Asked and Answered: How Much Mobile Data Do I Need?

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Unless you use your cellphone exclusively to text and make calls, chances are good that you use mobile data-and a whole lot of it. Data is used for everything from browsing social media to checking your emails to streaming music. If you're on a mobile plan with a data limit, you can incur a hefty charge for going over your monthly allotment. Additionally, cell phone data usage when traveling often results in data roaming fees, which, too, can be costly. As such, knowing your average mobile data usage per month-and being able to identify which apps take up the most data-can help you lower your phone bill. 

Here, you'll learn what mobile data is and what tasks use it. We'll also help you determine how much data you should choose when picking your phone plan. Find it all, plus details on Optimum Mobile’s unlimited data plans, below.

What Is Cellular Data And When Is It Used?

Put simply, cellular data is how your phone accesses the Internet (or Internet-connected apps) when you're not connected to WiFi. For example, if you're jogging around the neighborhood and listening to music on Spotify, you're actively using data. Checking emails, using social media, shopping online, gaming, and even checking the weather also use data. Keep in mind that you may be using data without realizing it, too. If your apps are set to update automatically or send push notifications, those apps may be using data-even when you aren't on your phone. 

Do Different Apps Use Different Amounts Of Data?

Yes, different apps use different amounts of data. As a general rule, the more intensive the task, the more data is required to complete it. So, things like scrolling through Instagram or streaming shows on your phone use a ton of data because they require a constant connection to the Internet. In contrast, apps like your phone's built-in calculator and calendar typically use much smaller amounts of data.

How To Check How Much Data You Use 

Checking how much data you use is simple, though the exact process depends on the type of phone you have. We break it down in detail below.


To check your data usage on an iPhone, open up Settings and tap "Cellular." You'll be brought to a screen that shows you whether or not Cellular Data and Data Roaming are turned on, as well as your personal hotspot. If you scroll down a little bit, you'll find a section that says "Cellular Data." Beneath that will be two numbers: one labeled "current period" and one labeled "current period roaming." The former is the grand total of all data you've used since last resetting your data statistics, and the latter shows how much of that data was used while roaming (in other words, while outside of your network's area of coverage). 

As you continue to scroll, you'll see a list of every app installed on your phone and a number indicating how much data that app used since the last refresh. It's organized in order of most data to least, so it's easy to see where the majority of your data is going. And if you scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page, you'll see a button labeled "Reset Statistics," with the date of your last reset written beneath it. So, if your data was last reset a year ago and the "current data" indicates you've used 200GB of data in that time, it breaks down to approximately 16.6GB used per month.


On Android phones—such as Samsungs and Motorolas-you can check your mobile data usage by opening settings, then tapping Network & Internet > Internet. Next to your carrier, tap the Settings icon. From there, you'll be shown how much total data you use. If you tap App data usage, you'll be able to see further details, such as when you use data the most (you can click the down arrow to change the time period shown on the graph, too). And below the graph, you'll find a detailed breakdown of how much data each app on your phone uses. If this doesn't work, you may be running on an older version of Android. Update to the latest version, then follow the steps outlined above to get a clearer look at your cell phone data usage.

How To Limit Your Data Usage

If you find yourself feeling a bit alarmed when viewing your data usage and want to cut back, there are a few things that you can try:

  • Use WiFi whenever possible: You only use mobile data when you’re not connected to WiFi. You can reduce your data usage by logging in to WiFi whenever you can. Just remember to consider security when using a public WiFi network or hotspot.
  • Disable push notifications: Many apps automatically send out push notifications: Shopping apps will send them when something is on sale, social media apps will do it when someone’s interacted with your content, etc. Consider disabling push notifications in non-essential apps to help cut down on your data usage.
  • Turn off background refresh: Similar to push notifications, background refresh often happens automatically, forcing you to use up data without even realizing it. Toggling this off can help preserve precious data.
  • Opt for lower-quality settings: Video and music quality can have a significant impact on how much data an app uses. Watching YouTube videos in 4K, for example, consumes approximately 1GB of data in just six minutes. Reducing your video settings to HD (720p) decreases data usage significantly, giving you about 50 minutes of watch time for 1GB. The same goes for Spotify and Netflix, too: If you can opt for lower-quality settings, it may be worth considering. 
  • Set a limit on scrolling: Finally, if you don’t have access to WiFi and you have to use data, consider setting a limit on your screen time. This will help both cut down on data usage and give you the opportunity to disconnect for a bit. 

How Much Cellular Data Do I Need?

After taking a look at your mobile data usage, you should have a clearer understanding of how much data you use in an average month. If your usage is typically pretty low, you may consider looking for a phone plan with a data allowance slightly higher than your current average (to help ensure you're not hit with any overage fees in case you do end up using more data).   
Ultimately, though, where data is concerned, an Unlimited plan is often the best option. Optimum Mobile's Unlimited and Unlimited Max plans both offer unlimited data, talk, and text, 5G access, and multi-line savings-meaning that the more people you add to your plan, the greater your savings will be. Plus, we offer nationwide coverage on America's largest and fastest 5G network, so you won't have to worry about data roaming unless you leave the country. Unlimited plans may be the best value for your buck-and the easiest way to ensure you can scroll in peace without worrying about what your bill will look like when the month's up.

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