Streaming over Wi-Fi vs. your mobile data

Over 20.7 million Brits don’t understand the difference between streaming data over Wi–Fi vs. streaming via mobile data.

Noi Rotstein

by , Insights & Marketing Executive

Whether it’s checking out a new track in the comfort of your own home, or watching the latest episode of your favourite television series during your daily commute, most of us have conducted a data stream at some point in our lives. However, when it comes to understanding the difference between streaming data over Wi-Fi and over mobile data on our mobile phone, how many of us really know the difference?

We decided to delve into how many Brits actually understand the difference, as well as how long we continue our mobile plans after they have expired. The results might surprise you.

Wi-Fi vs. mobile data

It turns out that half of all Brits (50.02%) don’t understand the difference between streaming data via Wi-Fi and streaming data via mobile data.

21.3% of respondents are simply not sure of the difference between the two, while 28.8% have no idea. Not surprisingly, Millennials are the most in touch when it comes to the differences, followed by Gen Xers and then Baby Boomers.

It comes as no surprise that mobile deals come with different quantities of data. Depending on your allowance, if you find you’re always streaming on the go, it could end up costing you significantly in excess data charges.

How long do we continue on plans after the contract ends?

Inclusions and promotions offered by providers can, and do, change dramatically all the time. This means that by the time your mobile phone contract expires, it’s crucial to reassess the market to make sure you’re really getting the best of what’s out there. This is especially the case if you find yourself paying excess data charges every month. Switching your contract to allow a greater data allowance may actually work out cheaper than constantly topping up those data packs.

In fact, less than one in three Brits (31.0%) change plans as soon as their contract expires. For the rest of us, 28.3% have continued on the same plan for up to 12 months, 14.9% for 1–2 years, 13.7% for two–four years. Over one in 10 of us (12.1%) have continued on the same monthly plan for more than five years!

Gender

Nearly 1 in 3 women (32.6%) don’t continue on their plan after the contract has ended, compared to men (29.3%). When it comes to those continuing for up to 12 months after the contract has expired, it’s a similar story for both men (28.2%) and women (28.4%).

12.8% of men admit to continuing their monthly plan for more than 5 years, compared to 11.3% of women.

Generation

Millennials are the most likely to continue on the same mobile plan in the short term, with 45.1% continuing for up to 12 months, compared to 29.2% of Gen Xers and 19.7% of Baby Boomers.

Baby Boomers are the most likely to switch plans as soon as their contract is up (38.3%), followed by Gen Xers (28.7%) and Millennials (19.7%). Interestingly, Boomers are also the most likely to stick to what they know, remaining on an expired monthly contract for more than 5 years (15.3%), followed by Gen Xers (11.6%) and Millennials (6.0%).

Amount of time continued on monthly mobile plan after contract’s endMillennialsGen XersBaby Boomers
1-2 years15.8%16.4%13.1%
1-6 months20.2%16.5%11.1%
2-3 years8.0%8.0%6.7%
3-4 years5.4%6.1%6.9%
7-12 months24.9%12.7%8.7%
I have never continued on a mobile plan after the contract ends19.7%28.7%38.3%
More than 5 years6.0%11.6%15.3%

Source: finder.com

Region

Those residing in the North West (38.4%) are most likely to switch plans as soon as their contract has ended, followed by those in the Yorkshire & The Humber (36.8%) and the South West (35.4%). In contrast, those in Wales (19.8%) are most likely to stay on the same plan for more than 5 years, followed by the West Midlands (16.1%) and East of England (14.4%).

So what is the difference?

Wi-Fi is what allows your devices (for example, mobile, tablet, laptop) to connect to the Internet wirelessly. In order to access the Internet via this method, you’ll need to be in range of a router and connect to it’s network, for example, at your home, at a shopping centre or even in a hotel lobby.

While still facilitating Internet access, mobile data operates a little differently. Instead of connecting to the network provided by a router, your mobile data connects to a network (e.g. EE Mobile, Vodafone or BT) as long as you’re within coverage area.

Both options can be selected and changed between in the settings menu of your device – but be careful! Many make the mistake of leaving their mobile data switched on, even when within range of a Wi-Fi connection. For example, forgetting to switch on Wi-Fi when returning home after work. This can result in excess data usage – depending on your plan’s allowances – costing you much more money.

How should I compare phone plans?

If you’ve just recently finished up your contract, or are simply looking to see what’s out there, it can be tricky to know exactly where to start. Do you need a lot of data? What coverage do you require? Here are some important questions to ask before making that final decision.

  • Data allowance. As our mobiles become integrated into our lives more than ever, it makes sense that our need for data also increases. If you spend a lot of time on Facebook or watching YouTube videos, go for a plan with plenty of data. In contrast, if you rely on your phone for calls and texts only, reducing your data will also see a reduction in your bill.
  • Network coverage. It’s crucial to check both the coverage and expected speeds of carriers, especially as not every provider has access to the full 4G network. You’ll also need to check that your area has an expected speed as per your preference.
  • International coverage. Whether you’re a frequent traveller or simply like to keep your contacts updated when you do venture overseas, it’s important to check the international coverage allowances of providers. Most postpaid plans will allow you to use your phone overseas, but the global roaming fees they charge can vary quite widely. To avoid a scary bill when returning to home soil, check if you can buy international calls/texts/data packs.
  • And of course, overall cost. By assessing the above features, and additional extras on offer, it’s crucial to weigh up your options to make sure you’re getting the most for your money. See our comparison of 12 mobile providers below to get started.

Comparison of 12 Mobile Providers

Rates last updated November 18th, 2017
Details Features
EE Mobile
EE Mobile
  • Data: 150MB to 30GB
  • Minutes: 50 to unlimited
  • Texts: 250 to unlimited
  • Min. contract: 30 days
  • Prices from: £5pm
  • Wi-Fi hotspots: Yes
  • Type of contract: Contract with phone, SIM only, pay as you go
  • International: Via add-on or pay as you go.
  • Network: EE
  • Offers: None
Go to site More info
ID Mobile
ID Mobile
  • Data: 100MB to 30GB
  • Minutes: 125 to unlimited
  • Texts: 5000 to unlimited
  • Min. contract: 30 days
  • Prices from: £5pm
  • Wi-Fi hotspots: No
  • Type of contract: SIM only, pay as you go
  • International: Takeaway SIM plans
  • Network: 3 Mobile
  • Offers: None
Go to site More info
3 Mobile
3 Mobile
  • Data: 500Mb to unlimited
  • Minutes: 100 to unlimited
  • Texts: 3000 to unlimited
  • Min. contract: 30 days
  • Prices from: £5pm
  • Wi-Fi hotspots: Yes
  • Type of contract: Contract with phone, SIM only, pay as you go
  • International: Calls, texts and data included in all advanced plans. Add-ons are also available.
  • Network: 3 Mobile
  • Offers:
Go to site More info
BT Mobile
BT Mobile
  • Data: 500Mb to 15GB
  • Minutes: 400 to unlimited
  • Texts: unlimited
  • Min. contract: 12 months
  • Prices from: £10pm
  • Wi-Fi hotspots: Yes
  • Type of contract: Contract with phone, SIM only, pay as you go
  • International: Add-ons available
  • Network: EE
  • Offers: £3/month discount on 6GB SIM only plans
Go to site More info
O2 Mobile
O2 Mobile
  • Data: 250MB to 50GB
  • Minutes: 250 to unlimited
  • Texts: 500 to unlimited
  • Min. contract: 30 days
  • Prices from: £10pm
  • Wi-Fi hotspots: Yes
  • Type of contract: Contract with phone, SIM only, pay as you go
  • International: Via add-on
  • Network: O2
  • Offers: None
Go to site More info
Virgin Media Mobile
Virgin Media Mobile
  • Data: 500MB to 20GB
  • Minutes: 300 to 5000
  • Texts: Unlimited
  • Min. contract: 30 days
  • Prices from: £6
  • Wi-Fi hotspots: Yes
  • Type of contract: Contract with phone, SIM only, pay as you go
  • International: Via WhatsApp SIM.
  • Network: EE
  • Offers: Deals on Samsung Galaxy S8
Go to site More info
Vodafone Mobile
Vodafone Mobile
  • Data: 250MB to 30GB
  • Minutes: 150 to unlimited
  • Texts: 0 to unlimited
  • Min. contract: 30 days
  • Prices from: £10
  • Wi-Fi hotspots: For contract and SIM only plans
  • Type of contract: Contract with phone, SIM only, pay as you go
  • International: Included in 12mth SIM plans
  • Network: Vodafone
  • Offers: None
Go to site More info
FreedomPop Mobile
FreedomPop Mobile
  • Data: 200MB to 4GB
  • Minutes: 200 to unlimited
  • Texts: 200 to unlimited
  • Min. contract: 30 days
  • Prices from: £0
  • Wi-Fi hotspots: No
  • Type of contract: SIM only
  • International: Via WhatsApp SIM.
  • Network: 3 Mobile
  • Offers: Join and receive 1 month of premium 2250MB, unlimited minutes and texts for free
Go to site More info
Lycamobile
Lycamobile
  • Data: 500MB to 12GB
  • Minutes: unlimited
  • Texts: unlimited
  • Min. contract: 30 days
  • Prices from: £1.50pm
  • Wi-Fi hotspots: No
  • Type of contract: SIM only, pay as you go
  • International: Via add-on
  • Network: O2
  • Offers: 10% student discount
Go to site More info
Plusnet Mobile
Plusnet Mobile
  • Data: 500MB to 5GB
  • Minutes: 250 to unlimited
  • Texts: 500 to unlimited
  • Min. contract: 30 days
  • Prices from: £5pm
  • Wi-Fi hotspots: No
  • Type of contract: SIM only
  • International: Pay as you go basis
  • Network: EE
  • Offers: Use your monthly plan allowance like at home in any EU destination with "Roam Like at Home"
Go to site More info
Giffgaff Mobile
Giffgaff Mobile
  • Data: 100MB to unlimited
  • Minutes: 150 to unlimited
  • Texts: 500 to unlimited
  • Min. contract: 30 days
  • Prices from: £5pm
  • Wi-Fi hotspots: No
  • Type of contract: SIM only, pay as you go
  • International: Pay as you go basis
  • Network: O2
  • Offers: None
Go to site More info

  • We conducted these figures from a survey of 2,031 British adults commissioned by finder.com and conducted by Mortar London in July 2017.
  • We included only regions with 40+ respondents – an accurate sample size – in this analysis. Therefore, region data excludes Northern Ireland.

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