What is mobile data?
Mobile data is a smartphone feature that allows the user to access the internet while not on Wi-Fi.
Your phone will usually use 3G, 4G, or 5G technology to connect to the internet. 5G is the newest data available, but is not available on all phones. 3G and 4G are more common and are accessible on most smartphones.
What uses up mobile data?
Anything that needs the internet to function will use up mobile data if you’re not connected to Wi-Fi.
- Browsing on search engines like Google
- Refreshing, sending, and receiving emails
- Sending and receiving iMessages on iPhones (you don’t need mobile data to send text messages)
- Video chat apps such as Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, etc.
- Social media messaging apps like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp
- Streaming television episodes, videos, or movies on streaming apps like Netflix and YouTube
- Streaming songs on music apps like Spotify or Apple Music
- Playing games on your phone
All these activities use up different amounts of mobile data depending on how demanding they are. For example, watching a YouTube video in HD will consume more data than watching it in a lower quality. Learn more about how much data different activities use up.
For a better idea of how much data these activities eat up, you can check out our data guides and find the right amount for you
Should you leave mobile data on all the time?
You may want to keep your mobile data on all the time so you never miss a notification, but it’s best if you don’t do this. Here’s why.
Excessive data usage
While having your mobile data on for a couple of hours a day is fine, having your mobile data on constantly could have a negative effect on your phone.
Mobile data is used in the background by some apps. If you keep it turned on, it will still be consuming your allowance even if you’re not actively doing anything on your phone.
Things get worse if you allow your apps to update using data. You could accidentally use GBs of extra data, compared to if you just waited till next on Wi-Fi.
It’s a good idea to monitor your mobile data usage so you can keep an eye on how much you tend to use up per month, so you know when it’s best to have your data turned on or off. This will also allow you to gain a better understanding of the most cost-effective bundle for you.
It drains your battery
Keeping your mobile data on will drain your battery quicker than if it was off. There’s a few reasons why this happens.
Firstly, your phone will be constantly searching for signal. If you’re in an area with particularly poor signal, things only get worse, as your phone consumes more power whilst searching.
Secondly, your apps that use data in the background will drain your battery. When an app sends you a push notification, it needs a bit of battery to do this. Same for if they update in the background - it’s all extra demand on your phone and, therefore, more battery consumption.
Of course there is plenty more you can do to make your battery last longer, but for starters, turning off your mobile data will help.
If you’re wanting to stay off the grid, you should turn your data off. By having it switched on, your mobile service provider could (theoretically) track your phone’s location.
You may have previously given apps permission to use your location data too, meaning that you're unwittingly sharing your private information.
Of course, if none of these are a worry to you, there’s no harm in leaving your data on all the time!