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How many MB in a GB? Understanding mobile data

This person would like to enjoy the outdoors but they're wondering how many megabytes are in a gig

How many MB in a GB? What exactly is a megabyte (MB) of mobile data? A gigabyte (GB) of mobile data? How many emails is that? How many minutes of YouTube video? How many hours of streaming music from the likes of Spotify or Apple Music?

A voice minute is easily understood. After all, we all know what a minute is. Ditto for a text message. Data is a little more difficult to quantify, especially for those new to the world of mobile. At Ting Mobile, we offer plans with pay-for-what-you-use data, set data, and unlimited data. For those who don’t go with unlimited, we like to help them save as much as possible by minimizing their mobile data use. The key to that is understanding mobile data, so let’s dive into the world of megs and gigs. First, we’re going to drop some numbers on you.

  • Text-only email – 20 KB
  • Email with photo attachment – 350 KB/email
  • Photo – 2 MB/photo
  • Social – 250 KB/post
  • Browsing – 2MB/page
  • App Download – 12 MB Android/35 MB iOS
  • Music Streaming – 1 MB/min
  • Gameplay 1 MB/min
  • HD video streaming – 15 MB/min

Many of these estimates come directly from an article on mobile data with data compiled from various carrier estimates of the average smartphone data usage of specific smartphone activities. We also used numerous other sources to update those numbers where necessary. These figures are based on using mobile data on your smartphone and don’t take tethering into account. Mobile versions of websites are designed to be less data heavy than their non-mobile counterparts.

How many megabytes are in a gig

Before we visit how many MB in a GB, let’s talk about how many KB in a MB. For ease of calculation, we’ll say there are 1000 kilobytes (KB) in a megabyte (MB) and 1000 MB in a gigabyte (GB), often referred to as a gig of data. That takes care of the math, but what are the real-world implications? Well, we’ve broken down what you can do with different amounts of data. We like to think of them in terms of being small, medium, large and extra-large buckets of data.

Small – 100 MB

If we say the average text-only email is 20 KB a piece, we can send and receive about 5,000 such emails and still stay within the 100 MB Small bucket. Or, we can visit about 50 web pages in a given month, assuming an average of 2 MB per site (yep – modern web pages have gotten quite a bit heftier). We can stream around 100 minutes of music or upload 50 high-quality photos.

Realistically, the 100 MB Small bucket is only suitable if you’re in range of a Wi-Fi hotspot at home or in the office most of the time and you only need to use mobile data very infrequently. It’s also perfect for users that mainly stick with talk and text, only using data for occasionally checking and sending emails, looking up information, and getting directions on the go.

Medium – 500 MB

Here, as a dedicated Wi-Fi user you can use mobile data when necessary (that is, when there’s no Wi-Fi available) without much worry; sending and receiving emails, settling bar bets with a quick visit to Wikipedia, and sharing occasional social media updates. By the numbers, 500 MB of mobile data allows for:

  • >1,425 emails (with attachments) sent or received or
  • >250 web pages or
  • 500 minutes of streaming music or
  • 250 photos uploaded or downloaded or
  • 30 minutes of HD video streaming or
  • 125 app downloads

If you’re pretty good at using Wi-Fi most of the time, it’s not hard to stay within the 500 MB Medium bucket. By using techniques like pre-downloading streaming media, apps, and large files over Wi-Fi, you can comfortably utilize your 500 MB for emails, browsing, and social media.

Large – 1000 MB (1 gigabyte or GB)

Pop quiz…how many MB in a GB again? Well done, Pointdexter: the answer to “how many megabytes in a gig” is roughly 1000 MB. That amount is what we refer to as the “large bucket,” which, for anyone with regular access to Wi-Fi, means worrying a lot less about mobile data. If there’s more than one light mobile data user on an account, shareable data (such as what’s available on our Flex plan) can help you save even more.

In raw numbers, 1000 MB of data allows for:

  • >2,850 emails (with attachments) sent or received or
  • >5,560 web pages or
  • 1,000 minutes of streaming music or
  • 500 photos uploaded or downloaded or
  • 1 hour of HD video streaming or
  • 250 app downloads

XL – 2 GB+

For anyone who practices great Wi-Fi ‘hygiene’ (that’s what our grade school teacher would have called connecting to Wi-Fi whenever possible and pre-downloading media and large files), this bucket will pretty much erase any data use worries. For couples or families that aren’t heavy mobile data users, it also introduces the option of pooling data.

… and beyond

We’ve highlighted these numbers to show low mobile data users it’s entirely possible to use 2GB of mobile data or less in a month. Doing so on our Flex plan will result in incredibly low bills. However, we know that some users simply need more. Our Set 5 plan offers 5 GB of high-speed data with unlimited talk and text for just $25, while our unlimited talk, text and data plans start at $45 and offer as much as 33 GB of high-speed data. If you do utilize all of your high-speed data, there’s unlimited 2G speed data and you can always top up your high-speed allotment at–you guessed it–just $5/GB.

Cutting back on data is easier than you think

As a user with a flexible or set data plan, knowing what a megabyte of data is and how many MB in a GB will help prevent you from going over your allotted amount. By using Wi-Fi and figuring out which apps are using the most data, you’re bound to do more with your smartphone without paying more. Look into ways you can reduce background data use then teach your kids about data usage as well. And if you’re looking for even more ways to save on your next bill, check out our complete guide on ways to reduce mobile data usage.

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