How Much Mobile Data Does Media Streaming Use?

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central

The things most of us love to do with our phones are also the most data-intensive things: streaming music and videos.

Your phone is your entertainment hub, only with a data limit.

Modern phones and streaming services were designed for each other. Your phone is capable of delivering high quality content through the display or its audio components and streaming services like Disney +, Netflix and Spotify were made to deliver them. The first popular media-centric phone was the iPhone and Apple and Google owe a lot of their success to this, because it was also the best way to watch YouTube in the palm of your hands.

Things have come a long way since then, but one thing hasn’t changed. We love to watch and listen with our phones. But the advent of HD video streaming and high-speed audio streaming means that it is also gobbling up data like never before. Let’s break it down to see how much data you’re using when you launch your favorite streaming app.

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Audio streaming

Spotify appSource: Android Central

While some services offer super HQ streaming music, most services use the same scale: low, normal, and high. Most also use the same bit rate (the number of bits per second transmitted digitally) to define each category. Here’s what they look like and how much data each will consume.

  • Low the quality is generally 96 kbps. On average, low-quality audio streaming uses 0.72 MB per minute or 43.2 MB per hour.
  • Normal the quality is generally 160 kbps. Normal quality music streaming uses 1.20 MB per minute or 72 MB per hour on average.
  • High music quality is usually 320 kbps. High-quality streaming music uses 2.40 MB per minute or 115.2 MB per hour on average.

“Average” is the key word here. Most services offer streaming that automatically adjusts for your network conditions, and some use lower quality bit rates for all categories. But most other services including Youtube music and Spotify, follow these guidelines when you haven’t set up automatic tuning.

Streaming video

Lenovo Smart Display broadcast videoSource: Android Central

As you can imagine, streaming video uses a lot more data than audio. There is just more information transmitted. And the conditions of your network play a big role in how the media is delivered because no one likes buffering. Fortunately, apps are smart enough to request a video stream that will work with available network speeds, and buffering is mostly a thing of the past. Most. Note that this hidden feature will usually override your settings when it needs to, but if you ask for HD or 4K video, you’ll get it if it can be delivered chaturbate.

Here’s how the flows break down on average.

  • Low quality the video is very low quality. think 240p or 320p. Low quality settings will use approximately 0.3 GB (300 MB) per hour.
  • SD quality the video is standard 480p video. SD quality video uses approx. 0.7 GB (700 MB) per hour.
  • HD quality the video is between 720p and 2K (remember, the app adjusts the stream). HD quality video uses approx. 0.9 GB (720p), 1.5 GB (1080p) and 3 GB (2K) per hour.
  • UHD quality the video uses a lot of data. A 4K stream uses about 7.2 GB per hour.

Again these are averages and Netflix helped by tell us how much data their service uses. Compression, variable quality depending on network conditions, and your phone’s cache will all factor in here, but those numbers are a safe bet.

How much can I stream on my data plan?

Applying My Data Manager SettingsSource: Andrew Myrick / Android Central

A typical data plan that isn’t unlimited – and not companies that practice zero rate – is available in 2 GB, 5 GB and 10 GB versions. If you want to stream media content while using your data connection, here is what each level will allow:

  • A 2 GB plan will allow you to broadcast up to:
    • 47 hours of poor quality music
    • 28 hours of normal quality music
    • 17 hours of high quality music
    • 6.5 hours of poor quality video
    • 2.8 hours of standard definition video
    • 2.2 hours of 720p video
    • 1.3 hours of 1080p video
    • 0.6 hour of 2K video
    • 0.25 hour of 4K video
  • A 5 GB plan will allow you to broadcast up to:
    • 117 hours of poor quality music
    • 70 hours of normal quality music
    • 42.5 hours of high quality music
    • 16.25 hours of poor quality video
    • 7 hours of standard definition video
    • 5.5 hours of 720p video
    • 3.25 hours of 1080p video
    • 1.5 hours of 2K video
    • 0.6 hours of 4K video
  • A 10 GB plan will allow you to broadcast
    • 234 hours of poor quality music
    • 140 hours of normal quality music
    • 85 hours of high quality music
    • 32.5 hours of poor quality video
    • 14 hours of standard definition video
    • 11 hours of 720p video
    • 6.5 hours of 1080p video
    • 3 hours of 2K video
    • 1.2 hours of 4K video

We followed the industry standard 1000MB = 1GB formula and not the “real” calculation of 1024MB in a GB. This is because your carrier might do the same. And remember – these are close estimates. Due to the way the data is compressed and the bit rates change depending on each situation, my measurements may be a little different from yours. And none of that takes into account any rounding your carrier might be doing. For us, 1.7MB equals 1.7MB, not 2MB.

HD media streaming uses a lot of data. Know this before you decide how much you need.

One thing these numbers show is that it’s always better to use Wi-Fi to stream high-quality media. Besides the data savings, Wi-Fi also has a more robust signal which will mean less degradation or compression. Your Internet company probably optimizes media traffic, but not as much as your wireless carrier. You can also use services that let you download or pin your media files when you’re on Wi-Fi and play them later.

Just be aware that if you watch 8 hours of HD video every day, you will need over 300GB of data. This means you’ll need an unlimited plan that doesn’t have the fine print telling you that “unlimited” stops at 22 or 24 GB then become too slow to stream. Such an animal does not exist and zero rate carriers will not serve you 2K (or even 1080p) video without paying extra.

Use these numbers to plan how much data you need for streaming if you are looking for a service.

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