Tech Tips
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What Uses Data on a Cell Phone - Gigsky

October 11, 2023
Alexis Miller

As a cellphone user, you likely understand that your mobile device uses data. With many home carriers offering "unlimited data" plans, it’s not something most of us have to worry about daily. Additionally, if you connect to Wi-Fi at home or work, data usage on your plan may seem minimal.

However, when you travel and spend most of your time away from reliable, secure Wi-Fi networks, your data consumption becomes much more notable — especially if you're not using an eSIM plan like GigSky and end up racking up a huge bill with your home carrier. This situation often leads to the question, “How much data do I use?”

In this blog post, we will explore the importance of understanding mobile data usage, the amount of data regular activities consume, and how to maximize and conserve data during a trip.

How eSIMs Work & How You Use Data Through Them

An eSIM, or embedded SIM, is a digital version of the traditional physical SIM card. It’s integrated directly into your device's hardware. Unlike physical SIM cards, which need to be swapped out for different networks, eSIMs allow users to switch carriers and plans seamlessly, simply by using an app and the device’s settings. This functionality is especially useful for travelers, as they can avoid exorbitant roaming charges by purchasing short-term, local data plans from providers like GigSky. 

When using data through an eSIM, the consumption metrics remain consistent with those of a physical SIM; activities such as streaming, browsing, and downloading continue to use data at the same rates. eSIMs also offer an added layer of convenience by supporting multiple profiles, enabling users to toggle between their home carrier and travel eSIM plans without hassle, thus optimizing their data usage when abroad.

Why Is Mobile Data Usage Important?

According to Statistica, it was estimated that nearly 96 percent of the global digital population used a mobile device to connect to the Internet in mid-2023. The most popular mobile app activities were chatting and communicating, listening to music, and online banking activities, according to a survey of global smartphone users as of June 2023.

In 2022, the average data used per smartphone per month worldwide amounted to 15 gigabytes (GB), according to Statistica. Projections indicate this rate will increase almost fourfold—reaching 46 GB per smartphone per month globally—by 2028. Additionally, data usage is set to explode across the globe, with monthly data traffic forecasted to triple between 2023 and 2029. The exponential increase in data usage reflects the consumption habits of users, including the continued rise in video streaming and the adoption of IoT (Internet of Things) devices. These devices can range from wireless home speakers to cars, refrigerators, and smart cameras.

These high figures of data usage mean wireless carriers are well-employed. It also means that when it's time to travel, smartphone users need to be mindful of their data consumption. Failing in that respect can result in increased wireless bills or running out of data when needed most.

Activities that Use Data

Understanding which activities consume the most data can help you manage your usage more effectively, especially when traveling. Let’s consider what activities use data and how much.

Video Streaming

Video streaming is one of the most data-intensive activities you can engage in on your mobile device. Watching movies, TV shows, or even a few YouTube videos can quickly deplete your data plan. For example, streaming a standard-definition video can use about 1GB of data per hour, while high-definition video can use up to 3GB per hour. If you’re someone who enjoys binge-watching series or movies, this can significantly impact your data usage.

Music Streaming

If you love streaming music, be aware that it can also consume a substantial amount of data. Streaming music services like Spotify and Pandora make it easy to share and discover new music, but they can also eat into your data allowance. Listening to music for an hour at standard quality can use up to 70MB of data. If you listen on public transportation or for a few hours while exploring a new destination, this can add up quickly.

Video Chatting

Video chatting is another significant data-consuming activity. Applications like Skype, Google Hangouts, and FaceTime require substantial data to maintain both camera activation and video capability. For instance, a 10-minute video call on Skype can use about 30MB of data. Google Hangouts, however, can use up to six times that amount. If you frequently video chat, it’s essential to monitor this usage closely.

Browsing the Internet

Depending on how much time you spend browsing, and what kind of content you consume, this activity could eat up a lot of data. Quick searches for information typically use less data. But spending time on websites with high-resolution images or videos can result in a quick data drain. 

Browsing Social Media

Similar to browsing the Internet, Interacting on social media platforms can consume a large amount of data. This is because many social media sites include streaming content –  like Reels or TikToks – which is an aforementioned big data user. If you use social media to pass the time while traveling or for long periods at the end of the day, you’ll need to monitor your available data. 

Checking Email

On average, checking and interacting with emails consumes 1GB of data over about 12 hours. This includes opening and sending emails – but not downloading attachments within emails. Clicking links that lead to external sources usually requires the use of the Internet, which means you’ll switch to the aforementioned rate of usage while you browse. 

How Much Data Do I Use?

To better understand your data usage, various apps can help. One such app is My Data Manager, available in the App Store. This app tracks your data consumption and helps you understand which activities use the most data. Additionally, always use secure Wi-Fi whenever possible. If you’re at a hotel or in another location with a Wi-Fi network, log onto it to save your cellular data.

Practical Tips for Conserving Mobile Data

Being mindful of your mobile data usage is crucial, especially when traveling. This prevents you from wondering, How much data do I use?, when using navigation apps or completing other crucial travel activities. Here are some practical tips to help you conserve data:

  1. Always Turn Off Cellular Data When Not Needed: This simple step can prevent unnecessary data consumption.

  1. Use Wi-Fi for Data-Intensive Activities: Streaming video, downloading large files, and other data-heavy tasks should be done over Wi-Fi to save your cellular data.

  1. Close Apps Running in the Background: Many apps continue to use data even when not in use. Closing them can help conserve data.

  1. Manage Push Notifications and Content Updates: Apps like email, Facebook, and Twitter often use push notifications and background data. Set these to manual updates if possible.

  1. Limit the Use of Voice Assistants: Siri, Google Assistant, and other voice assistants can consume significant amounts of data. Use them sparingly.

  1. Cut Down on Email and Web Browsing: These activities can add up over time. Set your email to view-only mode to avoid downloading full attachments.

  1. Turn Off Cloud-Syncing Apps: Apps like iCloud and Dropbox can use a lot of data when syncing files. Disable automatic syncing and update only when connected to Wi-Fi.

  1. Turn Off Automatic Downloads: Disable automatic downloads for updates and new apps to save data.

  1. Monitor Your Data Usage: Use apps like My Data Manager to keep track of your data usage and identify areas where you can cut back.


Understanding mobile data usage is essential, especially as more of our lives become connected through our smartphones. By knowing how much data different activities use and employing strategies to conserve data, you can avoid asking yourself, How much data do I use, as well as unexpected charges and ensure you have data when you need it most.

Whether you’re an avid streamer, frequent traveler, or just someone looking to make the most of your data plan, these tips can help you stay on top of your data usage. And remember, using an eSIM plan like GigSky can offer you flexibility and control over your data consumption, making your travels worry-free.

By being proactive and mindful of your data usage, you can enjoy the benefits of staying connected without the stress of overage charges or running out of data.

For more information and tips on managing data usage, explore our other blog posts or reach out to us directly!