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How much data do music streaming services use?
Here's how much your favorite music streaming service is costing you in monthly data, and how you can reduce it.
Music streaming services have made groovin’ on the go easier than ever. No need to clog up your phone with gigabytes of music. Now you simply load up your favorite music streaming app and pick from millions of songs stored in the infinite bandwidth of the cloud.
However, streaming over the Internet can chew through a lot of data. To avoid blowing through your monthly data cap, compare the most popular music streaming services with a breakdown of average data usage.
Spotify offers three tiers of audio quality, with higher quality using more bandwidth and data.
- Normal: 96kbps
- High: 160kbps
- Extreme: 320kbps
This means a typical three-minute song uses roughly 2.16MB on normal, 3.6MB on high and 7.2MB on extreme. If you listen to an average of one hour of music every day, this works out at a monthly data usage of approximately 1.27GB on normal, 2.1GB on high and 4.2GB on extreme.
Apple Music streams at 256kbps, which clocks in at roughly 5.6MB for a three-minute song. Assuming you listen to an hour of music each day, this would chew through 3.3GB of your monthly data allowance.
However, if you’re a T-Mobile customer , you can stream as many songs as you like through Apple Music without using any of your data, thanks to their data-free Apple Music offer.
Google Play Music
Google doesn’t advertise the exact bitrates of Google Play Music’s quality settings, but general testing places them in line with Spotify’s, resulting in the following tiers:
- Low: About 96kbps
- Normal: About 256kbps
- High: About 320kbps
So, streaming a three-minute song on Google Play Music consumes roughly 2.16MB of data at low quality, 3.6MB at normal quality and 7.2MB at high quality. Grooving to an hour of music a day would burn through an average of 1.27GB on Low, 2.1GB on normal and 4.2GB on high.
Data usage on YouTube Music is tough to nail down, with varying audio and picture quality. Here is a general guide to go by:
- 240p: About 150MB an hour
- 480p: About 370MB an hour
- 720p: About 670MB an hour
- 1080p: About 1.1GB an hour
Based on these figures, streaming an hour of music a day would tear through roughly 4.4GB at 240p, 10.8GB at 480p, 19.6GB at 720p and 33GB at 1080p. Yikes.
YouTube Red subscribers can stream videos from YouTube Music in audio-only mode, removing the video and using less data. But because there’s no consistency in audio quality between videos, it’s less straightforward than other streaming services. Nevertheless, assuming an average of 256kbps is a safe bet, and this works out at 3.6MB for a three-minute song and 2.1GB for a month of streaming an hour a day.
Tidal touts its support for high-quality lossless audio, but you’ll pay in data. Fortunately, the Tidal mobile app allows you to choose your desired audio quality from the following options:
- Normal: 96kbps
- High: 320kbps
- Lossless: 1411kbps
At normal quality, a three-minute song weighs in at roughly 2.16MB, while it hits 3.6MB at high quality and a hefty 31MB at lossless quality. Listening to an hour of music a day would eat up approximately 1.27GB at normal quality, 2.1GB at high quality and a whopping 18.2GB at lossless quality.
Deezer offers some of the most versatile audio streaming options for tailoring your data usage to your mobile plan allowances. In the audio settings section of the mobile app, not only can you pick between preset options, you can also customize your preferred sound quality to a particular bitrate based on whether you’re streaming over Wi-Fi or using your mobile data. Preset options include:
- Basic: 64kbps
- Compact: 128kbps
- Enhanced: 320kbps
At basic quality, you can reduce data usage on a three-minute song to just 1.4MB, while compact weighs in at 2.8MB and enhanced sits at 7.2MB. On a schedule of one hour of music streaming a day, basic quality chews through roughly 844MB of your monthly data allowance, with compact upping that to 1.65GB and enhanced topping out at 4.2GB.
SoundCloud streams all its music at just a single audio quality: 128kbps. For audiophiles, this can be quite disappointing, but it does keep data usage reasonably low. A three-minute song at 128kbps clocks in at roughly 2.8MB, with an hour of daily streaming using up approximately 1.65GB.
Like SoundCloud, iHeartRadio streams at a flat 128kbps, with the average three-minute song accounting for approximately 2.8MB of data. Streaming for an hour a day docks your monthly data allowance by roughly 1.65GB
Compare over 10 music streaming services
If you stream your music to get your tunes, these top music apps give you options to save on data. However, if keeping your high-quality audio is important, but you need to cut your data, consider downloading your favorite tracks or look for an offline playback feature with some services.
Read reviews and browse deals to find the best music streaming service for you.
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