How much mobile data your favourite apps really use

Smartphone usage is growing in South Africa, with a 2015 study by BMI-TechKnowledge stating that the devices will reach more than 83% of the over-16 population by 2019.

Mobile apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, and YouTube are also well-received in the country.

The South African Social Media Landscape 2016 study by World Wide Worx and Fuseware showed that 10 million citizens access Facebook via mobile devices.

Further research by the pair stated that, towards the end of 2015, over 10 million South Africans used WhatsApp.

The questions is: How much mobile data do these apps consume, and how much will it cost you each month?


MyBroadband recently looked at how much it costs smartphones users to send messages via WhatsApp, and compared the expense to that of SMS.

The investigation showed that sending 351 text messages over WhatsApp used 5.2MB of data. During the same test period, 1,354 messages were received – which consumed 9.2MB.

This results in a total of 14.4MB, which over 30 days would cover a user sending an average of 11 messages per day, and receiving an average of 45 messages per day.

To cover this usage, a 30MB data bundle from Vodacom costs R12.

It must be noted that sending images and videos over WhatsApp will greatly influence the amount of data you use.


YouTube Logo

Watching videos on a mobile device is a sure way to blow a lot of data.

YouTube videos stream at different resolutions according to the strength of your data connection or the stream quality you select, and this influences how much data is consumed.

According to Business Insider, YouTube consumes the following amount of data per quality bracket:

  • 360p – 5.6MB/minute
  • 480p – 7.5MB/minute
  • 720p – 18.75MB/minute
  • 1080p – 33.75MB/minute

This means that if you watch 2 minutes of YouTube 720p video per day for a month, you will consume just over 1GB of mobile data.

A 1GB data bundle from Vodacom costs R149.

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

facebook instagram 2

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are popular social apps for smartphone users in South Africa.

According to the Cisco VNI Services Gauge, “social networking” consumes around 90MB per hour.

This means that if you spend an hour per week (less than 10 minutes per day) on Facebook, plus an hour on Twitter, you will consume 720MB of data per month.

Throw in some Instagram, and users can deplete 1GB of data using the apps.

Watching videos and viewing image albums will drastically increase your data usage.

How to save mobile data when using apps

You can save many megabytes of mobile data by turning off autoplaying and preloading videos in apps like Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook and Twitter’s mobile apps are set to allow video autoplaying by default, while Instagram automatically preloads videos by default.

To disable autoplaying videos for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (preloading), read below.

Facebook mobile app: Enter the Settings menu. Select Account Settings >> Videos and Photos >> Autoplay (under Video Settings section) >> Never Autoplay Videos.

Twitter mobile app: Enter your Profile and then the Settings menu. Select Video autoplay >> Never play videos automatically.

Instagram, by default, preloads videos so they start faster for the user. To disable this, open the Instagram app and select your Profile. Open the Options menu >> Cellular Data Use (under the Settings section) >> Use Less Data.

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How much mobile data your favourite apps really use