10GB of mobile data: How much is it and how long does it last?

Dan Howdle | March 17th, 2023

Woman choosing a phone

When you’re on the market for a new phone contract, your first big decision is probably the handset itself. Once you’ve decided on your shiny new device, the next choice to make is the size of your monthly plan. The amount of data you take per month can really drive your package price up, and you don’t want to find yourself shelling out on an expensive contract if you’re only using a fraction of your data. So how much should you choose?

Entry-level contracts will only offer you around 1-2GB of data, whereas top-tier plans might start around 50GB, all the way up to Unlimited data. Ofcom reports that the average mobile user manages to get through 5.6GB of data per month. Let’s take 10GB of mobile data, and explore what that would cover, based on different user habits. In real terms, how much is 10GB of data?

What can you do with 10GB of data?

It’s pretty likely that your data allowance doesn’t bear the weight of your entire monthly data usage. As is the case for most users, you’ll probably connect your mobile to wifi when you’re at home, and sometimes to free public hotpots like The Cloud. To keep things straightforward though, we’re basing this guide on using exclusively mobile data when browsing, streaming and downloading.

At a glance

Here’s what 10GB roughly translates to, if you were using your data for one activity only.

  • Spotify (Default quality) – 200+ hours or 3400+ songs
  • Apple Music (Default quality) – 85 hours or 1400+ songs
  • Youtube (480p definition) – 38 hours
  • Netflix (4K definition) – 3 hours
  • Video calling – 16 hours
  • Maps and satellite navigation – 2000+ hours

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Streaming music

Listening to music with services like Spotify and Apple Music can eat up your data quickly. Spotify’s default quality option streams at 96kbits/sec, which is about 2-3MB per song. If you stream music for an hour at this quality, you’ll use around 45MB of data. Apple Music’s default quality ist 256kbits/sec, which is more in line with Spotify’s Very High quality option. This translates to roughly 7MB per song, so an hour of Apple Music will use around 115MB of your data.

If you listen to an hour of music a day whilst on mobile data, you’ll have used between 1GB to 4GB of your data allowance, by the end of the month, depending on the app and quality option you choose.

Video services

Video apps like YouTube or Netflix will chip away at your data allowance at a much faster rate than music streaming. Most services have an Automatic quality option, which will optimise the stream to balance quality and data usage. Netflix suggests that four hours of content will use around 1GB of data on average. YouTube is the same here, with standard quality video using around 260MB per hour. At full 4K quality, you can expect that 1GB to be used up in around 20 minutes or less, across most services.

As you might expect, we don’t really advise using mobile data for your daily TV binge, especially if you only have 10GB to play with.

Social media

Following closely behind Netflix and Youtube, social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram can also gobble up data like there’s no tomorrow. Both apps stream videos in full HD, which means you could see your 10GB disappear in a matter of days if you aren’t careful with your usage.

Facebook and Twitter can be similarly data intensive, especially if you have video content set to autoplay. These are the adverts and videos that play automatically as you scroll past them, which download in the background.

Video calls

Like Netflix, video calling apps automatically optimise your video quality based on your current data signal, so the amount of data used per minute can vary drastically. If your Whatsapp video call uses around 10MB a minute on average, 10GB of mobile data would let you chat for around 16 hours.

Maps and navigation

Many drivers now use their mobile phone as their go-to satnav, thanks to its portability and ease of use. You might think that having your phone on continuously for the duration of your drive might use up lots of data, but this is far from the case. Apps like Google Maps use your GPS location to plan and guide your route, not your mobile data. Data is almost only used to download new map data and live travel data, and this will be a few MBs maximum per hour.

Most map apps will also keep your local map data stored on your phone, so if you are driving the same route regularly, it won’t download new every time. Google Maps also offers an Offline mode, to conserve data for longer journeys.

Downloading apps

Where downloading apps is concerned, this is perhaps the most transparent use of your data, as you can see exactly how large the file will be before you download. Games tend to be the largest type of app to download, and can sometimes be well over 300MB. Other apps are usually smaller, though file size varies based on the app’s features.

Do I need more than 10GB?

It’s unlikely you will spend 17 hours on video calls using just your mobile data, but if your everyday usage combines video calls with streaming music, videos and scrolling social media, you may well need a data bundle that packs a punch. Really, it comes down to how often you need to use your mobile data rather than a wifi connection.

It goes without saying that if you are at home and connected to your own broadband, streaming, browsing or calling will not use your data allowance. You can watch whole movies and series from your handset, without using a megabyte of mobile data. Likewise, if you have wifi available where you work, access to public hotspots on your commute and aren’t afraid to ask your friends for their wifi password, you might find you are connected to broadband internet more often than not.

In this case, you probably don’t need more than 10GB of mobile data.

If you are away from home for extended periods of time, and prefer not to connect your device to public wifi hotspots when you are out and about for security reasons, it may well be necessary to up the data allowance on your bundle. Some free wifi hotspots also throttle download speeds, or outright block streaming services like YouTube and Spotify. Having ample data to download that Audible audiobook, or stream the episode you missed last night in HD on iPlayer may be necessary, especially for lengthy train journeys and flights or lunch breaks.

Another reason to supercharge your data is wifi tethering. If you’re constantly on the move, you might use your phone’s mobile data as a personal hotspot to work online from your laptop, tablet, or any other wifi-enabled device. Websites and apps for laptops and tablets can often be more data-intensive than their mobile counterparts. Even gaming online with portable consoles like the Nintendo Switch is possible with a personal hotspot, but if your favourite game needs to update, that download could eat into your mobile data significantly.

If these experiences sound familiar, we’d definitely recommend looking above the 10GB mark.

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How to save money with a small data allowance

If your budget limits the amount of data you can subscribe to, there are plenty of ways to save both your data and your cash.

  • Use wifi hotspots – As well as connecting to your wifi at home, use public wifi hotspots when you’re on the move to save your data allowance
  • Listen offline – Most music streaming services allow you to save data by downloading your favourite songs to listen to offline
  • Download your favourite episodes – Likewise, video services like iPlayer, Netflix and Prime Video all have watch offline options, so you can take your TV on the go without eating into your data
  • Reduce your stream quality – Switch to a lower quality when streaming media, to reduce the overall data usage
  • Disable autoplay – In apps like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, disable autoplay to reduce the amount of media being downloaded in the background
  • Get a package with perks – VOXI by Vodafone offers unlimited social media on its packages, so you can use Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook without impacting your data allowance
  • Rollover your data – Some plans with Sky Mobile, Virgin Mobile and iD Mobile allow you to carry across any unused data from the current month into next month’s allowance, giving you more to play with
  • Track your usage – Your mobile network’s utility app should tell you how much data you have left before your next billing date, allowing you to manage your use throughout the month
  • Set a data limit – Most handsets allow you to set a limit on the amount of data you can use during a certain period, with warnings as you approach this limit

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See also

Frequently asked questions

Is 10GB enough for a month?

The average mobile owner used 5.6GB of data per month in 2021. Whether 10GB is enough for you is entirely based on how you use your data, and how often your phone is connected to wifi.

What uses a lot of data?

Above all else, video streaming uses the most data, especially HD and 4K video. Avoid streaming shows or movies in HD unless you have a high data allowance or are connected to wifi.

Why is my phone using data when I'm not on it?

Apps which are active in the background could be using data, even when your phone is locked, in order to receive push notifications, send performance data, etc. This is usually quite a small amount of data, but you can limit background data use in each app’s settings. If your apps are set to update their software automatically using cellular data, this could also use up significant chunks of data. Consider changing your settings to only update over wifi, or to update manually when you choose.

Do texts and calls use data?

No, texts and calls are covered by other parts of your mobile plan. However, if you are sending messages or making calls through apps such as Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp or Instagram’s Messaging feature, then these will use data from your overall allowance. Check your bundle to see how many minutes and texts you have.

Does turning off mobile data save data?

Yes, if you put your phone in aeroplane mode or manually turn off mobile data, you’ll stop any background processes from chipping away at your data allowance. If your plan is around the 10GB mark, we wouldn’t worry about doing this, but if you are on a very small data allowance like 1GB or 2GB, this could be a good way to be stringent with your mobile data.