Increase Your Data I.Q.: Personal Wi-Fi Data Usage Calculator

Choosing the right data plan is one of the most important steps in choosing a Smartphone, yet many people struggle to understand how to evaluate their needs and select the best plan for their needs.

There are many things to consider when figuring out how much data you’ll need. Use this guide to learn how your data adds up and how much you might want in a Smartphone plan:

What’s A Gigabyte?

To understand your data usage, you’ll need to understand gigabytes or GB for short.

A gigabyte is a unit of measure for any kind of information or file on your phone, computer or other device. One gigabyte is equal to just over one thousand megabytes (or MB), and is one of the more common measurements used when discussing your data usage.

What Actions Use Data?

Anytime you use your phone to access something on the internet, whether it’s reading an email, opening Facebook, watching YouTube or talking to someone on FaceTime, you are using data.

Some things use more data than others – for example, videos use the most data, while photos and websites use less, and plain text emails use the least.

How Much Data Will I Need?

To figure out how much data you will need, you will have to make some educated guesses about what sort of things you will do with your phone, and then add up the totals based on how much data each activity takes.

Check out this chart as a general guide for data usage.

  Each Per Month (@ 1 per day)
Reading an email (text only) 0.01 MB 0.3 MB
Downloading a webpage 1 MB 30 MB
Streaming music (1 min) 0.5 MB 15 MB
Streaming video (1 min) 4 MB 120 MB
Steaming HD video (1 min) 16 MB 480 MB

To estimate the data you will need, consider how much of each item you will consume each day, and multiply it by the monthly usage (right-hand column). Then, add all of those totals together, and you’ll have an estimate of your total monthly data needs.

For a handy online calculator, try this handy data estimating tool.

What About Wi-Fi?

If you have Wi-Fi available at home, at work or anywhere else where you will be using your phone, this can reduce the amount of data you will need.

Any internet usage while you are connected to Wi-Fi will not count toward your total – so if much of your phone use will be at home or work where you have Wi-Fi, then you can reduce your estimate for your data needs.

Try to estimate the percentage of your usage that will be done over Wi-Fi and use this to adjust your total. Once you have your phone and plan, remember to connect to Wi-Fi whenever possible to reduce your data usage.

Other Considerations

There are other things on your phone that could use your data without your knowledge. Some apps will refresh their data in the background, even when you’re not using them – so check your settings or round up when estimating your data needs.

For those on shared cell phone plans, you should also consider the data usage of others on your plan – if someone will be using more than their share of data, you may want to calculate their data separately.