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What size data plan is right for you?

mobile data usage data plan windows phoneSo you have finally decided that you are ready to buy a new smartphone, but you aren’t sure how much data you will need on a monthly basis. We can’t help you afford data plans these days, but we can help you figure out how much data you’re likely to use per month. Picking the wrong data plan can end up costing you hundreds of dollars a year in either unused bandwidth or overages, so it pays to know how much data you will be using.

Below we have broken down the most popular ways people consume data on their phones, and provide a rough estimate on how much data you can use for each category.

Email

Email is one of the oldest and most used features on smartphones, and luckily it uses up hardly any data. If you are just sending regular old emails without any pictures, videos, or any other attachments you can basically send an endless amount of emails without using up much data. For example, if you were to send or receive a total of 5,000 emails each month, you would have a hard time breaking 100MB of data. So if you plan on sending a normal amount of emails each day, you won’t have to worry about how much data you are using per email.

There is a big difference between text emails and emails with attachments. If you were to send the same 5,000 emails each with a picture attachment you could be looking at over 2GB of data used per month. Assuming you don’t quite have the time to take and send that many pictures, you won’t have to worry too much about emailing pictures. If you can keep it to a couple of pictures a day, you should use around 100MB of data.

Web browsing

Much like emailing, Web browsing is a required feature of every smartphone. Depending on the webpages you visit it is also very economical on your data budget. Of course, every website is different, and if you visit pages with lots of multimedia features, your data numbers will be much different. If you are planning on doing some light Web browsing on your phone, then you should expect to use less than 100MB of data a month. On the other hand, if you are browsing some data-heavy sites that aren’t optimized for phones, you could find yourself using over 1GB of data. There is a big difference between the two extremes, but unless you know for sure that you are going to be surfing a lot, you shouldn’t be using more than 200MB a month.

Social Media

Browsing Twitter and Facebook is a big draw for people to get a smartphone, but just how much data can you expect to use on these social networks? Both Twitter and Facebook are pretty optimized to go easy on the data, so for general browsing you shouldn’t expect to see a big increase in your data usage. Unless you decide that you will start uploading countless pictures to either social network you can expect to use less than 100MB of data each month. Like everything else so far, this number greatly depends on just how much you use these services, for example if you decide to post 10 pictures a day to Facebook you can expect to use about 400MB of data on social networks alone.

Downloading Apps/Games/Songs

Downloading anything eats up data, so just be mindful of what you are downloading. If you download a single app, game, or song each day you can expect to see around 100MB a month in data. It is likely that you won’t be downloading something every single day, but those Angry Birds really add up. App updates are also getting more frequent and larger in size. Only download updates and apps while on Wi-Fi.

Streaming Audio

This is where the data really starts picking up. Streaming songs is very data intensive, and as a general rule you will want to try to avoid streaming music or audio podcasts while using your data service. Try to only do this while on a Wi-Fi network. If you wanted to listen to music all day every day at work you are looking at more than 6GB of data a month. If you are able to average about an hour a day then you will rack up just under 1GB of data a month.

Streaming Video

Just like with streaming audio, streaming video is very data heavy. If you wanted to watch a 30 minute TV show on Netflix every day, you can expect to consume almost 2GB of data. That number goes up to 5GB a month if you are trying to watch a movie every day. You will likely see less than a gigabyte a month if you are mindful of how much you are watching. Again, like streaming audio you should try to avoid watching video unless you are on a Wi-Fi network, unless you have a hefty data plan.

Add it all up

So now you can figure out what you want to do with your phone, and about how much data those hobbies use up. While it is always smart to give yourself a little wiggle room in case you have a randomly heavy data month, but there is no reason to pay too much every month for data you will never use. Unless you are planning on streaming audio or videos on a regular basis, most people will have a hard time passing the 2GB a month data threshold. If you are very worried about going over your data limit, and don’t think there is a plan that can provide you enough data, you can always opt for an unlimited data plan but those aren’t offered by every carrier. The biggest tip we can give you is to set your phone up to auto connect to your Wi-Fi networks at work and home. Download things in advance while on Wi-Fi and enjoy them throughout the day.