How much data do I need?

logo Roams
Last update: March 27, 2024
Roams UK
Author: Roams UK

Data has become a defining feature of most network plans, and it is often the most important thing that mobile users look at when they are purchasing a new deal or thinking about switching networks. Oftentimes, you can end up underestimating or overestimating how much data you really need- which leads to frustrating overcharges either way. Therefore, it is essential to know exactly how much data you use- and how much you really need.

Let’s have a look at real examples of data usage and some deals that might suit your data-eating habits.

How do I figure out how much data I use?

Nearly all apps use some amount of data nowadays. It can be hard to tell which is using the most data at any one time. However, you can get a good average if you follow these steps:

If you have an iPhone:

  • Go into Settings,
  • Tap Mobile Data and scroll down to see which apps are using the most data.
  • The one that’s eating up the most will appear at the top of the list.

Android users should:

  • Navigate the Data Usage Menu in Settings
  • A detailed graph will show how their data usage has changed over the previous months, as well as a list of apps that are gobbling up the most amount of data.

How much is 500mb of data?

A 500MB data plan will allow you to browse the internet for around 6 hours, to stream 100 songs or to watch 1 hour of standard-definition video on Netflix iPlayer or Amazon Prime.

Here’s some extra examples of data amounts for different activities:

  • Streaming a two-hour movie in high definition – 4.2GB
  • Gaming online for an hour – 43MB
  • Streaming an hour of music via Spotify or Apple Music – 80MB
  • Browsing through 60 web pages – 140MB
  • Download one song – 4–8MB
  • Download a film trailer – 60–100MB
  • One hour of driving while using Google Maps – 5MB

With this information and an honest assessment of how you use your phone (for instance, how often do you stream music?), you should be able to make a pretty good guess at how much data you'll get through.

So, if you love watching movies via Netflix over 4G, you’re going to need bigger data allowance. If you only access the web or open email on your phone, then a smaller allowance should suit your needs.

Why am I using so much data?

From apps running in the background, to large file downloads, data gets used up very quickly. If you are unsure about where exactly all your data is going, follow these steps to find the leak:

Open up the Settings app, tap Mobile Data and then scroll down to see a list of all of the apps you’ve currently got downloaded on your smartphone and how much data they’ve used up to that point.

Videos use the most data, followed by music and then photos. Social media drains your data because you are scrolling through so much media content in different forms.

You can reduce the resolution of videos or photos on your system, or you can set data limits on high usage apps.

What is the difference between data roaming and mobile data?

Mobile Data is internet access via mobile signals (5G/4G/3G etc.) Data roaming is the term used when your mobile phone is using data on a mobile network abroad, in other words you are unreachable to your home network. When Data Roaming is active, higher data fees often apply.

I love streaming music, how much data should I get?

Every music streaming app uses variable bitrate streaming, adjusting the quality of the music in an instant based on your connection. Users can usually set a desired playback level, too, if you want more control over the quality of your music.

Here’s how much data you can expect Spotify, YouTube Music, Apple Music and Amazon Music to use per hour, on average, based on the audio quality:

  • Low (48-96 kbps): approximately 43MB per hour
  • Normal (128-160 kbps): approximately 72MB per hour
  • High (192-320 kbps): approximately 115MB per hour

It’s also worth noting that streaming music videos through Spotify or YouTube Music will also increase your data usage compared to simply listening to streamed audio files.

What are the best “all you eat” data deals?

Unlimited data is currently available on thirteen networks in the UK, which include BT Mobile, iD Mobile, EE, GiffGaff, Lebara Mobile, O2, Smarty, Tesco Mobile, Lycamobile, Three, Virgin Mobile, Vodafone and VOXI.

Different networks have different limits, restrictions and unique selling points, so it’s worth getting all your research done before choosing an unlimited data plan.

Network Plan Limits Price
Three 12 monthUnlimited dataUnlimited minsUnlimited texts 5G plan with no speed restrictions £16 a month
iD Mobile 12 monthUnlimited dataUnlimited minsUnlimited texts 4G plan with no speed restrictions £16 a month
O2 18 monthUnlimited dataUnlimited minsUnlimited texts 5G plan with no speed restrictions £30 a month (First 6 months £15- half price)
Vodafone 12 monthUnlimited dataUnlimited minsUnlimited texts 5G plan with no speed restrictions £33 a month
Smarty 1 monthUnlimited dataUnlimited minsUnlimited texts 4G plan with no speed restrictions £20


Our methodology
Roams offers a free information and comparison service, which tries to help anyone find the product that best suits their needs. To ensure that the data presented is correct, extensive market research and product analysis is carried out. Our database of mobile phone and internet rates is updated every day. The content is frequently reviewed by a team of writers with previous experience and/or specific training in telephony.

Personas que han participado en este post:

Roams UKRoams
Actualizado por Roams UK

Roams offers its advice on recurring-use services to enhance consumer savings. Its expertise is already valued by thousands of users, who trust Roams comparisons in different sectors to hire the best option.

Nadia Pérez
Edited and revised por Nadia Pérez