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How Much Data Do I Really Need? (Updated with LTE) [Terry's Tech Support]

Getty Images/Chris Hondros

Now that I’ve had my Verizon iPhone 5 for a few months now, I feel it’s a good time to address this topic again. My results were based on 3G usage, but that all changes with LTE.

So if you’re switching to an LTE phone, how much data do you really need? It may be a bit more than you anticipated.

In my original article from June of 2012, I analyzed my data usage on my 3G iPhone 4 and concluded that even though I had an “unlimited plan,” I rarely ever used more than 1GB of data per month. So when I switched my family over to a shared 4GB plan I was pretty confident we would always be safely under the cap.

When the first few bills arrived, I was quite surprised.

Several different tech blogs have run independent tests on Verizon’s LTE data usage and come up with a surprising statistic: LTE users consume on average 36%* more data than 3G users. Here’s the most startling result from AppAdvice.com:

Screencap from AppAdvice.com

Apps, even under normal conditions, used more data on LTE. Pandora wasn’t bad, but Netflix is a data hog. Data usage almost tripled on LTE. Different tech blogs also found that because LTE was faster and more reliable, users were more likely to surf to more pages than before and when streaming music from iCloud, Apple sent higher quality songs over LTE requiring more bandwidth.

Something to note: I’ve also noticed that the Wi-Fi antenna isn’t as powerful in the iPhone 5. Standing in the same places outside the Radio Ranch that I used to be able to catch the station’s Wi-Fi on my iPhone 4, I can’t reach it on my iPhone 5. I’m not sure if they had to make sacrifices to the antennas in the iPhone 5 to make it that slim, or if the aluminum body interferes in a way that the glass and steel body of the iPhone 4 never did, but there is a significant difference.

No matter what you’re doing on an LTE phone, it’s going to use more data. On 3G I rarely ever used 1GB of data and now on LTE I average between 1.5GB to 2GB a month. If you’re planning on switching to an LTE phone, or recently have, just bear in mind that even under normal usage you’re probably going to use more.

*According to fiercebroadbandwireless.com.

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