With internet data caps and phone plans, knowing how much data streaming services use is absolutely crucial. It can make you think twice about catching up on your favorite show while you’re on the bus or bored. That boredom can cost you.
Regardless if it’s video or music, how much data does streaming use? The results may surprise you. Let’s take a look at what Disny+, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Spotify, and Amazon Prime Video are costing you in data.
How Much Data Does Disney+ Use?
Disney, the giant itself, has come onto the scene as of last year with their own streaming service. Boasting most of their owned content, you can thumb through Disney’s catalog of movies and TV shows for pretty cheap ($6.99 USD per month). While monthly billing is cheap, what’s the data usage like?
It’s no surprise that Disney+ falls in line with some of the other streaming services. To take a trip back through Memory Lane, watching Disney+ in SD (Standard Definition, which is 480p) will soak up about 700MB for every hour of entertainment.
That’s not very different from Netflix, which isn’t surprising. When it comes to streaming in 1080p, or HD, you can expect around 1.5GB per hour. That’s actually lower than the expected data usage if you stream Netflix at the same resolution.
How Much Data Does Netflix Use?
With over 130 million subscribers, and counting, Netflix is consumed by your neighbor and your neighbor’s neighbor. There’s a reason it’s one of the biggest streaming services. Its library of content is absolutely monstrous and something is there for just about anyone—and it’s affordable. It’s data usage is something else.
Netflix is very transparent about the amount of data you’re expected to use in an hour’s time, and in fact, pretty accurate. With a ‘Low’ setting, on average, you’re using 800MB of data per hour. ‘Low’ is considered 480p, which isn’t bad on smaller devices, but it still bites into your data, especially on a tight phone plan. It gets worse with 720p soaking 1.3GB, on average, per hour. When you push it to 1080p, it’s between 1.9GB and 2.55GB per hour.
However, it doesn’t end there. Netflix is also capable of streaming in 1440p, or 2K, as well as 4K. Streaming in 2K will burn 2.8GB of data per hour, with 4K eating 3.5GB to 7GB per hour.
Thankfully, Netflix does have several levels of quality you can watch your favorite content at. You can drop it to as low as 480p, which is still 800MB per hour, but definitely easier to look past with a smaller screen. It isn’t until you start stretching the image too far that 480p starts to look pretty ugly.
How Much Data Does YouTube Use?
YouTube is sometimes better streaming content than other services, but other times nearly on par. However, it isn’t far off and can still be just as expensive to your data cap than other streaming services.
YouTube can go really low with video quality—as low as 144p. The peak of its lower quality is 480p, which is watchable. Between those two there’s 240p and 360p. From lowest to 480p, you’ll be draining about 80MB to 500MB per hour.
As quality rises, so does data. Streaming YouTube in 720p is about 25MB per minute or 1.5GB for every hour long video. Streaming in 1080p costs twice as much at 3GB per hour, or 50MB per minute of video watched. Streaming in 1440p comes in at 5.5GB per hour or 90MB for every minute.
4K, on the other hand, is a data eater. With a hefty cost of 14GB per hour, or 233MB per minute, you need quite the data plan to utilize it. But then there’s the biggest of them all (so far), the behemoth himself, 8K. Streaming in 8K will erase 54GB of data per hour, or 900MB per minute.
How Much Data Does Hulu Use?
Another giant among the streaming platforms is Hulu, home of The Handmaid’s Tale. While lower quality settings are better, it’s when you reach into HD territory that shows Hulu isn’t far from the other streaming giants.
On average, streaming content in SD will cost you about 680MB every hour. That’s lower than both Netflix and Disney+. For quality content, that’s pretty good. However, 720p, which is HD, is 1.3GB per hour. Unsurprising with Netflix using just as much, but less than YouTube.
How Much Data Does Spotify Use?
With Spotify, they are less inclined to provide information on what you can expect to use in data, but with a little math (and a pinch of salt), you can get a fairly good estimate.
An average song that’s around 3 minutes long is going to be between 2.5MB to 3MB. With that number, you’re coming out at about 1MB per minute of song. Extrapolate that and you can expect to use about 60MB of data for every hour you play music, give or take 10MB or so. By that logic, if you listen to 2 hours of music every single day, for 30 days, you’d be using 3.6GB every month—not hour, or minute, or day, but every month.
Why so low? It’s simply the format. Videos involve more than audio; images can pack a video full of data.
How Much Data Does Amazon Prime Video Use?
As far as streaming in higher qualities, Amazon Prime Video doesn’t perform very different from other platforms. There’s three tiers available on Prime Video, which are Good, Better, and Best.
If you stream with ‘Good’ settings, then videos are set to 480p and will eat up 800MB of data every hour of video. That’s more than what YouTube will run, but on par with Netflix. Streaming with ‘Better’ settings, it’s burning through 2GB of your data every single hour. Again, not far from Netflix.
However, the real kicker is streaming in ‘Best’ settings. While platforms like YouTube will cost you 14GB of data streaming in 4K, Amazon Prime Video uses only 6GB of data every hour.