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Understanding Cell Phone Data Usage: Choose the Right Data Plan

mobile-data-usage-hEvery person uses their mobile data differently. The majority of us use it on our smartphones on our commutes or in the office, listening to music or checking email. But we don’t actually realize how much data we use with each activity. Choosing the right data plan for you depends on what you use your phones for, but most of us don’t know how much data is used per activity. If we know how much data we use, we can choose a cheaper plan, saving money that can be put towards consumer debt

I personally listen to CDs (old school, I know) or my mp3 player on the drive to work, and then stream music throughout the day through my computer. I use very little data, so I opt for the smallest data package, or 2 GB.

What exactly does that mean? To break it down, 1 MB is equal to 1,024 KB. 1 GB is equal to 1,024 MB. To help you understand what data means in terms of measurement, a four-minute song at 128 KB/sec is around 3-4 MB.

Here are a few activities and a rough estimate of how much data they use on your smartphone:

  • Email – 35 KB, higher if with attachment
  • Download one basic app – >4 MB
  • 1 hour of streaming low-quality music – >25 MB
  • 60 seconds of streaming video  (SD)– 4.5 MB
  • One Facebook post (text only) – 250 KB
  • Upload one photo at 5 megapixel – 1.5 MB
  • 1 hour of video call – 75 MB
  • Installing Angry Birds – 19 MB

This, of course, all adds up. This handy estimator from U.S. Cellular helps you estimate your monthly data usage based on what you use your mobile device for. Once you’ve figured out what you might use, you can then select from the data usage plan that best fits your lifestyle and mobile usage needs.

For more on data usage, check out some tips on how to better utilize your data plan and avoid going over your limits.

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