Music streaming services are a cheap and easy way of accessing a wealth of music directly from your smartphone.
These applications include everything from curated daily listening experiences to libraries of podcasts with hour-long episodes – all of which are available freely for a monthly fee.
Spotify even offers listeners free access to its service, monetising its free experience with advertisements interspersed throughout its playback.
In addition to their monthly fees, however, these platforms can also use a significant amount of mobile data – especially if you do most of your listening when you are driving or running without a Wi-Fi connection.
To determine how much money South Africans can actually spend on music streaming, we decided to do a simple test using Spotify.
Spotify streams music with an audio quality of up to 320Kbps on a mobile phone, and we ensured that our bandwidth would not be limited by the mobile connection by using an LTE-capable smartphone in an area with good 4G coverage.
We monitored data usage using the My Data Manager app for Android and fired up Spotify after connecting to the LTE network.
In this comparison, we wanted to emulate a standard listening experience, and so we navigated to a new album and began streaming the first few songs.
After ten minutes, we switched to a different album and streamed music for another five minutes.
This provides a more organic listening experience as the app would have to load new tracks in addition to metadata and album art.
Data Saver mode was not enabled for this test, as we aimed to measure mobile data usage when using the app without reducing audio quality.
We monitored the data usage throughout the test and recorded the total mobile data consumption at the end of the test.
Spotify Data usage
After 15 minutes of streaming tracks through Spotify, the app had consumed 7MB of mobile data.
This means that during our test, Spotify used around 467kB of mobile data per minute while streaming.
Interestingly, this per-minute usage figure is similar to that of a WhatsApp voice call.
At a data rate of 467kB per minute, streaming Spotify will cost the following on South Africa’s mobile networks if you have purchased and activated a 1GB once-off data bundle
|Network||Cost per MB||Cost per minute|
Spotify has a monthly subscription cost of R59.99 per month, unless you wish to give up the various Premium features and listen to advertising on the platform’s free tier.
Discounting the subscription fee, our test shows that if you were to listen to 10 hours of music a week, you would be paying R42.03 every week to support your music streaming habit.
However, these test parameters measured the worst-case parameters for mobile data usage – with the Data Saver option disabled, the application being manipulated in the foreground, and the device being connected to a high-speed cellular connection.
It may be possible that mobile data usage could be reduced drastically by reducing audio quality, leaving the app playing in the background, and controlling the data connection to reduce bandwidth usage.
It is also important to note that some offerings – such as Telkom’s LIT_ packages – include zero-rated data usage for selected streaming services, although Spotify is unfortunately not included in Telkom’s offering.