How much data do our favourite activities consume?

17 November 2023


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Data is everywhere. Every time we use an app, browse a website or make a call, we’re consuming data. It’s like the fuel for our digital engine and just as petrol allows a car to run smoothly, data enables our online activities to function seamlessly.

Companies use data to understand our behaviour, preferences and needs and this information helps them tailor their services to meet our individual needs, improving our experiences and satisfaction. Think how Netflix uses your viewing data to suggest shows you might like or Amazon uses your browsing and purchase history to recommend products.

But data is not free, it comes at a cost, so if you’re wondering how much of it our favourite activities consume and how we can reduce that, read on.

Online video streaming

The popularity of platforms like YouTube, GO TV and others has skyrocketed. Whether it is watching movies, shows or live events, we love to stream video content on our devices, however, doing so involves transferring large amounts of audio and video data over the internet, which makes video streaming a major data consumer.

The amount of data that video streaming uses depends on several factors, such as the video quality, the length of the video and the compression algorithm, but generally speaking, the higher the video quality, the more data it consumes. For example, streaming a video in 4K resolution can use up to 7.2 GB of data per hour, while streaming in standard definition (SD) can use only 0.7 GB of data per hour.

How to reduce video streaming data consumption

  • Reduce video quality: with most video streaming platforms you can adjust the video quality settings either manually or automatically. Consider choosing 480p or 720p instead of 1080p or 4K, alternatively, you can let the platform adjust the video quality based on your network speed and bandwidth availability.
  • Download videos and watch offline: another way to save data is to download videos when you have access to Wi-Fi and watch them at a later stage, without having to use any data.
  • Use data saver mode: some platforms have a data saver mode, which automatically reduces the video quality and data usage when you are on a mobile network. To check whether a particular platform has this mode and to enable it, head to the app’s settings.

Young man listening to music from his mobile

Social media browsing

Scrolling through your social media feeds might seem harmless, but the constant stream of images and videos can consume more data than you think. And auto-play features and high-resolution media contribute to the data drain. In fact, a simple 10-minute scroll can easily chew through 100 megabytes (MB) of data.

The type and size of the media content, the frequency and duration of browsing and the app settings affect the amount of data that social media browsing uses, however, in general, the more media content we view or upload, the more data we consume. To put things into perspective, browsing Facebook for an hour can use up to 160 MB of data, while browsing Instagram for an hour can use up to 720 MB of data.

How to reduce social media browsing consumption

  • Use data saver mode: most social media platforms have a data saver mode, which automatically reduces data usage by compressing the media content or disabling the autoplay of videos.
  • Use a lite version of the app: a simplified and lightweight version of the original app, lite apps are designed to work faster and use less data, especially on low-end devices or slow networks. If you’re interested in these, you can download them from the app store or the web browser.
  • Use a web browser instead of the app: web browsers usually use less data than apps because they have fewer features and functionalities. They also have data-saving features, such as blocking ads, disabling images and compressing web pages.

Two people playing games on their mobile

Online gaming

It may be fun and engaging, but online gaming can be a significant data guzzler, especially with high-quality graphics and real-time gameplay. In fact, such games could use anywhere from 40MB to 300MB per hour, depending on their complexity and the number of people playing. Just imagine, playing an online game like Fortnite for an hour can use anywhere from 50MB to 100MB of data. The same applies for a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game like League of Legends, while playing a massive multiplayer online role-playing game like World of Warcraft can use up to 200MB of data per hour.

How to reduce online gaming browsing consumption

  • Reduce the game settings: most online games will allow you to adjust the game settings, such as the graphics quality, the sound quality and the frame rate. By reducing these you will be lowering the data usage and improving the game performance.
  • User Wi-Fi: avoid using data to download large files, such as game installation files, game patches and game expansions. You can also set the games to update only when you are on a Wi-Fi network or manually update them whenever you want to.
  • Use a gaming VPN: a gaming VPN is a virtual private network that optimises the game data traffic and reduces data usage. It can also improve game speed, latency and security by encrypting the game data and routing it through a faster and safer server.

Bonus tips for keeping your data consumption in check

Use ad-blockers

Ads, while necessary for many websites and services, contribute to data consumption, so using ad-blockers can not only enhance your browsing experience, but also save data.

Disable automatic updates

Automatic updates for apps and operating systems can consume a considerable amount of data without you even realizing it. All you need to do is simply adjust your settings so that any updates are done when you are connected to Wi-Fi.

Use gadgets to help you save data

Investing in gadgets that optimise data usage can be a game-changer. Smart devices like data-saving routers and mobile hotspots with data management features can help you monitor and control your data consumption. Alternatively, data-saving apps can track your usage and alert you when you are nearing your limit. And if you need to be connected from home or at work, our Smart Wi-Fi pods can improve your home network’s efficiency, reducing the need to use mobile data. Meanwhile, look at how you can set up the ideal home network.

Monitoring and managing your data consumption can lead to a more efficient and cost-effective online experience and by understanding what activities use the most data, you can get the most out of your digital life without worrying about running out of data.

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