Most of us know how much data we’re downloading on our phones or devices, but who’s aware of the new data-usage wave surging on the horizon? We’re already shopping, watching, streaming and downloading a huge amount of data. And it’s increasing – there was a 104% increase in YouTube usage by Optus customers from October 2014 to May 2015. However, there are other factors increasing data usage.
HIGHER RESOLUTION = MORE PIXELS = MORE MOBILE DATA
Our mobile screens are getting larger, and their resolution is becoming higher definition. That is, they have more pixels per square inch. The higher resolution creates a more detailed, crisper image.
Take the three most recent iPhones. The iPhone 5S has a screen resolution of 1136 x 640 pixels (totalling 855,040 pixels); the iPhone 6 is slightly larger at 1334 x 750 (totalling 1,000,500), the iPhone 6 Plus has a screen resolution of 1920 x 1080 (totalling 2,073,600 pixels).
The basic equation is: higher resolution = more pixels. And more pixels = more data consumption with visual content such as photos and videos. If you watch the same High Definition (HD) clip on different phones, you’ll use different amounts of mobile data. For example, 30 minutes of YouTube videos downloaded on an iPhone 5 used 343MB of data; while the same download on an iPhone 6 Plus used 519MB. That’s a 50% increase in data.
To ramp the comparison up a peg, let’s look at Standard Definition (SD) downloads on older handsets, versus HD downloads on newer handsets.
NETWORK QUALITY: 4G
As you probably know, the increased speed of the super-fast 4G – or 4th generation – network means our phones can download data at a higher rate. Additionally, YouTube automatically adjusts the video stream on HD definition phones from SD to HD, based on your internet connection. So when your phone connects to a 4G mobile network, it can trigger HD YouTube downloads. On 3G networks, HD streaming is typically stymied by the reduced bandwidth.
Let’s put some figures around it. Watching a short five-minute YouTube clip in SD on an iPhone 5S means downloading 50MB of mobile data. Watch that same clip in HD on an iPhone 6 (at 720p streaming) and you’re downloading 90MB of data. But download it in HD on an iPhone 6 Plus (at 1080p), and you’ll use 170 MB of data. It’s the same five-minute clip, but its potential data downloads range from 49MB up to 170 MB. Data usage depends both on your handset’s screen resolution and the video streaming quality (SD versus HD options of 720p or 1080p).
FEATURE IN APP
When the “video auto-play” feature in Facebook is on, more data will be used compared to when it’s off.
For example, browsing for ten minutes on a Facebook news feed with a good mix of text, pictures and videos on an iPhone 5 over a 3G network with auto-play off results in 8.7 MB of data being downloaded. Upgrade to an iPhone 6, stay on the 3G network, but turn the auto-play on, and you’ll download 23.7 MB – a 172% increase. With the launch of the 4K screen into the smart phone market later in 2015, expect another surge in mobile data usage.
It’s great that a high-definition, superior experience is now available to most mobile phone users. But equally, it’s good to be aware how much mobile data you’re using, and to ensure you’re on right plan.
Optus’ superfast 4G network now covers 96.9% of the Aussie population. Learn more at Optus Wholesale.