It wasn’t that long ago that you had to wait until you got home to watch your favorite shows. Now you have the Netflix app right on your phone, so you can catch up on your favorite karate drama while taking the bus to work or binge that baking show everyone is talking about while you wait for your number to be called at the DMV. All that streaming can really chew through your mobile data though, if you don’t know the hacks. Luckily, we have a few insider tips for you, so you won’t breeze through all your GB watching Netflix.
How much data Netflix uses
On average, Netflix uses approximately 1GB of data every four hours. This is when Netflix is in its default data usage mode, meant to balance data usage with video quality. So if you do the math (or if we do), that means you can stream approximately 16 hour-long episodes of your favorite show with 4 GB of data. But that’s if watching Netflix is the only thing you’re doing with your data. Streaming music, surfing the web, Google Maps and social media all require data, too. How much? Well, feel free to take a peek at our other blog all about MB, GB, and how much data those other activities use.
It’s also worth noting that this is an approximation and all streaming services are different (which explains why we have a totally separate blog about YouTube data usage). Netflix’s data usage can also vary quite a bit based on your device, network strength, video quality and usage settings. You can actually see how much data Netflix is using on your device by checking in your Settings menu and following just a few steps:
- From Settings, select Cellular
- Scroll down to Netflix and select it
- “Current Period” doesn’t automatically reset each month, so scroll to the bottom of the Cellular menu and select “Reset Statistics” to refresh this
- From Settings, select “Apps”
- Select “Netflix”
- Under “Usage” you’ll see the amount of mobile data Netflix is using on your phone
- These steps may vary slightly from phone to phone, so check your user manual for help locating this information
How to reduce Netflix’s data usage
There are essentially two ways to use less data when streaming Netflix on your phone: use Wi-Fi to download movies on Netflix or modify Netflix’s data usage settings. Let’s start with Wi-Fi.
1. How to download movies on Netflix (and shows, too)
The easiest way to use less of your data is to do most data-heavy things while connected to Wi-Fi. When you’re using the internet via Wi-Fi, it isn’t pulling from your mobile data allotment. Of course, this only makes a difference if you’re watching Netflix exclusively at places that have Wi-Fi, like your home or office, right? Not exactly.
If you have an iPhone running iOS 9.0 or later or an Android phone running Android 4.4.2 or later, you can download Netflix movies and shows to watch later, which is quite the game-changer. If you know you’re going to be stuck in a waiting room for a bit or flying cross-country and want to use that opportunity to rewatch an entire season of your favorite sitcom, download it ahead of time while connected to Wi-Fi. This is also handy if you know you’re going to be traveling and may lose coverage. Fully downloaded content means no buffering and you can use Netflix offline.
2. How to change the data usage mode in your Netflix settings
Of course, you can’t always predict what you’re going to want to watch in advance. Maybe you downloaded that entire true crime docuseries but forgot to also download a feel-good comedy as a palate-cleanser. We’ve all been there. Luckily, Netflix allows you to modify its settings so it will use less data when you’re streaming the old fashioned way.
- Open the Netflix app on your phone and tap on your profile icon (in the top right corner)
- From this menu, select “App Settings” and you’ll see a section labeled “Video Playback”
- Select “Cellular Data Usage.” You’ll be given three options: Wi-Fi Only, Save Data and Maximum Data
- Select “Save Data” and Netflix will go from using about 1GB every four hours (in Automatic mode) to using 1GB every six hours
Maximum Data, if you were curious, uses about 1GB every 20 minutes to provide the absolute best possible picture quality…so use that mode at your own risk.
3. Switch to a carrier that will help you use less data
We figured that since you’re here reading our blog about data, we might as well explain why you should consider Mint Mobile for your premium wireless needs. Here we believe in total transparency, which is why we tell everyone that, contrary to popular belief, an Unlimited data plan isn’t your only option. So in addition to giving you tips on how to use less data, we may also recommend switching to a lower-priced phone plan based on your usage habits. You read that right, we’ll tell you to pay us less if you aren’t using all your high-speed data. But to be fair, our Unlimited plan* is only $30/month, so you could just stick with that and still be saving plenty over the other guys.
*New activation & upfront payment for 3-month plan req’d. Taxes & fees extra. Addt’l restrictions apply. Unlimited customers using >40GB/mo will experience lower speeds. Videos stream at ~480p. See terms.