Mobile data packages: Does size matter?!

Mobile data and how much you need of it is something of a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma (we’re sure Winston Churchill would have said). So we’ve broken it down for you.

Mobile data packages - does size matter?

Stinging charges

Some network providers whack more than £5 per megabyte (MB) onto your monthly bill for busting the mobile data allowance you’re paying for. But what does mobile data allowance even mean?

Mobile data usage is measured in kilobytes (KB), megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB).  For the record, 1,000 kilobytes is equal to 1MB – and 1,000 MB is equal to 1GB. Every process on your phone, from downloading an app to instant messaging a friend, uses a certain amount of this data.

Here’s some examples:

  • Reading an email = 15KB
  • Social media update with photo = 500KB
  • Downloading a song = 5MB
  • Streaming a TV programme = 600MB plus

With the ever-increasing number of functions on our smart phones, it’s easier than ever to bust the allowance you are paying for – and be stung with some hefty charges.
So the first step is to work out what kind of user you are to get an idea of the allowance you need. Then you’re in the best place get the cheapest deal for you.

 Check out the three scenarios below (all tariffs refer to an Apple iPhone 5c 8GB):

“I basically use my phone to make calls – but I do check emails occasionally and browse webpages …”

Checking emails and browsing the occasional webpage doesn’t require much data at all.  A plan with a bigger emphasis on free texts and calls would be better suited to your needs and can often be a lot cheaper.


WHAT CAN I DO WITH IT?:  Browse webpages for between 1 and 6 hours, send between 30 and 160 emails with attachments and download between 4 and 20 minutes of TV and video clips per month.

TOP TARIFF:  £14.50 a month with This deal includes 100 minutes, unlimited text and 100MB data.

 “I use a handful of favourite apps, open emails and download music…”

This puts you as a moderate user, so between 1 and 2GB a month should be enough data to avoid exceeding your limit.  But for an accurate assessment, it’s still worth looking back at a few past mobile phone bills to check the data you used and take an average.


WHAT CAN I DO WITH IT? Browse webpages for 11 hours, send 300 emails with attachments, download 17 songs and watch 11 clips

TOP TARIFF:  £21.00 a month with (£28.00 before cash back). This deal includes unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of data.

“I use my phone all the time. Apps, maps, emails, FaceTime, streaming films – I don’t put it down!”

If you are a heavy smart phone user, you’ll need a larger data package. For the purposes of context, you could visit 100 web pages and stream one hour of music every day on your phone with 5GB – and still have spare data to download all of Cliff Richard’s albums between now and Christmas!

SUGGESTED ALLOWANCE:  1GB to 2GB – but if price difference is minimal, opt for unlimited data

WHAT CAN I DO WITH IT? Browse webpages for 33 hours, send 1,000 emails with attachments, download 50 songs and watch 33 clips

CHEAPEST TARIFF:  £30.41per month with This deal includes unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited data.

** Figures are rough estimates

Top tips

Here is a list of quick tips on data usage…

  • Get connected: Connecting to your home wi-fi when you’re in – and to a trusted (and preferably free) public wi-fi while you are out – will prevent your data from being zapped. 
    The Cloud is the most widely available – and free – public wi-fi service out there. Simply register with your email address and create a password, then wherever the Cloud wi-fi is available, your phone will ask you to log on when opening a browser  or app – and you can surf away at your leisure. 
  • Limit how much you stream: Many on-demand TV sites, including BBC iPlayer and 4od, as well as subscription music sites like Deezer and Spotify let you to download programs and music offline – and sync them to your phone. This is ideal for your commute as you won’t have worry about busting your data allowance – or bad signal spots!
  • Budget on the side of caution:  Many contracts offer unlimited data once you specify you need more than 1GB. These deals can often offer attractive texts and calls allowances. Check out our mobile phones page for more.  
  • Close down your apps: Apps, when they are left on standby, can use up data without us even knowing it. Gaming apps are the worst offenders. For iPhones, this is simple done by double tapping the home button to bring up the multi-tasking view, then swiping in an upwards motion the screenshot of the app you want to exit.

Please note: any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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