage is to connect to WiFi, either at home or when you're out and about. Some public WiFi services are free and on places like the London Underground, if you're an EE mobile customer, access to WiFi on the tube in included in your plan. If you're using public WiFi, make sure you are clear who owns it and remember it's not always as secure as your home WiFi or mobile network.

Hopefully that's given you some insight into how much mobile data you need but if you have more questions, you can always tweet us or send us a message on Facebook.

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