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How many MB are in a GB? How to measure mobile data

By Josh Levesque

Originally published June 8, 2023


Last Updated July 18, 2024

How to measure mobile data? With Fox Mint holding up a measuring stick

Off the top of your head, do you know how many MB are in a GB? It’s okay, most people don’t. In fact, we’d venture to guess that most people don’t know how much data they’re using or how much they have left on their plan until they get that dreaded “You’ve used all your data” message. Understanding data amounts and measurements can actually be quite simple though, and this blog is here to help.

In this article

How do you measure mobile data? 

So you likely already know the basics about what mobile data is (and if not, go ahead and click that link to get a crash course via another beautifully written blog). When talking about mobile data, megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB) tend to come up most often. When looking at cell phone plans that list things like 250MB or 15GB, you might wonder how many megabytes there are in a gigabyte. This is an excellent trivia question at dinner parties and the answer is 1,024MB in one gigabyte. But let’s break it down a bit further.

What is a byte?

A byte itself is a group of bits (ever hear the term 8-bit? Yep, that’s how many bits are in a byte). They’re the basic units of information in computer storage and processing. Bytes are usually a unit measuring memory size. So megabytes and gigabytes are just a specific number of bytes, like the way a centimeter or a millimeter is a specific portion of a meter (although #ImperialSystem forever).

Now you might be asking…what does this have to do with you? Another good question. As we said above, if you’ve got a phone that can surf the web, check Facebook and Twitter, or literally do pretty much anything, it needs mobile data to do that. You’ll have a monthly mobile data allowance from your carrier, and that data is measured in GB or MB. The allowance tells you how much GB or MB you can use before your service might be slowed down. You can stay ahead of this by regularly checking the data usage on your iPhone or checking the data usage on your Android phone

Okay, ready for the really good stuff? Because we’ve barely touched the tip of the iceberg (byte-berg?) when it comes to megabytes and gigabytes. Read on for a deep dive into these units of information. 

What is a kilobyte?

One other measurement you might hear about are kilobytes, especially paired with megabytes, as there are 1,024 KB in 1 megabyte. Many of the most common things you can do with your phone (like send a text-only email) use just a few kilobytes.

What is a megabyte?

A megabyte is a unit of information equal to 1,024 KB, or about one million bytes. You should start to notice a pattern of each larger measurement being equal to 1,024 of its smaller counterpart. To illustrate how much a megabyte is, MP3 audio is about 1MB per minute and downloading or uploading a high-res photo is about 1MB (see our chart below for even more thought-provoking measurements).

What is a gigabyte?

As stated above, 1GB is 1,024 MB, or about a billion bytes. Gigabytes are considered the standard of measurement for data plans for all cell service providers, and you’ll often see plans offering 5GB, 15GB, 20GB and so on.  

So, what can you do with a GB (or 20)? See the section below on how much data 1GB is and for a full chart of how much data your daily phone activities really use.

What is a terabyte?

Another measurement you might see pop up (although much less frequently) are terabytes. One terabyte is 1,024GB or around 1 trillion bytes. You shouldn’t worry about TB too much. Here’s how much data you’d have to use to even approach a TB:

  • Send/receive 40,000 emails
  • Game for around 16,500 hours
  • Post to social media for 5,600 hours

So unless you really love Fortnite, Instagram, data roaming, refreshing all of your apps or responding to your boss’ emails…you probably won’t get too close to a terabyte.

What are petabytes and exabytes?

It’s safe to say if you aren’t worried about using a terabyte of data, you needn’t concern yourself with petabytes or exabytes. But just in case you do end up getting this question on a game show and don’t want to waste a lifeline, a petabyte is equal to 1,024 terabytes and an exabyte is equal to…you guessed it, 1,024 petabytes or just over 1 BILLION GB.

To put that in perspective, if you watched TikTok on your phone non-stop (as in 24 hours a day, no sleep, no Wi-Fi), it would take approximately 123,000 YEARS to use an exabyte of data.

We know that’s a lot of info to throw at you, so here’s a handy chart with all the conversions from largest to smallest to make things simpler. Think of it like a conversion chart for baking, except you’re making a tasty wireless plan instead.

Bytes chart

1 EB = 1024 PB
1 PB = 1024 TB
1 TB = 1024 GB
1 GB = 1024 MB
1 MB = 1024 KB
1 KB = 1024 Bytes
1 Byte = 8 bits
1 Bit = 0 or 1 (y’know, binary?)

How much data is 1GB?

1GB is actually quite a large amount of data, especially for anyone that relies on Wi-Fi and doesn’t usually do activities that require large amounts of data, like streaming. So, what exactly can you do with 1GB? Here’s a list of common activities on your phone and how much data they use:

1 email (only text) 3 KB – 20 KB
1 email (with a photo attachment)350 KB
1 email (with a Microsoft Office attachment)300 KB
Visiting 1 web page150 KB – 1.5 cMB
Streaming music for 1 minute500 KB
Updating your social media with one photo500 KB
Uploading/downloading a high-resolution digital photo1 MB
Streaming video for 1 minute2 MB – 5 MB
Downloading 1 app, game or song3 MB – 4 MB

If you do the math (don’t worry, we’ll do it for you) that means, with 1GB of data, you could upload or download a thousand high-resolution digital photos, stream videos for about 500 minutes, or download a little over 300 apps, games or songs.
That’s a lot. And yet, that’s not even the limit to how many GB you could get. For example, Mint offers data plans up to 20GB and beyond with Unlimited. Think about how many knockoffs of Candy Crush you could download with that amount of data.

What is GB on a phone?

We just did a deep dive into different measurements of mobile data, but you may also see GB come up in regards to memory when you’re shopping for new phones. The difference between the two is that one is data being transferred via the mobile network, while the other is data being stored on the device itself. Watching a video on YouTube or streaming Netflix, taking a FaceTime or Zoom call, streaming music on Spotify, and even using Google Maps while driving all use mobile data, but as long as you aren’t downloading anything, these don’t take up storage space on your phone. Saving a video or some music to your phone to listen to later does take up storage space on your phone. This of course means downloading an app over the mobile network and saving it on your phone uses both.

Some phones, like the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, come standard with 256 GB of internal storage while the newer iPhone 14 Pro Max offers multiple memory options, up to 1 TB of internal storage. It all depends on what you intend to do with the phone. If you’re good at paring down your photo and video gallery on a regular basis and using your Cloud, 256 GB might be more than enough. But if you’re planning on shooting and editing a feature film in full 4K using just your phone…you might want to spring for more storage.  

Mint Mobile’s plans offer flexibility where it matters most

Now that you know all about measuring mobile data, you might be wondering just how much data you actually need. Everyone’s data usage is different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. We know that all too well, as Mint employees discussed their own data usage in a previous blog. Check out our blog that explores how much data you need for help deciding what plan is right  for you.

Or you can always just start with our 5GB plan. If you don’t run out of data, you can rest easy knowing you didn’t buy more than you needed. But if you do use up all 5GB before the month is over, you can opt to add more data or adjust your plan to the next tier. The choice is yours though. We don’t do overages here. That’s why we even wrote a blog about why flexibility matters in a data plan. Now that you have all the data…or information that is, you have a lot to think about. Just know that when you’re ready to save money on your wireless plan (like… one of ours), we’re here to help make sure you don’t buy anything you don’t need.

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