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How Much Data Does Streaming Video Use? (Simple Answer!)

by Lisa Hayden
How Much Data Does Streaming Video Use?

How Much Data Does Streaming Video Use?....

Has this ever happened to you? You just got on the bus and have several hours of travel time to sit through. You open your phone, push a few buttons, and get yourself comfortable as your favourite Netflix show starts to load. Unfortunately, just 30 minutes into your 3-hour travel time, the show begins to lag and you get this notification that you've run out of data.

If this occurs to you often, then it's probably time to do the math and figure out just how much data you're really consuming with video streaming. Out of all the services you can access online, videos are by far the greediest when it comes to data. Here's a rough breakdown:

Average Estimate of Data Consumption:

  • If you're watching on low quality, expect consumption of around 300 megabytes per hour. Note that each gigabyte contains 1000 megabytes. Low quality typically has a range of 240 or 320 pixels.
  • Standard quality is set at 480 pixels. This will eat up around 700 megabytes of data per hour.
  • If you want high-quality streaming videos, expect a data consumption of 900 megabytes at a minimum. This is because "high quality" can offer pixels at a range of 270 to 2000. If you're running it at full 2K capacity, you will be consuming around 3 gigabytes per hour.
  • There's actually a 4th option which is known as UHD. This can burn through 7.2 gigabytes of your data per hour.

How to Lower Data Use While Streaming Videos

adjust your data settings for streaming

So what can you do with this problem? There are several ways you can control your data and plan your show binges around your available gigabytes. Here are some ways on how this can be done:

Adjust your data settings.

1. This can be done by accessing your Netflix account via the computer. Once you sign in, head on over to your profile and hit Account. Go to My Profile and choose Playback Settings. You will be given several options on data consumption and just hit the one you want.

Make sure to save the changes! Netflix will automatically adjust its video quality depending on your choice. Note though – it takes 8 hours before the change takes effect so don't get too excited! If the change won't take place, that's probably because you have pending downloads. Clear that first before trying again.

2. Adjusting Data for Netflix Mobile Video Streaming

If you're using Netflix through your phone, you can also make adjustments through the App. The most convenient one is the Automatic set up, which lets Netflix make the decisions for you. On average, this will give you 4 hours of streaming time for every 1 gigabyte. The Save Data option allows you to watch up to 6 hours per 1 gigabyte. A Wi-Fi Only set up means Netflix will only pay if you're connected via Wi-Fi. Finally – there's the Maximum Data plan which is the one you use if you're lucky enough to have unlimited data.

Control streaming settings

3. Adjust General Settings in YouTube

Fire up your YouTube app and click on your profile picture. Choose Settings and then hit General. Look for "Limit Mobile Data Usage" and turn this one. This will change your settings so that you will only get HD video streams if you're on Wi-Fi. While you're there, try turning on the "Remind me to take a break" option as well!

4. Adjust Video Quality in YouTube

Aside from limiting mobile data usage through the YouTube app, you can also adjust the video quality, so there's a longer streaming time per gigabyte. You can do this by tapping the three vertical dots on the upper portion of any YouTube video you're watching. Hit "Quality" and choose a lower video setting. If you're only listening to uploads – such as when you're listening to an audiobook – then you can choose the lowest option available without worrying about the sound quality. If you're on a PC, you can lower video quality using the same steps.

5. Quality on Amazon Prime Video

For Amazon Prime, you'll have three options for video quality. There's the Good, the Better, and the Best. At 480 pixels, the "Good" is actually equal to YouTube's "Normal" video quality. Better is already a high definition streaming and can eat up around 2 gigabytes of data per hour. Finally, you have the 4K or "Best". Don't worry though – if you're a mobile user, there's a 4th option for you which is the Data Saver. This consumes less data compared to desktop shows.

6. Disable Autoplay on YouTube

tweak streaming settings for download

If you look at the screen carefully, you'll find a little toggle on the lower right portion of the video. This is an Autoplay button that instantly plays the next video after the first one has ended. Try turning this off as well so you won't consume precious data on a video you don't really want to watch.

7. Hulu

Like the other streaming services, Hulu offers different video qualities. The highest one can eat up around 2700 megabytes per hour while the lowest one will cost you around 680 megabytes per hour.

8. Adjust Data Use in Phone

For a catch-all solution, you can also try placing a data cap limit on the phone itself. You can do this by going to Settings and look for Wireless & Networks. Hit "Mobile Data" and then choose the Settings icon on the upper right corner. Put in whatever "Monthly Data Limit", you need.

One last hint – you can try checking your phone to see how much data is being consumed by a specific app. Just go to Settings and then choose the App you want to check out. If you want to be a bit more specific, try clearing this data again so that the counter goes back to zero. Now, apply all the information you got in this article for a week and then come back to the app settings.

Did the data consumption decrease? Play with this information, tweak a few things in your phone, and you'll eventually get a data allocation program that lets you watch all your favourite shows within budget.

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