Today, people stream music and audio on a variety of devices: smartphones, tablets, and voice-controlled speakers like Amazon's Echo Dot and Google's Home devices. They use services like Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and more to stream their favorite music. But how much data does streaming music use?
Data Usage Depends on Streaming Quality
The amount of data your music streaming services use depends on the streaming quality settings in the application. The quality settings are measured in bitrates, which is the rate at which data is processed or transferred. The higher the bitrate, the better quality the music is when you listen to it.
For example, Apple Music tops out at 256 Kbps (kilobits per second), while Spotify Premium gets up to 320 Kbps. Most services allow you to change the quality setting, based on your subscription type and how you're listening to the music (e.g. over Wi-Fi or a mobile network).
In terms of data usage, 320 Kbps translates to approximately 2.40 MB per minute of audio or 115.2 MB per hour. So, streaming music for an entire 8-hour workday would chew through nearly 1 GB of data.
Each Streaming Service Is Different
When it comes to the individual music streaming services, each one has slightly different quality rates. For some, it's because of the music file types they use; for others, it's based on the subscription level for each customer.
How Much Data Does Pandora Use?Pandora Free: Wi-Fi streams music at 128 Kpbs and will use approximately 60-70 MB per hour.Pandora Free: Mobile data streams music at 64 Kpbs automatically and will use roughly 30 MB per hour.Pandora Plus or Premium: Wi-Fi or mobile data uses 192 Kbps automatically and will use approximately 90 MB per hour.
Any paid Pandora account has a choice of low (32 Kpbs), standard (64 Kpbs), and high (192 Kpbs) quality streaming no matter how you're listening. It defaults to high quality unless otherwise changed.
How Much Data Does Spotify Use?
Spotify offers different streaming quality options based on the listener subscription level, rather than the device they're listening to. Both free and premium accounts have automatic, low, normal, and high streaming levels, while premium gets a "very high" option on top of that.
No matter if you're listening through your desktop, smartphone, or tablet, Spotify's streams music at:Automatic (free & premium): Spotify will adjust your streaming quality based on your network connection. Low (free & premium): Streams music at 24 Kbps and will use approximately 90 MB per hour (or 0.09 GB per hour).Normal (free & premium): Streams music at 96 Kbps and will use approximately 345 MB per hour (or 0.35 GB per hour).High (free & premium): Streams music at 160 Kbps and will use approximately 576 MB per hour (or 0.6 GB per hour).Very high (premium only): Streams music at 320 Kbps and will use approximately 1.2 GB per hour.
How Much Data Does Amazon Music Use?
Amazon hasn't officially revealed the streaming quality of their Music service available for Prime members or the separate Amazon Music Unlimited. The general consensus online is the audio quality options range from 48 Kbps to 320 Kbps, depending on the the streaming quality. Listeners can choose the quality option based on how they're listening, which is suitable for times when you're listening on mobile networks.
At the low end, you'd use approximately 175 MB or 0.175 GB per hour, while on the high end, you'd use approximately 1.2 GB per hour.
How Much Data Does Apple Music Use?
Unlike the other music streaming services, Apple Music streams at 256 Kbps no matter how you listen, meaning you'd use approximately 1 GB per hour.
How Much Music Can You Stream on Your Data Plan?
Based on the previous information, here's how much data you'd use on a variety of plans.
On a 2 GB mobile data plan, you could stream up to:47 hours of low-quality music28 hours of normal-quality music17 hours of high-quality music
On a 5 GB mobile data plan, you could stream up to:117 hours of low-quality music70 hours of normal-quality music42.5 hours of high-quality music
On a 10 GB mobile data plan, you could stream up to:234 hours of low-quality music140 hours of normal-quality music85 hours of high-quality music
Strategies & Tools to Manage Data Usage
Unless you've got unlimited mobile data on your smartphone plan, you'll want to learn how to manage your music streaming data usage.
Stream Only Over Wi-Fi. The first option is to only stream music when connected to Wi-Fi. Besides the data usage savings you'll enjoy, Wi-Fi signals tend to be more robust, so you won't suffer from signal degradation and low-quality bitrates. Internet service providers may still optimize your bandwidth, but not to the same degree as your wireless company.
Upgrade Your Music Streaming Account. Some, like Pandora and Spotify, offer higher quality bitrates to paid listeners, but they also offer more listening options. Customize your playlists, download songs or entire albums, and more, with your paid account.
Set Your Streaming App to Offline Listening. Most music streaming services offer the option to download audio content for offline listening. This is perfect for times when you're unable to connect to Wi-Fi or a mobile internet network to stream in real-time.
Depending on the service you're using and the subscription level you have, you'll be able to download different audio content. For example, Pandora makes certain content eligible for downloading, while Spotify lets you download up to 10,000 songs. Most services also require you to maintain your subscription to continue listening to the music you've downloaded. Once your subscription expires, the songs are removed from your account/app.
Use a Data Management App. For mobile device users, there are data management apps you can install to monitor your data usage. They'll monitor your usage, then notify you before you run out of data. A few data management apps to consider are:My Data Manager (Android and iOS)RadioOpt Traffic Monitor (Android and iOS)Data Usage (Android and iOS)DataMan Next (iOS)Glasswire Data Usage Monitor (Android)
Track Usage on Your Mobile Provider App. The final strategy to monitor your data usage is to use your mobile service provider's app. Most of them offer the ability to track your data usage in real-time through their apps, as well as send you notifications once you reach predetermined usage levels. For example, T-Mobile sends a text message at 80 percent and 100 percent usage of any service (text, voice, or data), while Sprint sends a message for most plans at 75 percent, 90 percent, and 100 percent usage of any service. Check with your mobile provider to download their branded app.