A quarter of smartphone users run out of mobile data every other month, with 2.9 million people running out of mobile data within the first ten days of their monthly allowance.
Here at Uswitch, we surveyed 2,007 UK adult smartphone users to give a nationally representative view on how much mobile data the UK is really using. Here are the results we found:
Over a third of the population admit they’ve had to buy additional data before their monthly plan is refreshed.
A quarter of the UK, the equivalent of 10 million people, run out of mobile data every other month and seven million people chew through their inclusive data every month. Meanwhile, a whopping 2.9 million people need to top up within the first ten days of their monthly allowance.
With so many people in the UK running out of data, just what is are we using our data on?
Half of mobile users admit that they spend their allowance browsing the web, with 47% of those regularly checking social media platforms. Almost a third (30%) stream music while a quarter (24%) watch videos, films and TV series on apps such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
Nearly seven million people (18%) say they use their mobile data due to slow broadband speeds at home, opting to disconnect from their home Wi-Fi in order to get a better connection. Out of those, 2.6 million would rather tether their laptop or tablet to their mobile data hotspot than rely on slow Wi-Fi connections. And almost a fifth (19%) avoided public Wi-Fi hotspots due to security concerns.
Mobile users who admit topping up their data at least once every two months have an average spend of £17.41. That's an additional £384 million per year on top of their monthly plan to stay online!
Brighton residents are the UK’s biggest spenders throughout the year, topping up an extra £115 on average, which is more than twice as much as those from Plymouth who part with an extra £43.75 once their mobile data allowance is depleted.
Figures show that men are spending 53% more on additional data, with an average of £19.80 per top up across the UK, compared to women who purchase £12.88 per top up. Millennials (25-34 year olds) spend the most on extra data, with an average top up of £20.26, followed closely by 35-44 year olds who add another £19.94 to their phone bill.
There are a number of ways you can reduce your mobile data usage:
Download services over Wi-Fi so you can use apps offline. Regular home broadband or public Wi–Fi hotspots mean you can download whatever you need before you head out and shift to 3G, 4G or 5G networks.
Avoid streaming shows on long journeys. Netflix, Amazon Prime and BBC iPlayer all allow you to download programmes over Wi–Fi. So, as long as you have enough storage space on your smartphone, you can stash whatever shows you want to watch without having to use any of your data. This is particularly handy for long train journeys, where 4G network access can patchy.
Plan your tracks before you travel. Spotify and Apple Music allow you to download offline music, so you can listen to playlists, albums and podcasts without having to stream them. Not only will this save data but your battery life will also thank you as it won't have to work as hard by pulling information across the network.
Use Airplane mode when using Google Maps. Google Maps allows you to download entire towns, cities and regions, meaning you can use your phone in Airplane mode and still get from A to B. This is particularly useful when travelling abroad and you’re concerned about being caught out with data roaming charges.
Switch to a data plan that suits you better. Many mobile network providers now have packages with data–free services included or data rollover plans. Compare our SIM-only deals and our best contract phone deals to ensure you get a mobile data package that suits your browsing needs.
For even more great data saving tips, check out our in-depth internet data allowances guide.
Please note: The mobile data calculator provides an estimate of how much mobile data you might need. This estimation should be used as a guide only, not a recommendation. When purchasing a mobile data plan you should consider a plan that best suits your needs with a little bit extra for unexpected downloads.
Calculations: All calculations are based on the following:
Browsing the web = 2.33MB per page (Source: Uswitch)
Emails = 0.10MB per email (Source: Uswitch)
Video streaming = 644MB per hour (Source: Uswitch)
Music streaming = 80MB per hour (Source: Uswitch)
Exercising = 0.5MB per hour (Source: Strava)
Maps = 5MB per hour (Source: Uswitch)
Games = 43MB per hour (Source: Uswitch)
Whatapp = 0.0007 per message (Source: Uswitch)
YouTube = 3.23MB per minute (Source: Uswitch)
Facebook = 2.05MB per minute (Source: Wirefly)
Twitter = 6MB per minute (Source: Canstar Blue)
Snapchat = 2.67MB per minute (Source: WhistleOut)
Instagram= 1.67MB per minute (Source: Proximus)
Other = 2.13 per minute (Source: Average of Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram)