How much data does social media and streaming apps use when roaming?

How much data does social media and streaming apps use when roaming?

We’ve all been there. Scrolling through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or watching that Netflix episode you’ve been long waiting to see, completely unaware that you’ve been disconnected from Wi-Fi the entire time. Instead, you’ve been slowly eating into your data allowance and now you’re worried you might be all-out for the month.

But how much data does scrolling through social media or watching Netflix on your mobile use? Having a grasp of how much you’re using could save you the worry in the future.

Social Media

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are some of the largest social networks in the world. They are a fantastic way of keeping in touch with friends and family, sharing pictures and videos, and discovering news. However, as the networks have grown and the apps have become advanced, they are using up more data than ever on your phone.

As a rule, you should expect to see these social media sites use 1.5MB of data per minute if you’re simply scrolling through and reading posts. Once you begin interacting, watching video content or messaging friends, this can increase to 2.6MB per minute. This means that if you spend an hour or more on social media each day, you could use up 2.7GB of data per month.

Streaming

If you forget to turn on Wi-Fi or download videos for offline viewing, you will be surprised at how quickly streaming sites such as Netflix and Amazon can eat into your data. However, just how much is dependent upon the video quality. Estimates show that on Netflix, if you watch a 480p or 720p resolution video when on mobile data, you are using anywhere between 800MBs and 1.3GBs per hour. Moving this up to 1080p, 1440p and even 4K viewing, the amount of data consumed rises to 1.9GB and above every hour. For Amazon Prime, you should expect to lose up to 800MB for data every hour for a good quality video.

When using music streaming platforms, such as Spotify or Apple Music, data can also be used up very quickly. While some services offer super-HQ streaming music, most use the same scale: Low, Normal and High. For low quality, this roughly translates at 43MB per hour, for normal it’s 72MB per hour and for high it’s 115 MB. These are all averages and so are subject to slight changes dependent on your individual usage.

How can I tell how much data I’ve used so far?

If you regularly use up your allowance or just like to keep track of how much you’re using, you can find this out on both Android and Apple devices. If you’re using an iPhone or other Apple device, simply tap Settings > Mobile > Mobile Data Usage. For Android users, select Settings > Data Usage.

If you’re concerned that you are using up too much data on social media, there are steps you can take to limit yourself: 

  • For Facebook: Tap Settings & Privacy > General > Edit (next to Data Usage) > choose Less, Normal or More and click Save.
  • For Twitter: Click on your Profile > Settings > Data > Turn off image previews or automatic video playback.
  • For Instagram: Click on your Profile > Settings > Account > Cellular Data Use > Less Data
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