How Many MB are in a GB and How Much Do I Need?
In this article:
- What is mobile data?
- How do you measure mobile data? How many MB in a GB?
- How much data is 1GB?
- How much data do you need?
- What type of data plan makes sense for you?
With most wireless plans including unlimited talk and text nowadays, the one of the main things most people have to consider when choosing a new plan is mobile data. But what is mobile data? And how do I measure it? And is the data plan I purchase now still going to fit when I get back from my vacation? Let’s get you some answers.
What is mobile data?
Mobile data (also called “cellular data”) is simply any information sent or received by your phone over the internet via the cellular network. Browsing social media, streaming music and videos, downloading apps, making video calls, and surfing the web all require an internet connection. You can get that via Wi-Fi (which we talk about more here) but Wi-Fi isn’t always available. That’s where mobile data comes in.
How do you measure mobile data? How many MB in a GB?
Let’s start with the basics. Megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB) come up often when you’re talking about data. 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 there are 1,024MB in one gigabyte.
But let’s break it down further. What the heck 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.
Okay. Deep breath. Because that’s not all there is to know about these megabytes and gigabytes. Read on for a deep dive into these units of information.
What is a megabyte?
A megabyte is a unit of information equal to about one million bytes. 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 4GB, 10GB, 15GB and so on.
So, what can you do with a GB (or 15)? 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 are terabytes and kilobytes?
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 an email) only use a few kilobytes.
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 as outlined by Allconnect:
- 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, or responding to your boss’ emails…you probably won’t get too close to a terabyte.
To make it simple for you, here’s a chart with all the conversions from largest to smallest thanks to Tech Advisor. Think of it like a conversion chart for baking, except you’re making a tasty wireless plan instead.
1 TB =
1 GB =
1 MB =
1 KB =
1 Byte =
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 from Lifewire:
1 email (only text)
3 KB – 20 KB
1 email (with a photo attachment)
1 email (with a Microsoft Office attachment)
Visiting 1 web page
150 KB – 1.5 MB
Streaming music for 1 minute
Updating your social media with one photo
Uploading/downloading a high-resolution digital photo
Streaming video for 1 minute
2 MB – 5 MB
Downloading 1 app, game, or song
3 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 buckets up to 15GB and beyond with unlimited. Think about how many knockoffs of Candy Crush you could download with that amount of data.
In terms of usage, 0-4GB/mo is actually considered light use. Moderate is 5-10 GB/mo, heavy is 11-15 GB/mo, and extremely heavy is over 15GB+ a month. You probably didn’t know that the average smartphone user in America uses 5-6GB of mobile data each month, because the companies trying to sell you their highest-priced unlimited plans don’t advertise that.
How much data do you need?
It’s easy for anyone to assume unlimited is the way to go when they don’t know how many gigabytes it takes to watch a 10 minute YouTube video or download an app. But we want to fix that. Now that you know exactly how mobile data is measured, we need to figure out how much of it you need each month. The best way to do this is to see how much you’ve been using lately.
How do you check your data usage?
Your wireless carrier should be able to provide you with your monthly data usage history. Mint Mobile allows you to check your data usage in real time through your account or in our free app. Also, most phones have a feature in their settings menu that will tell you how much mobile data you’ve used so far.
How to check data usage on iPhone
- Go to Settings > Mobile Data.
- Scroll down and see which apps use your cellular data.
How to check data usage on Android
- Go to Settings > Network & Internet > Data usage
- Under Mobile, you can see how much total data you use.
How can I cut back on my data usage?
Now that you know how many megabytes or gigabytes some of these every day functions take you might be wondering how the f*! you’re using so much data (we said fox). There are a few ways to reduce the data you use, but one of the easiest is to simply use Wi-Fi whenever possible, whether it’s at home, at the office or at that coffee shop where the barista judges you for ordering a drink with whole milk.
Another easy way is to change some settings on your apps. Oftentimes, apps are constantly refreshing in the background as you use your phone, even when you’re not using them. You can restrict this by going into your settings and toggling the settings for each app so they’re not constantly refreshing or looking for more messages. Your phone might even have a “data saver” mode in the same settings menu where you view your usage. This will quickly switch apps to only update when connected to Wi-Fi and will also lower video quality when streaming.
Another quick data fix includes downloading any podcasts or music onto your phone via Wi-Fi so you’re not using cellular data to stream them. Never miss your fave true crime podcast and save some money? We love that for you.
So the question is: what type of data plan makes sense for you?
Another excellent question. If you’re taking a look at Mint Mobile’s plans, we offer 4GB, 10GB, 15GB, and Unlimited. You get to choose how much 5G • 4G LTE data you need. Knowing what you know about MB, GB, and so on, how do you choose between these plans? Use our plan calculator, of course.
Or, we’ve broken it down for you with character archetypes, like a game of D&D:
The Wi-Fi Wizard – 4GB
Do you ask for the Wi-Fi password before you even ask for a menu? Do you have more networks saved in your phone than contacts? 4GB should be plenty for the person who’s never not connected to the nearest Wi-Fi network. That’s enough to download one app, post about a dozen photos, visit 40 web pages and send about 100 emails per day. See this plan.
The Spontaneous Searcher – 10GB
Out with friends and need to find the closest sushi spot? Just left the theater and need to know what else the actor who played the villain is in? 10GB is the perfect amount of data if you need answers and need them now. You’ll be able to download 10 apps, stream about 10 minutes of video & 50 minutes of music, visit 80 web pages and send about 150 emails per day. See this plan.
The Social Guru – 15GB
If you didn’t share a carousel of images to all of your followers immediately upon arriving, were you even there? Scrolling, liking, sharing and completing the latest TikTok challenge everywhere you go takes a lot of data. 15GB ought to do it. With 15GB you’ll be able to download 12 apps, stream 10 minutes of video & 75 minutes of music, visit 165 web pages and send about 300 emails per day. See this plan.
The Streamin’ Machine – Unlimited
You sometimes forget you can use your phone to call people because it’s primarily your HDTV, movie theater, music player, podcast outlet, shopping mall, map… you get it. And you should get our unlimited plan if this is you. See this plan.
Mint Mobile’s plans offer flexibility where it matters most
If you’re still not sure exactly where you fall on the mobile data spectrum, we recommend starting with our 4GB plan. Then 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 4GB before the month is over, you can opt to add more data or upgrade your plan to the next tier. The choice is yours though. We don’t do overages here.
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.