How long 1GB of mobile data really lasts you

As smartphones and their mobile network capabilities becoming faster, their hunger for data also increases.

This is not necessarily a problem when you have uncapped fibre and a wireless router at your home and work, but you might find yourself spending more than you expect if you exclusively use mobile data.

Mobile data is considerably more expensive than fixed broadband products, making it all the more painful when you burn through a 1GB bundle in half the time you expect.

Often the problem of “disappearing data” can be attributed to background services which are using data without your knowledge.

Additionally, the quality of mobile media, increased speed of mobile connections, and increased data usage of applications has resulted in more data being consumed than ever before.

1GB of mobile data

1GB of mobile data seems a fair amount, but it will not get you as far as you think – especially if you have no other Internet connection available.

Using a modern, high-end smartphone with applications on default settings, we measured mobile data usage across multiple apps.

Data usage was measured over various periods of time using the My Data Manager app, and was then used to calculate a per-minute usage rate for each app tested.

Below are the results of this test.

Data usage per minute:

  • YouTube – 7.48MB
  • WhatsApp (voice call) – 400KB
  • Netflix – 3.42MB
  • Instagram (Stories) – 6.6MB
  • Facebook – 6.26MB
  • Google Maps – 0.47MB
  • Email – 0.32MB

This provides a rough idea of how much each application uses over time, but everybody’s usage habits differ – especially when it comes to social media.

We used a report by BroadbandSearch detailing the average time spent by users on social media to calculate an example of daily mobile data usage.

Time to use 1GB

This report’s figures include time spent on social media across all platforms – not just mobile.

To get an idea of daily mobile-only usage, we divided down the time spent accordingly.

For example, we used half the figure for daily time on Facebook and Instagram to provide the daily usage of someone who splits their time on these platforms evenly between their PC and smartphone.

We also included 15 minutes of active email app usage and 30 minutes of Google Maps navigation, as well as 30 minutes of Netflix streaming on mobile per day.

While most Netflix subscribers with Wi-Fi would not stream over mobile data, the example below demonstrates daily data usage without access to Wi-Fi.

Below is an example of mobile data usage each day according to time spent on each app.

Application Daily usage Data
YouTube 13 minutes 97MB
Instagram 27 minutes 178MB
Facebook 29 minutes 182MB
Netflix 30 minutes 103MB
WhatsApp 28 minutes 11.2MB
Google Maps 30 minutes 14.1MB
Email 15 minutes 4.8MB
Daily Data Usage 590.1MB

The case above would apply to somebody who spent an average amount of time on their phone but did not have access to Wi-Fi.

Users with a Wi-Fi connection may use far less mobile data each day, and their Netflix and YouTube consumption may increase due to their access to cheaper or uncapped data.

If your routine was identical to that listed above and you relied solely on mobile data, you would last just less than two days on 1GB of mobile data.

To make it through a calendar month, you would need just over 18GB.

There are a number of measures you can take to improve your data usage, however, including reducing the quality of YouTube videos and Netflix shows.

You should also disable autoplay videos on your various social media apps, as these are downloaded in high-quality under default settings.

WhatsApp was by far the most efficient app, although data usage can increase greatly if you transfer media through the application.

Now read: We do not recognise Solidarity, ICTU, and NUMSA – Telkom

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How long 1GB of mobile data really lasts you