What data plan should I get?

We put together this guide on what to look for when deciding what data plan you need. Data plans are used for all kinds of devices and it is important to know how much data you will use so you don’t over pay for that contract. This post includes example calculations and references.

Wireless data plans


How much data would you use in a month with your smartphone? Most people on average are not aware how much data they use with their phones regularly. To know what type of wireless plan to purchase, a basic understanding of your habits and the data that correlates with them is necessary, especially because everything data related varies greatly from one task to another. Data is always expressed in a numerical format representing bytes.

1GB = 1,000 MB or 1,000,000 KB

What is data?
Data is the information sent to and received by your device while accessing the internet through apps or web browsers. Wireless data usage is dependent upon multiple factors, including what you use data transmission for and how often you send data over the wireless network as opposed to over Wi-Fi.

Before you can use that new smartphone to transfer all sorts of data, you first need to have a wireless plan. Depending on your carrier, you will have a number of options to choose from; all of these are based on monthly usage, which resets every billing cycle. Verizon, for example, offers plans starting at 1GB (gigabyte) per month all the way up to 10 GB per month.

The brand of phone you have can also determine if you go over your data allotment. [1]

Data Hogs
You might be asking, “How much can I do with that?” The most important factor relating to data usage is all dependent on your interests and habits. Remember, everything uses data–just different amounts. Sending or receiving videos, picture, or other attachments and streaming music or videos uses the most data.

Basic communication, such as E-Mail, uses the smallest amounts of data, ranging from 2 KB to 30 KB depending on the length of the message. Visiting websites uses more data because almost all websites have media and interactive content, and depending on the contents of the site, each page view can use 100-300 KB. Watching videos uses an average of 1MB of data per video, depending on the view quality chosen. When on YouTube, using regular quality instead of high quality can reduce the data used by about 60%; the same applies to streaming music. Any high-quality video or sound files use much more data.

The Breakdown:
To sum everything up, let us assume that you have chosen the 1GB/month Verizon data plan and want to know how far it will take you. Using the full 1GB, you would be able to send 50,000-400,000 E-Mails depending on content and length. Using the phone to only browse web pages, you would be able to view 5,000-15,000 pages. (Keep in mind, this is using all of your monthly allotted data.) However, we do not use our phones for only one specific reason–they are multi-purpose communication/entertainment devices.

Based on a 1GB data plan we have broken down the numbers for you in the table below. Our estimated totals are based on our personal usage average.

Category: Avg. % Used: In MB: Estimated Total:
E-Mail 20% 200 MB 2,597 E-mails @ 77 KB/E-mail
Websites 40% 400 MB 6,400 Websites @ 62.5 KB/Page
Photos 20% 200 MB 957 Photos @ 191.5 KB/Photo
Streaming Videos 5% 50 MB 25 YouTube @ 2MB/Video with a 4-minute average
Streaming Music 5% 50 MB 107 hours @ 28 MB/hours

Data Management Tips
1) Turn off automatic updates for Apps
2) Connect to Wi-Fi instead of 3G when available
3) Store music and videos on device instead of streaming
4) Take advantage of mobile websites instead of using full websites
5) Switch E-Mail apps to manual mail retrieval instead of “Push”

Useful Wireless Data Plan Sources:
1)Christopher Parson’s Data Education Brochure
2)Think With Google – Mobile Planet
3)E-mail Monday – Mobile E-Mail Usage Stats
4)Techno Buffalo – 8 Tips for Managing your Mobile Data

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