Discover how much data your streaming services use and how you can use less of it

YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime – most people have a subscription at least one of them and, thanks to the pandemic, plenty of people now subscribe to all three. It was a tough two years, spent mostly at home, alone, and in desperate need of entertainment. Music streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, and I Heart Radio also saw an uptick in subscribers, though not nearly as great as the movie streaming services. It’s like we’ve developed an addiction to being entertained which isn’t really a bad thing.

Though it could do some serious damage to your data.

Now if you have cell phone service with an unlimited data plan, you might not be too concerned about how much data you’re using. But think about it. If you have an unlimited plan with up to 2GB of data or even 10GB of data, once you hit that cap you’re going to care about how much data you’re using and be looking for ways to use less of it.

That’s where this post comes in!

So, how much data does streaming use?

Let’s start by looking at how much data it takes to stream your favorite music service.

Honestly? Streaming music takes a lot less data than streaming video. Having said that though, it’s important to remember that most of us stream music on our smart phones and for a lot longer than we watch movies or videos. We’ve got our music streaming while we’re commuting, running on a treadmill, doing housework, etc. It all adds up to a lot of time listening via our cell phones – and those typically have a data cap. Sure, it might be a 10GB cap, but still.  

Let’s take a moment to look at what you get in terms of hours with a 2GB, 5GB, or 10GB data plan. Generally speaking:

  • A 2 GB data plan will give you: 47 hours of low-quality audio, 28 hours of medium-quality audio, and 17 hours of high-quality audio.
  • A 5GB data will give you: 117 hours of low-quality audio, 70 hours of medium-quality audio, and 42.5 hours of high-quality audio.
  • A 10 GB data plan will give you: 234 hours of low-quality audio, 140 hours of medium-quality audio, and 85 hours of high-quality audio.

Obviously Spotify isn’t going to swallow up all your data that quickly, but listening to music for hours at a clip and on the highest-quality setting will definitely have an impact after a while.

So, what can you do?

Tips to reduce data usage on Spotify

1. For starters, remember that it’s always best to use Spotify via Wi-Fi. If you don’t have access to Wi-Fi, go into the app’s Data Saver feature and turn it on. This reduces the amount of data you’ll use by showing you fewer images and reducing the quality of the audio.

Click Home; click Settings; click Data Saver On

While you’re there, turn on Audio-only podcasts as well. This means that when you download a podcast, you won’t also be downloading its video, thus saving you data.

2.If you have Spotify Premium, download the music you like and enjoy it offline. Go into the app’s settings and under Music Quality, switch Download Using Cellular off and only download music when you’re connected to Wi-Fi.

3. Again, in the app, look at your Music Quality setting and make the necessary adjustments. The higher the quality setting, the more data you’re using.

4. It’s possible your smart phone has a data saver on it. A Google search on your specific device can help you find it and turn it on.

Moving on to streaming services and how much data they use

Services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime all use about the same amount of data and, frankly, it’s a lot of data especially if you’re not using Wi-Fi. (Please, for the love of Pete, be on Wi-Fi when using these services!) And, like with music streaming services, movie streaming services and YouTube allow you to adjust the quality of the video from high definition to standard definition.

Let’s take a look at Netflix as its data usage is comparable to that of Amazon Prime and Hulu.

On Netflix:

  • Streaming a standard-definition quality movie or an episode of your favorite show uses 1 GB of data per hour.
  • Streaming a high-definition quality movie or an episode of your favorite show uses 3 GB of data per hour.
  • And streaming a 4K movie or episode of your favorite show uses 7 GB of data per hour.

That’s a lot of data so, again, please be on W-Fi and, if you’re thinking that downloading a movie from Netflix and watching it offline will save your data, it won’t. According to Netflix, it will still consume the same amount.

How does YouTube stack up?

It stacks up pretty closely, actually. In fact, 1GB of data allows you to watch just about 500 minutes of YouTube. You just probably shouldn’t do it in one fell swoop.

Generally speaking:

  • Streaming a 480p video uses 264MB of data per hour.
  • Streaming a 720p video uses 870 MB of data per hour.
  • Streaming a 1080p video uses 1.65 GB of data per hour.
  • And streaming a 4K video uses 2.7 GB of data per hour.

This doesn’t look like a lot of data is being consumed and, because you’re an adult and rarely use YouTube, it probably isn’t. But what about your children or grandchildren? We could find some statistics that say “Young people are practically addicted to YouTube,” but we don’t need them. Because the fact is, kids are practically addicted to it.

Having said that, you might want to review their usage. After all, they’re probably plowing through their data on the daily.

How to check how much data your children or grandchildren are using on YouTube

For Android phones:

Go to Settings > Network & Internet > Mobile network. This will indicate how much data the kids are using in total. You can also go to “App Data Usage” to see how much data the YouTube app is using unto itself.

For iPhones:

Go to Settings > Cellular. Once you’re there, you can see how much data YouTube is using on the device. Under “Current Period” be aware that you might be seeing total data usage from several months (enough scare any mother or grandmother!) because that setting doesn’t refresh itself every month. For a clearer picture of how much data your kids or grandkids are using currently, scroll down and tap “Reset Statistics.” Hopefully that number will make you feel better!

If you’re a little stunned by the amount of data your family’s consuming watching sweet kitten videos or videos of cute puppies celebrating their birthdays with all their puppy pals, read on for ways to decrease and limit the amount data they’re using.

1. Embrace the joy of downloading.

If you’re a YouTube Premium customer – and if your family is on YouTube regularly it’s worth the expense to become one – you can download videos and watch them offline. This is one of the most effective ways to reduce your data usage.

2. Lower the quality of the videos you’re streaming

The higher the quality of the video, the more data it consumes. Adjust the quality down a notch and you’ll save significantly on your data usage. Here’s how:

In the video player:

Click “More” and it will give you the opportunity to adjust the quality of the videos you watch.

In your YouTube profile:

Log in and you can adjust the video quality for every video you watch. 

3. Stream only while you’re on Wi-Fi!

We mentioned this earlier and it’s worth repeating. Watching YouTube videos via your home’s (or your local library’s or your favorite coffee spot’s) Wi-Fi connection will really help you stop draining away your data. You can also force the issue by going into your YouTube settings, finding the “Play HD on Wi-Fi only” option, and turning it on.

4. Nix autoplay

If you leave your YouTube account open and unattended, it will continue to play videos until you shut it off. To stop this and save some of your data, turn off autoplay. You can do so right from the screen of any video.

5. Say good-bye to cellular streaming

To really conserve your data, you can disable the cellular streaming option. On an Android phone, swipe down on your phone and click Mobile Data. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to disable the cellular streaming. On an iPhone, go into Settings, select Cellular, and then switch Cellular Data to off.

6. Switch off muted playback

As you scroll through the feed of videos you’ve subscribed to, You Tube shows you snippets of those videos. The videos are muted, but they’re still draining your data. Simply go into your YouTube settings and switch the Muted Playback option to off.

That was a lot of information!

Honestly, I think we could talk about data all day. How much you need. How much you’re using. All the ways to cut back. We’ve covered a lot so let’s close with a couple of frequently asked questions you should be able to answer easily!

How many GB of data do you spend watching a 2-hour movie?

On average, watching a 2-hour movie at standard definition quality costs about 2GB of data.

How many GB of data do you spend watching a 1-hour episode of your favorite show on Netflix, Hulu, etc.?

On average, watching a 1-hour show at standard definition quality costs you about 1GB of data.

How many GB of data do you spend streaming over the course of a month?

On average, if you watched 2 episodes of your favorite show in standard definition quality, it would cost you about 60GB of data per month.

On average, if you streamed two hours of music at medium quality each day, it would cost you about 4.3GB of data per month.

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More reasons to love PureTalk

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Posted 1 month ago