Which features use the most data?

Stretching your limited data plan can be a lifesaver when it comes to avoiding bill shock. We take a look at which features use the most data on your device so you can get more for less.

If you’re a little uncertain about data measurements, have a look at this article for a refresher on bits and bytes.

Data use: minimal

Email doesn’t use much data; a standard email without any attachments will be smaller than 100KB. Even when emails have images attached they still use little data, so you shouldn’t worry about emails when you’re stretching your data plan.

Music and podcast streaming
Data use: medium-high

Streaming music and podcasts uses quite a lot of data. If the service you use has an option to download music for offline listening, you should look into this.

Video streaming
Data use: very high

Streaming videos uses a lot of data, however most services allow you to change the resolution or quality of the video, which can save you a lot. While high definition video may look incredible, it might be costing you more than you think.

Whistleout.com.au estimates that YouTube videos use the following amount of data:

YouTube Usage






Data used in 5 minutes






Data used in an hour







As you can see from the above table, an hour of viewing HD content could use your entire data plan. Other video streaming sites and services, such as Netflix and Stan, will use similar amounts of data, so if you’re on a limited plan you might want to stick to low resolution.

VoIP services such as Skype
Data use: medium-high

These will use similar amounts of data to music and podcast streaming. If you use video calls you should expect to use a similar amount of data to video streaming (see above).

Facebook and other social networks
Data use: moderate

Social networks use varying amounts of data. Video and photo driven sites, like Snapchat and Instagram, can be quite heavy on data usage. Facebook usage varies but is typically quite high; to cut back, you can disable Facebook’s video auto-play.

Data use: varies

Apps don’t usually use much data, but there is a lot of variety. If an app uses any of the content listed above, assume that they will be draining that much data whenever you use them. To save, only download new apps when you’re on wifi.

Check your device’s data usage for each app
Smartphones and tablets have a function that enables you to find out exactly where your data is going.

On iPhone or iPad, you can view this by opening the Settings app, then tapping Cellular. Then scroll down to the bottom to see all your installed apps and how much data they have used since they were installed. You can reset these figures on a monthly basis to get a good idea of how much data these apps use monthly. To do this, scroll down to the bottom and tap Reset Statistics.

On Android you’ll find a similar feature that shows you how much data each app has used, which will allow you to customise limits and notifications should you approach your data limit. To find this feature, open up the Settings app and then tap Data Usage. You may be able to find this by searching or by looking under the Network Connections category.

Related articles:
Four ways to use less data on your smartphone
Understanding smartphones: a simple guide
How to avoid large data roaming fees when travelling overseas

YourLifeChoices Writers
YourLifeChoices Writershttp://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/
YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.
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