What Size Data Plan Is Right for You? Options, Costs, and More | Digital Trends (2023)

What Size Data Plan Is Right for You? Options, Costs, and More | Digital Trends (1)
The world runs on data these days, and making sure you have enough to get the most out of your phone, while not paying for more than you need, is a crucial balance to find.

When it comes to data plans, the best size correlatesto how you use your data. Do you use your phone primarily for email and social media? You can probably get away with a smaller data plan. Using your device as a game console, or for video streaming? You’ll want to opt for a larger or even anunlimited plan. We’ve given yousome numbers to work with below, so you can see exactly how much data certain tasks use up andget a real sense of what your monthly data needs will be. We’ll also breakdown the plans available from each of the four major U.S. phone companies to help you in making the right decision.

Howmuch data are you using?

Not all apps use the same amount of data. It’s important to know where your data is going and how much you’re using to find the best plan for you. Before webreakdown the data usages for different apps and features, it’s worth mentioning ways to mitigate data use. No matter what your data limit, it’s always a smart idea to connect to a Wi-Fi network whenever you can. This is an easy thing to do while at home, as most people have wireless internet these days, but when out and about, it can be tricky. Coffee shops and restaurants often have a network customers can connect to (though you may want to use a VPN), and connecting to your workplace’s Wi-Fi may also be an option.


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Why is connecting to Wi-Fi important? If limiting data usage is your goal, then Wi-Fi is going to be your greatest ally. Any data used while connected to a wireless internet network will not affect your monthly 3G/4G allocation from your carrier, so you can stream, download, post, and email to your heart’s content. Most devices and apps also have settings to limit the use of certain features while not connected to Wi-Fi, which takes the guess work out of tracking what apps you should and shouldn’t be using.

Social media

Many of us use social media apps on smartphones. But how much data doour tweets, likes and Instagram posts use up? Updating your Facebook feed takes up about 50KB on average, each time you open the app. Updating your Twitter feed takes about 70KB. Instagram, on the other hand, can utilize anywhere between30 and 150KB per picture. Posting also takes up a little bit more data than simply updating your feeds. If you post10 times a day — for instance — you’ll use about 0.07GB in a month, while posting 200 times day willuseroughly 1.43GB in a month. That’s an unrealistic number for even the most obsessive socialite, so unless you’re going hog wild with your status updates, social media isn’t going to make much of a dent in your monthly allocation.


Depending on the webpages you visit, surfing the web on your smartphone is economical on your data budget. Of course, every website is different, and your data numbers will be higherif you tend to visit pages with lots of multimedia features. If you are planning on doing some light browsing on your phone, then you should expect to use less than 100MB of data a month. On the other hand, if you are browsing some data-heavy sites that aren’t optimized for smartphones, you could find yourself using more than 1GB of data. There is a big differencethere, but unless you know for sure that you are going to be surfing a lot, you shouldn’t be using more than roughly200MB a month.


Alongside social media and web browsing, email is probably the next most-used feature on smartphones. Luckily, even if your inbox is constantly being flooded and you’re responding toemails all day long, your data isn’t going to take much of a hit. Let’s say you’re sending 500 emails a day — a gross overestimation for the majority of people — you’ll wind up having used just 0.5GB of data by the end of the month. A more realistic estimate of about 10 to 20 emails equates to a measly 0.02GB of data; that is,assuming they’re text-only.

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There is a big difference between text emails and emails with attachments, though. If you were to send 5,000 emails, each with a picture attachment, you could be looking at more than2GB of data a month. However, most of us don’t take and send that many pictures, so you’re more likely looking at around 100MB of data resulting from sending a couple of emails with images a day.

Streaming music and podcasts

Now we’re getting into the more data-intensive apps. Whetherusing a music app likeSpotify or a podcast app like Stitcher, streaming audio is going to eat up your data plan quickly. Streaming two hours of audio every day for a month is going to use more than3.5GB, andsince it’s not hard to imagine spending more than two hours a day listening to music or podcasts, one could easily rack up 6GB a month or more streaming audio data alone. This is one feature you’ll likely want to use when connected via Wi-Fi. T-Mobile and Sprint areexception to the rule, as they both allow for unlimited music streaming.


Here’s the big one. Apps such asNetflix and YouTube may allowus toeasily to catch up on our favorite shows while on the go, but they alsogobble upamonstrous amount of data in the process. Watching a mere 60 minutes of standard-definition video a day can utilize up to8GB of data in a month, while that same amount of time spent watching HD videos can take up nearly30GB. Thatbeing the case, we suggest holding off on that next episode of House of Cardsuntil you’re connected to Wi-Fi.

All the major carriers throttle streaming video speeds beyond a certain point or limit the resolution you can stream video at to 720p or sometimes 480p. AT&T offers unlimited streaming of video through DirecTV Now — but any non DirecTV video counts against your data allotment, even though the company now offers unlimited plans (your connection may be slowed after 22GB of used data each month). Verizon is similar with its own unlimited offering, and they too might throttle your connection after 22GB. Sprint does the same after 23GB, and T-Mobile after 50GB of use.

Apps like Netflix now also let you download certain movies and shows to your device, so you don’t need a data connection to watch them later — we recommend downloading these when connected to Wi-Fi.


With phones becoming more and more sophisticated, their potential as dedicated gaming machines only becomes greater. Smartphones support 3D graphics and even online multiplayer, which makes them suitable for games more complex than ThreesandCandy Crush. However,what’s their data footprint like?

As long as you’re sticking to single player games, your data usage should be limited — the effecton battery life is another issue, though. Online modes and multiplayer games are going to take up a chunk of data, butexactly how much varies from game to game. Short sessions ranging between 10 and 30 minutes for a game likeCandy Crushwill certainly add up, but likely won’t push you into data overages. However,it’s still best to connect to Wi-Fi if you’re planning on indulging in intense multiplayer matches for an afternoon; it’s likely a more reliable connection, anyway.


We discussed using Wi-Fi above, but another strategy for reducing data usage is to stick to using media that you’vedownloaded directly on your device. Try to downloadpodcasts, playlists, or videos for your commutes and long trips in advance while connected to Wi-Fi. Doing so will help you stay within data limits each month, leaving plenty for downloading smaller files like email attachments, new apps, and similar content on the go.

What next?

So, now that you’ve hopefully got an idea of what kind of data your apps and activities will take up, what comes next? It’s time to find a plan that’s right for you. The following pages detail the plans available from each of the four major U.S. carriers (i.e. Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T). You may also want to check out the best cheap phone plans.

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Sprint plans

What Size Data Plan Is Right for You? Options, Costs, and More | Digital Trends (6)

Sprint haseliminated its Better Choice plans in favor of itsUnlimited Freedom plan. The planisone of themost affordable options available, but the network isn’t the best in most areas (although markedly better over the past year). Still, it’s a great choice for those looking for a budget plan with decent device and service selection.

Unlimited Family

Sprint’s unlimited planstarts at $60 per month for a single line, which is one of the cheapest options available. You can get a second line for $40 per month, but then add another three lines for no additional monthly fee until 1/31/19 when they’ll revert to $30 per month. You’ll also find yourselfpossibly facing throttling — they call it “data deprioritization” — after 23GB of shared data use.

Unlimited Single Line

For single lines, Sprint offers a flat-rate unlimited plan at $50, plus access charges.

Check out Sprint’s websitefor more information regarding the company’s data plans.


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AT&T drastically changed its plans, introducing a much simplified plan structure in February, in two plans called Unlimited Choice and Unlimited Plus. Unlimited choice offers unlimited talk, data, and text, standard definition video streaming (480p), throttled data up to 3Mbps, and roaming in Canada and Mexico. Upgrading to Unlimited Plus removes the data speed throttle, gives you all the features of Unlimited Choice, plus adds 10GB of full speed hotspot use and a $25 discount on either DirecTV orDirecTV Now.

In both cases, you run the risk of being throttled after data usage exceeds 22GB in any given month. Unlimited Choice plans are $60 per month for the first line, $55 for the second, and $20 for any additional lines ($10 per month for wearables). Unlimited Plus plans are $90 per month for the first line, and the same price for any additional lines. All plans require autopay and paperless billing for the best rates.

Check out AT&T’s websitefor more information regarding the company’s data plans.

Verizon plans

What Size Data Plan Is Right for You? Options, Costs, and More | Digital Trends (8)

Verizon boasts the largest 4G LTE network and provides the most coverage of all four phone carriers in the United States. Big Red hasan unlimited option of its own.It isgenerally higher priced than its competitors, but if you need consistent and dependable coverage, Verizon is hard to beat.

Prepaid Plan

The company’s prepaid plan is a basic option, one that doesn’t require you to selectand juggle multiple features and services at once. The packages are set and offer three flat rates, allowing you to choose between a 2GB plan for $40 a month, a 5GB plan for $50 a month, or a 10GB plan for $70 a month.Other data devices can be added onto your plan for an access fee of anywhere from$15 a week for 500MB of data to $100 for 10GB of data good for two months.

More Everything Plan

Verizon offers four different data plan options ranging from $35 per month for 2GB up to $65 per month for unlimited. You’ll have to pay access charges per device, which are $20 for smartphones, $10 for hotspots and tablets, and $5 per month for all other connected devices. You’ll receive a $5 per month discount if you elect to use autopay, the company’s site says.

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Check out Verizon’s websitefor more information regarding the company’s data plans.

T -Mobile plans

What Size Data Plan Is Right for You? Options, Costs, and More | Digital Trends (9)

T-Mobile now offers just one post-paid plan — T-Mobile ONE — which includes unlimited data, talk and text. T-Mobile is probably the best option for data-heavy consumers. There are a few things you should keep in mind, though, to make their modelwork for you.

Prepaid Plans

A prepaid plan on T-Mobile nets you unlimited talk and text, along withdata and4G LTE on a single line. However, the 4G LTE allowance isdifferent from the unlimited data access on thenetwork.Your speeds will reduce after you finish your 4G LTE data, but you won’t incur overage charges. The cost per month is also dependent on the amount of 4G LTE data you opt for, whether it’s $40 for 3GB, $50 for 5GB, or$60 for 10GB. There are several extra features that can be added to your plan, such as international calls and texts, plus there are additionalprepaid plans that do not include data, if for whatever reason you’d rather not utilizesaidfeatures.

T-Mobile ONE

As we’ve said previously, T-Mobile ONE is the sole option for non-prepaid accounts. It’s $70, and includes unlimited data. T-Mobile has the highest “data prioritization” threshold at 50GB. If you’d like to add additional lines, the second one is $50, and any other additional lines beyond that $20 per line. Fora family of four that’s $160 per line, not a bad deal at all.

Tablets get unlimited data for $20 per month, and wearables $5.

Check out T-Mobile’s websitefor more information regarding the company’s data plans.

Update: We checked this article for accuracy and added some useful links.

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How big a data plan do I need? ›

10GB is the perfect amount of data if you need answers and need them now. You'll be able to download 10 apps, stream about 10 minutes of video & 50 minutes of music, visit 80 web pages and send about 150 emails per day. See this plan.

How do I choose the right data plan? ›

How to Choose the Best Data Plan
  1. Determine Your Data Usage. The first and foremost thing that you need to do is determine your data usage. ...
  2. Consider Your Activities. ...
  3. Compare the Plans. ...
  4. Check the Coverage Area. ...
  5. Choose a Reputable Service Provider. ...
  6. Read the Reviews.
May 17, 2022

Is 20 GB data enough for a month? ›

20GB per month is considered to be a fairly large amount of mobile data, alongside 30GB and 50GB. Ofcom's 2021 report claims that most users have an average of 4.5GB of mobile data for the month, so 20GB is definitely above average.

What can you do with 5 GB of data? ›

A 5GB data plan will allow you to browse the internet for around 60 hours, to stream 1,000 songs or to watch 10 hours of standard-definition video.

Will I use more than 1tb of data per month? ›

Most users will be fine with 1 TB of monthly data. But if you have kids, family members, or roommates who use your internet for Netflix streaming sessions, keep an eye on your monthly usage. If you're regularly breaking that terabyte marker, it might be time to find an ISP with flexible data cap policies.

Is 50GB a lot of data for a month? ›

Is 50GB of data enough for me? For the above average phone user, 50GB looks to be more than enough to last for a whole month's activity, particularly when you consider that you probably won't need to use your mobile data for that entire time if you have Wi-Fi at home.

What is a good data management plan? ›

A data management plan documents the lifecycle of your data.

A good data management plan will ensure the availability and accessibility of your research results after your project is complete and you have published the results, increasing the value of your research and possible reuse by other researchers.

How do I maximize my data plan? ›

Follow these five tips for managing your data usage so you won't get caught off guard:
  1. Adjust your Wi-Fi settings. Check your settings so you'll automatically connect to a secure Wi-Fi network when you arrive at home or the office. ...
  2. Use Wi-Fi for big files. ...
  3. Manage your notifications. ...
  4. Shut off your apps. ...
  5. Set up usage alerts.

How many GB of data is good for a month? ›

Most people need around 600 GB of data per month for their home internet connection. That gives you enough data to stream movies, play online games, and participate in video conferencing calls.

How much data do you really need per month? ›

To ensure you never run out of data, you'll probably need a monthly data allowance of around 20GB.

How many GB data per month do I need? ›

Even 2GB will be cutting it close, so for some breathing room we'd generally suggest at least 3GB. Meanwhile, if you're using mobile data much of the day, every day, or using data intensive things like video streaming and tethering regularly, you'll probably want at least 50GB – and even that might not be enough.

Is 40 GB data enough for a month? ›

With your 40GB of data, you'll be able to browse the internet for approximately 480 hours per month, to stream 8,000 songs online or to watch 80 hours of online video in standard definition.

Is 5GB a lot of data for a month? ›

How much is 5GB of data? 5GB of data is a difficult one to place - for the average user (defined by Ofcom's 2021 report), it's not too much and it's not too little. Yet, based on the number of plans out there, 5GB is still considered to be a smaller plan with less gigabytes to offer.

Is a 5GB data plan enough? ›

For most trips, 3GB or 5GB of data will be enough to cover common internet usage. However, if you are planning on using the internet more or if you are traveling for a month or longer, you might want to consider cards with up to 7GB of data.

Do I really need 1TB of storage? ›

We recommend you to choose at least 1TB of storage if you save a lot of movies and other large files. Do you mainly save text files and an image once in a while? A storage of 512GB will be enough. Less storage is only recommended if you save hardly any files or work from the cloud a lot.

How many hours of streaming is 1TB? ›

You would have to stream around 171 hours of 4K video monthly to reach 1 TB of data. That's equivalent to you streaming 6 hours of 4K video daily for a month. If you worry about data usage, take steps to manage it proactively.

Is 30 GB data enough for a month? ›

For most people, 30GB of data will be more than enough to last for an entire month's allowance. When you're out and about, your phone needs to consume data to complete tasks you ask of it, such as browsing the internet or watching videos.

Is 50GB of data enough for Netflix? ›

With these estimates, if you have 50 GB of data, streaming Netflix on a high-quality standard definition setting at 1 GB an hour could give around 50 hours of streaming on one device or 25 hours of streaming for two devices.

What happens if you go over 50GB of data? ›

After 50GB, you still get unlimited LTE data but may at times notice reduced speeds in areas with network congestion.

How many hours of streaming is 50GB of data? ›

A 50GB data plan will allow you to browse the internet for around 600 hours, to stream 10,000 songs or to watch 100 hours of standard-definition video.

What are the 4 data management standards? ›

Specifically, there are four major pillars to keep in mind for good data management: Strategy and Governance, Standards, Integration, and Quality. Most importantly, in order to be data-driven, an organization must embrace data as a corporate asset.

Is 25 GB data enough for a month? ›

With 25GB of data, you could stream audio for a very long time each month, though it's unlikely you'd find time to listen to 578 hours of music! Needless to say, you would have more than enough data to browse the internet and social media. You'd also have plenty of room to watch videos too.

Is 100 GB data enough for a month? ›

Your data should normally refresh every month or 30 days, so theoretically you have an average of 720 hours to fill a month. 100GB can last almost non-stop for the entire month, so you'd never have to connect to Wi-Fi if you didn't want to.

How long does 8GB of data last? ›

A 8GB data plan will allow you to browse the internet for around 96 hours, to stream 1,600 songs or to watch 16 hours of standard-definition video.

Is 1000 GB enough for a month? ›

That gives you enough data to stream movies, play online games, and participate in video conferencing calls. Usually internet providers give you 1 TB (1,000 GB) of data per month, although some providers like Xfinity have been slightly more generous. That's plenty for most people.

Is 350 GB data enough for a month? ›

Averages will be lower than this, but for U.S. usage, I consider 300–500 GB a month to be normal, and 500–1000 GB to be high. Anything higher than 1000 GB a month takes some real doing to achieve, but it probably just means watching enough 4K streaming content.

Does my phone use data when I'm not using it? ›

Mobile data is used in the background by some apps. If you keep it turned on, it will still be consuming your allowance even if you're not actively doing anything on your phone. Things get worse if you allow your apps to update using data.

Is 10GB a lot of data for a month? ›

How much is 10GB of data? According to Ofcom, the average person uses around 2.9GB of data per month, a statistic which is rising each year with the evolution of technology. That means 10GB is most likely more than enough for the average phone user.

How long will 5gb of data last on Netflix? ›

Netflix offers 4 mobile data usage settings: Automatic: The Netflix app selects a setting that balances data usage and video quality. You can watch about 4 hours per GB of data.

Is 1.2 TB of data enough for a month? ›

What can I do with 1.2 terabytes of data in a month? With that much data, you can video conference for 3,500 hours, watch 1,200 hours of distance learning videos, stream 500 hours of high-definition video content a month, or play more than 34,000 hours of online games.

Is 1 GB of data enough for a month? ›

How much is 1GB of data? Ofcom's 2021 report states that phone users (on average) opt for 4.5GB of mobile data for the month. In comparison, a 1GB bundle is a fair bit below average. This is a reflection of how much data we use these days - 1GB simply isn't enough for most!

Is 8GB of data a month enough? ›

As you can see, 8GB is plenty for an average mobile user. It could be the most ideal mobile data plan for you if: You enjoy streaming audio content on the go. You watch video content on mobile data sparingly throughout the month.

How much mobile data does the average person use a month? ›

In 2021, the average data used per smartphone per month worldwide amounted to 11.4 gigabytes (GB). The source forecasts that this will increase almost four times reaching 41 GB per smartphone per month globally in 2027.

How many GB is 2 hour movie? ›

Streaming Movies or TV

A 1080p HD 60 fps 2-hour movie averages 6 GB in file size. A 1080p HD 30 fps 2-hour movie averages 3 GB in file size. A 720p HD 2-hour movie averages 2 GB in file size. A Standard Definition (SD) 2-hour movie averages 1 GB in file size.

How much data do I need to stream TV for a month? ›

The resolution you use also affects the amount of data you use. According to Netflix, you use about 1GB of data per hour for streaming a TV show or movie in standard definition and up to 3GB of data per hour when streaming HD video.

Is 100 GB a lot for a year? ›

100GB is enough for most people in 2022, but it depends on which internet activities you do the most on a daily basis. Video streaming uses the most data, while email and browsing social media uses a lot less data.

Is 200 GB internet enough for Netflix? ›

200 Mbps is enough for the majority of households, presuming 2–4 users with regular habits like Facebook, Netflix, and the occasional video calls. 200 Mbps is sufficient for 4K streaming, but may cause issues if you attempt to stream to multiple devices at the same time over WiFi.

How long will 4GB of data last? ›

A 4GB data plan will allow you to browse the internet for around 48 hours, to stream 800 songs or to watch 8 hours of standard-definition video. Nowadays, the key difference between mobile phone price plans is how many gigabytes of data it comes with.

How much monthly data do I need for 5G? ›

So how much should you be looking to spend on your 5G data today? Based on those aforementioned stats and projections, if you were starting a 24-month 5G contract in 2022, you would ideally want at least 25GB of data allowance each month – though of course that may vary based on your own data needs.

Is unlimited data really unlimited? ›

In legal terms, cellular unlimited means any connection to the internet but not at any specific speed. Unlimited to a customer buying a data plan means they can get consistently fast internet connection speeds for as long as they want, and for whatever internet activity that they want to use it for.

Is 15GB of data enough for a month? ›

By most standards, 15GB is considered a fairly large data bundle. According to Ofcom's 2021 Market Report, the average monthly data used per mobile data connection was 4.5 GB. Considering this, 15GB is over triple the average!

Is 200 GB enough for a month? ›

200 GB should be enough for an average user for about one month, but for a heavy internet user such as a gamer or someone who streams videos frequently, it may not be enough.

Do I need an unlimited data plan for 5G? ›

Like myself, you might think you can get by with your 10GB (or less) of 4G LTE data per month now, but for 5G applications, it won't be enough. To appreciate 5G, you'll have to upgrade to an unlimited data plan (if you aren't already on one) or pay more for your existing plan depending on your carrier.

Is 100GB data enough for 5g? ›

100GB of data is close to being unlimited, and is far more than most people will use. However, it still comes in handy if you want to watch lots of films in the best possible quality. You could watch for example around 17 movies in top quality on the Netflix app with this allowance.

How many GB do I need to stream TV? ›

Live TV streaming uses about 1.4 GB per hour of HD video. That's more than double the amount of data that streaming movies or music videos use. So, if you're streaming live TV, you can expect to use about 2.8 GB of data per hour.

Is 100 GB enough for Netflix? ›

As with many things, this varies by app, but let's use Netflix as an example. On the highest quality setting that can use 1GB of data or more every 20 minutes – so at least 3GB per hour. That means that you could watch at most around 33 hours of content with 100GB of data.

Do I need a 5G data plan? ›

Can I use a 4G plan with a 5G phone? Yes, but you won't have access to our 5G network or 5G speeds - you'll only be able to access our 4G network and speeds. If you want to connect to our 5G network, you'll need a 5G phone, a 5G ready plan and have 5G coverage.

How many GB does the average person use per month on home internet? ›

It can also feel a little esoteric and difficult to grasp. According to that OpenVault broadband study I mentioned earlier, it all adds up to the average US household using approximately 514GB of data monthly. That data usage number is steadily on the rise. It's up 11% from the same time in 2021.

How much data does streaming TV use monthly? ›

Standard definition uses up to 0.3 GB per hour. High definition (720p) uses up to 1 GB per hour. Full HD (1080p) uses up to 3 GB per hour. UHD (4K) uses up to 7 GB per hour.

How many GB of data do I need for travel? ›

For most trips, 3GB or 5GB of data will be enough to cover common internet usage. However, if you are planning on using the internet more or if you are traveling for a month or longer, you might want to consider cards with up to 7GB of data.

How many data GB do I need on my phone? ›

If you play a lot of mobile games and/or take a lot of high-res photos, you'll want at least 128GB. However, if you don't use many apps and stream most of your content (like movies and music), you'll probably be fine with 64GB.


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