Which is worse, watching unused allowances vanish at the end of the month or running out of 4G data within a week? Choosing the right data tariff can be difficult, but it's certainly something to think about before signing up to a new contract.

So how exactly do you achieve the perfect balance? Take a look below to discover the key points when considering your data usage, as well as some top tips for finding a tariff that suits your requirements.

What is your current data allowance?

Do you find your current allowance to be, on average, too much, too little, or - in true Goldilocks style - just right? If you're finding yourself purchasing pesky bolt-ons or wasting money on a high tariff you simply do not need, then it's time to reassess. Why not start by checking your bill, your mobile's usage log, or your network app to see how much data you're actually getting through per month.

What do you use your data for?

Once you know whether you need to increase or decrease your allowance, you'll need to start assessing your daily behaviour on your smartphone. Frequent web browsing, music streaming, uploading smartphone photos to Instagram, and heavy social activity all add up, and you might find yourself going through GBs quicker than you think.

Data-heavy activities

Here are some of the main culprits for data usage. Of course these can depend on certain variables, such as the size of photos or the length of a Netflix episode, but they're a good guide.

Take a look at the following activities, and discover which of your own smartphone habbits are guilty of eating up your monthly data.

Browsing the web: With 100MB of data, you can view around 43 web pages.[1]

Using Social Media: Scrolling through Facebook and Twitter won't eat up too much data unless you start watching videos and uploading tons of photos. 5 hours on Facebook usually will set you back 100MB.

Uploading photos: Do you love updating Facebook with your latest pictures? One photo will roughly use up 5MB.[2]

Chatting on WhatsApp: Constantly talking to your friends on WhatsApp? You'll be happy to know you can send over 16,000 messages with 500MB data. One message will, on average, use 30KB.[3]

Browsing YouTube: A five-minute, non-HD video will use up 15MB - with a 1GB data package you can watch 66 videos.[4]

Using Google Maps: A handy app to have, using Google Maps on-the-go for 4 hours over the course of a month will need 250MB of data.[5]

Watching Netflix: A standard, 60-minute episode on Netflix in standard definition will require approximately 720MB of data.

Streaming Music: If you regularly use apps like Spotify to listen to music, you'll approximately use up 1.2MB per minute - that's 72MB per hour.[6]

If you counted more than four of these as regular pastimes - especially streaming video and music - then you're a data-heavy user.

Data-heavy users should think about purchasing a larger data package of 5GB or more. For example, with a huge 10GB of data each month, you can: watch 7 episodes of your favourite show on Netflix, listen to 341 songs on Spotify, send 8,333 messages on WhatsApp, upload 62 photos, use Google Maps for 17 hours, scroll endlessly on Facebook for 51 hours, watch 66 videos on YouTube, send 3,333 emails and still have 300MB left over.

If most of the list doesn't apply to you, you'll be a low-data user, so consider a 500MB or 250MB package. With 500MB, you could upload 20 photos, send 3,333 WhatsApp messages, watch 6 YouTube videos, use Google Maps for 1 hour and spend 5 hours on Facebook.

Once you've found your ideal monthly data allowance, don't forget to check out the fantastic smartphone and SIM-only deals over on Mobiles.co.uk.

  1. www.confused.com/mobile-phones/mobile-data-calculator ↩︎

  2. www.techradar.com/news/phone-and-communications/mobile-phones/how-much-4g-data-do-you-really-need-1176594 ↩︎

  3. As footnote #1 ↩︎

  4. As footnote #1 ↩︎

  5. As footnote #1 ↩︎

  6. As footnote #2 ↩︎