How much data do you really use?

It’s a story well told: travellers using Facebook, listening to Spotify and watching videos on YouTube while abroad and unwittingly racking up a massive data roaming bill. A day doesn’t go by without hearing of someone on the receiving end of serious bill shock, the results of not realising what tariff they’re on or not making any data roaming provisions before stepping on the plane.

Despite raised awareness about the confusion surrounding the high data roaming charges the same mistakes are nevertheless still being made. The EU’s recent legislation to cap the networks’s data charges is welcome but still doesn’t go far enough to reassure people to use their mobile devices while traveling abroad. With data charges even more expensive outside of the European Union, the days of bill shock are still with us; the need to turn off the mobile device when visiting another country is still prevalent.

A key factor running through these horror stories is the lack of awareness of how much data a person is consuming when, say, accessing their social networks or web browsing. It’s easy to believe that half-an-hour web browsing on a sunbed by the pool won’t make a dent to your phone bill. If we’re being honest does anyone actually know the amount of data used for each activity? Of course the amounts depend on the device used and that's why it’s hard to grasp or find out the actual data consumption.

Using the data counter on the Goodspeed Wi-Fi hotspot device we decided to see how much data was consumed when carrying out popular activities for holiday makers and business people on a laptop and smartphone when connected to the mobile 3G network. The results are below.

Data consumption comparison

Although this isn’t an exact science the results provide a sound gauge of the data needed to run everyone’s favourite applications and services. In isolation these amounts may seem small but they soon add up.

With an all-you-can-eat domestic data culture you can see why people aren’t aware of the data consumed or even care. But it’s a different story when you don't have an unlimited plan to back you up also when abroad. So users need to either put in place a data roaming plan or be more mindful of their usage.

-Hanne @Uros