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How Much Smartphone Data Do You Really Need? [Terry's Tech Support]

Flickr.com/Yutaka Tsutano

When most major cell phone companies announced the end of “unlimited” data plans I was concerned about living under a limited cap–with the possibility of overages and additional fees. But I endeavored to find out how much data I really needed and was surprised by the findings.

On most cellular carriers Unlimited Data has gone the way of the dinosaurs: extinct. Verizon completely phased out the unlimited data option even for customers who were “grandfathered in” like me.

When I purchased my iPhone 4 on the Verizon Network in 2012, I was quick to snap up the Unlimited Data option. I had no intention of living with a quota, and I wanted to use my shiny new iPhone as much as I wanted, any way I wanted. Now with the death of Unlimited Data, Verizon has given us the new ‘Share Everything’ plans. They offer unlimited talk, unlimited text, and the ability to use your smartphone as a hotspot for free, but you have to select the amount of data to share on your plan. Here’s how the plans break down:

Verizon’s new ‘Share Everything’ Plans. Verizon

1 gb a month? That certainly doesn’t sound like much…

I grabbed a data tracking app for my iPhone and started crunching numbers. I used sigterm’s Data Usage ($0.99 iTunes) because it tracks both cellular and wi-fi. The app allows you to set the monthly quota for your cellular usage, so I set it at 1gb to see what would happen. I thought I would hit my quota in the first day. Almost one month has passed and I’ve only used 12.9% of my allotted 1gb of cellular data.

I was shocked by the results.

I don’t know if I would label myself a smartphone “power user” but I am on my iPhone quite a bit. I manage four radio station sites, Facebook pages, numerous admin tools, analytics, snap tons of pics with Instagram, text, email… and I didn’t even use 1gb of data.

Of course, I am on wi-fi network a lot. I have wi-fi at home and at work so I don’t have to use my cellular data. I don’t watch Netflix often, and I very rarely stream music on Spotify or Pandora. Your results may vary.

It seems like 1GB per phone is a generous amount of cellular data, and more than I usually use. I would advise most new smartphone users to sign up for a larger data plan at first, perhaps 3 to 4GB of data per month, and then track your usage.

Once you find your data “sweet spot” and alter your plan accordingly.

Next: How Much LTE Data Do I Really Need? The Answer Will Surprise You

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