Which mobile data plan do you need?

Last updated: 5 April 2016

Which mobile data plan do you need?

The tablet and smartphone world is all about data: that’s kilobytes (KB), megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB). Just over 1000KB make up 1MB, and about 1000MB make up 1GB.

We’re all used to hearing these terms by now, but do you know exactly what you can do with a gigabyte and a megabyte? Or how far they can go? And more importantly, what do all the numbers mean in terms of how you want to use your phone?

Data usage can vary dramatically from person to person. We all like doing different things on our devices, whether that’s streaming movies, playing music, checking the footie results, looking at your Facebook feed or just browsing the internet.

Everyone is different. Which is why Three offers a variety of data plans to cater for all types of customers.

We have deals with high data allowances and loads of minutes, so that you don’t have to worry about how much you’re using your phone. But it’s all about choosing the right data plan for you and your budget.

Everyday examples of data usage.

  1. Browsing – Uses between 150KB and 1.5MB per site
    The amount of data usage depends on the complexity and the nature of the website you’re trying to view, plus how long you’re on the site.
    As a general rule, most websites these days use around 1MB per page, but a larger website with additional features such as a forum or live support chat, will demand more data.
  2. Music – One minute of streaming music uses about 500KB
    Working on the basis that most songs are around 3 minutes long, you’ll be using around 1.5MB per song. The higher the quality of the song, the more data it’ll use up.
  3. Videos and movies – One minute of streaming video uses about 2-5MB
    So depending on the service you’re using, you could use as much as 3GB watching a film. Watching BBC iPlayer for example, uses 144MB per hour. A standard definition film on Netflix will use about 0.7GB per hour, while data usage on a HD film would be between 1GB to 2.8GB per hour.
  4. Online gaming – An hour of gameplay uses about 5MB
    Once more, the more complex and demanding the game (think HD, live chat, multiple players, etc) the more data you’ll use.
  5. Social media – Updating your status with a photo uses about 500KB
  6. Downloads – Downloading a new app, game or song will use about 3-4MB per item, depending on the file size.

How it all adds up.

It’s best to think about what you enjoy doing on your device. Use our data calculator to estimate how much data you’ll need, and which data plan is best for you.

It’s surprising how quickly it all adds up.

You might check Facebook on your way to work (2MB), watch your favourite sitcom on the way home (60MB) and listen to 10 tunes on an evening run (15MB). That’s 77MB for the day, but use 77MB every day of the week and you’re looking at 2.1GB for the month.

Data warning.

It’s advisable to ignore old data usage guides. Because of 4G and the general advances in technology, everything we’re doing is of a higher quality and is using up more data.

Always overestimate, just to be on the safe side. If you’re in a city with a strong 4G signal, you might end up watching an HD version of a video and use 10 times as much data.

Our top tip.

Rather than get carried away crunching numbers, try and work out whether you’re a low, medium or heavy data user.

Do you simply check social media sites now and then? Are you into entertainment and games? Or maybe you rely on your phone or tablet for both work and play? Our data calculator is the best place to start.