Last week I went into great detail about what data is and how it is measured. For the sake of a refresh, I estimated that for an average user, 1GB may equate to 20,000 Word documents or 250 photos or 5 videos of 30 seconds in length. That is a very simple approximation but it gives you an idea.

This is all relevant when you are buying your new smartphone or tablet or computer. In addition to the operating system and program files, you start to gain an appreciation of how much data you need on your new device.

That part is relatively simple.

Where it becomes complicated is when we start talking about an Internet plan. A common Internet plan for your home connection might be 500GB or 1,000GB. Mobile phones are much more expensive with data so the plans with mobiles might be 3GB or 10GB or even up to 25GB.

Now that there is a better understanding of data, how does all of that translate to how much data you might need on your Internet or mobile plan? Once again, the big data user is visual. Videos and photos are the top two culprits when it comes to using up your Internet data. Recording a video on your phone is fine. Viewing it on your phone is still fine. As soon as you upload that video (to YouTube for example) or send that video to anyone external from your phone, that has used Internet data. To use the example above, upload five videos and there goes about 1GB of your Internet data. Uploading photos are similarly hungry on your data. Downloading is the same. Many people tell me they don’t use any Internet data on their phone – all they do is just browse Facebook! Each one of the photos or videos that you browse uses up a chunk of your Internet data. Same for YouTube or Twitter or even Web sites that have embedded videos or photos.

Think about it this way. If any information needs to come from anywhere external to your device or needs to go anywhere external to your device, that will use your mobile data. That means checking the weather or playing a game that uploads scores or listening to streaming music or using a fitness app that stores data in the cloud and the list goes on. Many people don’t realise just how much data is being used when they open that simple app. If you want to perform a quick test, put your phone into Flight Mode and then try and use your apps. You will be amazed at the number of things you can’t do. All of this applies to your mobile device – whether connected to a mobile network or to Wi-Fi – but you obviously need to be more careful when using your mobile data as you typically have less of it and it costs more.

When it comes to your PC and other devices in the home, you typically have a larger limit but you often use a lot more. Sitting down in front of your Smart TV to watch a show that is streamed is a great way to chew up some data. As a rule of thumb, one hour of TV uses about 1GB of data. Obviously High Definition uses more than Standard Definition and it is not an exact amount but it gives you a guide. Watch two movies a week and that might chew up 20GB of data per month. Browsing data can also use up a surprising amount of data. Some sites are clever enough that they will send less data to your mobile device than your PC for the same site so viewing similar sites on different devices can use up different amounts of data.

Add a few updates; checking the weather; watching some YouTube videos; sending and receiving some e-mails and you start to understand why it is so hard to estimate how much data someone might use in a month.

The most important aspect is to keep an eye on your data usage and compare month to month usage whilst performing different activities.

There you have it – you are now an expert on data and you can amaze your family and friends when the topic next comes up!

Mathew Dickerson

Scroll to Top