Data is the golden nugget. Let’s face it, when we compare mobile phone deals, most contracts now come with unlimited texts and more minutes than most of us will ever get through – especially with more and more of us using WiFi-based apps for phone calls.
Most of us beeline for that data allowance. Now, more people use the internet on their phone than on a laptop or computer. We have encyclopaedias at our fingertips, and libraries of audio/visual material immediately accessible via apps like Spotify and Youtube. With the increase in networks offering good 3G and 4G coverage matched with the ubiquity of WiFi, it’s easy to feel confused by how much data to purchase. That’s where we come in.
It’s hard to visualise data amounts when you compare mobile deals – maybe you’re someone who sees data allowances of 1GB, 6GB or 20GB being advertised and it looks like code. When we like a post on Instagram or video call our friend we don’t (yet) think – or live our lives – in bytes: we just do it.
If you’re unsure, we recommend starting with a data usage quiz. Many networks will offer their own versions or you could use an unbiased assessment from a third-party website. It’ll ask you questions about your internet habits, such as how much you browse, stream, or download material. It’ll help you get an idea of what you need.
When looking for the best mobile phone deals, we’re becoming increasingly targeted with ads for huge sums of data, with all the networks competing with each other to offer bigger and better packages. Critically, it can also push us into thinking we need more data than we actually do, because it’s always better to be safe than sorry, and networks charge huge amounts for additional gigabytes of data if you exceed your allowance.
Let us just drop a few stat bombs – two thirds of us don’t use more than 3GB of data per month. The under-25 age group are the most likely to use larger amounts of data, but it’s not directly correlative. And almost half of people aged 65 and over use less than 1GB a month. So perhaps you don’t need as much as you think, but it will depend on your habits…
If you work from home, or are usually in the office, then it’s likely that you’re nearly always connected to WiFi. This means that for a huge chunk of your week you’re not even using your data.
However, you may be someone who’s often on the move with meetings and reliant on video conferences. Or you might work outdoors, or perhaps you spend hours commuting and have reached the end of your tether with slow train WiFi (you’re not alone). In these cases, it’s likely that you’ll want to consider a larger data package.
How much you need depends on your habits. For instance, opening an email will use approximately 15KB of data, whereas streaming an hour of video will use about 2GB. You need to deduce what you use your data for and how frequently, whilst also considering how often you’re connected to WiFi.
It’s important to be aware that our phones can, and often will, still use our data even when we’re not surfing or streaming. When we allow our apps to run off data, by default they’re set to refresh in the background. This is what enables those Facebook notifications to show up, or emails to come through instantly. So, consider turning off push notifications to reduce data usage and, moreover, close down any apps when you’re not using them – it’ll not only save data but battery too. Double win.
Always connect to WiFi where you can (if you can suffer the sometimes Olympic-challenge login process), especially if you’re streaming or downloading. Many streaming sites will now allow you to watch pre-downloaded media even when not connected to the internet – so stock up when you get the chance to save data.
So, next time you compare mobile phone deals and your eyes light up at that 25GB data allowance, take a step back to think. Take a quiz, assess your habits, and consider your routine. You’ll then be much better equipped and see that bigger isn’t always better.