How much mobile data do you need, and can you ever have enough?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
How much mobile data do you need, and can you ever have enough?
With more and more carriers going to tiered data plans, we're interested to revisit the subject of just how much data the average user needs. If you ask the average user, most will likely say unlimited, but carriers seem to think most users will accept 2-3 gigabytes of data as enough of a monthly allotment.

Last week we briefly lost our internet connection, and turned on the mobile tethering feature of our smartphones. It was remarkable to watch the data counter keep track of how much data we were using, even as the computer sat idle checking email and synchronizing several email boxes. In less than an hour, we managed to rack up over 250 megabytes, or almost 15% of the total 2GB monthly data allowance for the phone used, just checking email.

This brought up the question, how much does someone need? For each user the answer is a little bit different. Some smartphone users enjoy the freedom to download movies on the go, a bandwidth consuming action if done over the wireless carrier's network. Others enjoy streaming music such as Pandora or iHeartRadio. We've heard many people who have racked up large data usage bills because the user enjoys live streaming GPS applications that consume large amounts of data downloading maps real-time while driving across the country.

Here's some interesting facts about what the carriers say users can do with 2GB of data:

- Download up to 10,000 plain text emails
- Download up to 1,500 emails with documents attached
- Visit 4,000 web pages
- Post 500 photos on social media sites like Facebook

While the carriers market the statistics showing how much users can do, we felt it fair to also post the realistic limitations of the same 2GB of data allotment. With 2GB data, a user can:

- Download 2 high definition 720p movies
- Post 40 videos on social media sites like Facebook
- Download 285 high quality MP3s
- Stream high quality music for as much as 4 hours a month
- Use a live updating GPS app to drive from Los Angeles to Seattle

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We think it's very interesting to see the difference between the carriers' representation of what a user can do with such amount of data, and the representation of what many smartphone users can do using the features popular on advanced devices. Before smartphones, the carriers' list of things 2GB can do was representative of an average user, but many users new to smartphones don't realize just how data hungry these devices are, and find themselves facing data cutoff or throttling, or worse, overage charges when the user surpasses the monthly data allotment on the plan.

What do you think is a reasonable data allotment for a modern smartphone? How much data have you used in any given month? Do you think it's fair for a carrier to sell a phone by advertising features that when used can exceed your data allotment in such a short period of time?

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