‘Beat excess mobile charges by knowing how much data you need’

Nov 08, 2018
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Using your mobile GPS navigation system doesn't use as much data as you think... but it's still heavy on your battery! Source: Shutterstock

Mobile phone plans have evolved rapidly in the past few years. The old catch-cry for carriers was ‘voice is King’. This is no longer true. Mobile data has well and truly deposed voice as the driving force of the mobile network.

Only four years ago, the typical mobile plan included a specified number of voice minutes, a certain number of text messages, plus a small mobile data allowance. Since the inception of 4G LTE networks, where data speeds are comparable with your home internet, data demand has risen rapidly.

Mobile plans have now reached the point where unlimited calls and text within Australia is basically a given. The monthly cost of your mobile plan is determined by the amount of data included. If we are to get the best deal on our mobile plan, we need to understand how much mobile data is needed each month. A plan with too much is paying for something you don’t need. A plan with not enough will mean either the data gets cut off before the end of the month, or paying excess data costs, which will usually add up to more than paying for a plan with the right amount.

Working out how much data you need doesn’t have to be rocket science. In fact, by checking your last three bills, you will get a good idea of how much data you need. If it’s well under your monthly data limit, you should consider lowering your plan if your carrier will allow it.

Of course, if you are dipping your toes in for the first time, or you have bought or been given an iPhone or Android smartphone, this won’t work. In general terms, here is how much data the main uses for mobile internet use:

Email: Sending and receiving emails is quite ‘data-light’ — 300 emails per month will only add up to around 200 Megabytes (1024Mb = 1 Gigabyte)

Facebook: Simple Facebook browsing is quite low usage, but Facebook now has a lot of embedded videos, which play automatically unless you change your settings to stop them. If you spend 45 minutes per day on Facebook, with videos auto playing, can add up to around 2GB or more per month.

Web browsing: Reading news websites and general web browsing is not inherently data-heavy, but once again, if you play a lot of videos within those web pages it can add up. A rule of thumb is around 20 web pages per day will add up to around 1Gb per month.

GPS navigation: Using navigation services like Google Maps isn’t as data-heavy as you think. A 4-hour trip with a GPS navigation service on will only use 80Mb. (It will, however, suck the life out of your battery!)

Video streaming/Movie downloads: Watching a streaming service such as Stan or Netflix, or downloading a HD movie is the most data heavy thing you can do on your mobile device. Roughly 30 minutes per day of video streaming will add up to just under 10GB over the month. Downloading just two HD movies in a month will add up to 8GB.

Music streaming: Listening to music streaming services such as Spotify or podcasts for 30 minutes per day will add up to around 2GB per month.

Of course there are plenty of things you can do to make the most of your mobile data. Switching your Facebook settings to not auto-play videos and making sure you have your smartphone set to connect to your home Wi-Fi when in range are two very simple data saving tips. Downloading movies or videos to your device when you are on your home Wi-Fi means you can watch them later when you are out and about without using your mobile data allowance.

Personally, I pay $19.90 per month for my 2GB plan. I use the phone for email, browsing, GPS navigation and the odd video. I find my 2B per month plan is plenty.

Would you know how much data you need for your phone?

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