Will two hundred megabytes bring me health, happiness and prosperity?
July 17, 2011 8:15 AM   Subscribe

Is 200 MB enough? I got an Ipod Touch for my birthday. It does have WiFi access but I don't want to have to run into a cafe every time I need to look something up online. So I'm in the market for a mobile WiFi hotspot and a wireless data plan. The cheapest plans available -- and I'm all about the cheap -- typically offer you c. 200 MB a month.

My question is: is this amount enough to cover light daily internet usage? Or would I run out by the middle of the month? Let's assume for the sake of argument that typical internet usage for me would be looking up addresses and telephone numbers, looking up online reviews, checking out the news, the occasional VOIP call and the very occasional text.

Is the cheap 200 MB plan enough to fulfill those needs or should I spring for the more expensive multi-gigabyte plans?

Many thanks in advance.
posted by jason's_planet to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Here is last years data usage survey. Average use is 273 MB/month. However, that probably includes things like streaming movies and music. Sounds like 200 MB should be fine for you.
posted by griphus at 8:27 AM on July 17, 2011

I'm not sure about the VOIP, that might kill you, but I'm in a somewhat similar situation with a tighter budget. I only get 30mb per month with my iphone, and I use it to check e-mail a few times a day, look up barcodes when I'm at the store to read reviews on amazon, check whether, stocks, read metafilter or google news when I'm bored, that kind of stuff. None of those activities are data intensive at all and I've not run out of my 30mb of data yet. However, I do restrain myself from doing a lot of internet surfing with pic or video sites.
posted by skewed at 8:31 AM on July 17, 2011

Your iPad doesn't do Flash, which will save you a lot of bandwidth, but you won't be watching much Web video. If you stick to the mobile version of most sites you visit, you'll use less bandwidth, too. Back in 2003, the average web page represented something like 130K of data, but that was a long time ago, in Web years, before the wide adoption of Flash, and the use of more and "heavier" Web graphics. Still, I think its a decent data point for mobile Web use, and if you think that it describes the kinds of pages you'll be looking at, it amounts to something like 1500 page views a month.

What could really eat into that is any downloading or streaming you do of music or data. If an app you download and run frequently, like a weather bug, caches maps or other graphics locally, that can get to be a significant data usage.

I'd probably start with the base plan, watch my usage, and go up, if I felt pinched after a couple of months. It's usually easier to add temporary additional bandwidth via overage charges for heavy use months like vacation time, than it is to cut back on data plans once you develop the habit of using the iPad all the time, untethered from WiFi.
posted by paulsc at 8:36 AM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If it's just for the iPod Touch, then 200mb is tight. When visiting the US, my mobile data is around 8mb-10mb a day. Depending on the survey you can get a user average of 250-500mb/month. Best bet is get a plan that you can chop and change the rate, and if you;re not using it daily, then 200mb will be a nice test for the first month or two.
posted by ewan at 8:44 AM on July 17, 2011

Best answer: I have an iPod touch and a mobile wifi hotspot. My plan has 8GB per month and it has been very excessive for me. My average usage, if you exclude an outlier month where we had an issue with our home internet and had to use it as a replacement, has been 171mb/month. I use it quite frequently for web browsing during my commute, and it sounds like your usage would probably be similar to or less than mine with the caveat that I don't use VOIP and have no idea how much data your calling patterns would use. I would probably try to find an affordable ~1GB plan but that is only because it really sucks to be constantly worrying about how much data you're using and a bigger plan would give you more room to breathe, but I think 200mb is probably fine for your projected usage.
posted by lwb at 8:51 AM on July 17, 2011

If I'm not mistaken, there are a lot more wifi hot spots at retail chains and fast food restaurants then there used to be. Depending on where in the world you are, it might not be so bad.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:06 AM on July 17, 2011

Won't the battery be your bigger problem? When I use wireless on my iPod Touch I can almost watch the gauge drain down to zero. It is more than a year old though.
posted by ecourbanist at 9:44 AM on July 17, 2011

Won't the battery be your bigger problem? When I use wireless on my iPod Touch I can almost watch the gauge drain down to zero. It is more than a year old though.

Wireless usage drained my battery really fast on my 3rd gen iPod Touch, but I have found the 4th gen one* to cope with quite reasonable amounts of usage. Usually the portable wifi (mine lasts about 4 hours) conks out long before the iPod does. It doesn't sound to me like OP plans to use it for that long each day. I don't know which iPod OP has but even the 3rd gen lasted me an hour or two of usage each day, so I don't think battery life should be a huge problem.

*3rd gen met an untimely end in a chocolate milk disaster, lest anyone think I buy new iPods every cycle!
posted by lwb at 10:10 AM on July 17, 2011

Here's AT&T's data usage estimator.
posted by davcoo at 11:11 AM on July 17, 2011

One thing you can do to cut down on bandwidth is preinstall some frequently-used resources on your device. There's a $9 app, Encyclopedia, that can download the entire text of Wikipedia with links and search into just 2-3GB. And there are tons of dictionary apps and other basic references out there. Of course, you're limiting data use by bulking up your onboard storage, but if you've got a decent amount of space you should be able to add stuff like this while leaving plenty of room for music, video, and other apps.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:19 PM on July 17, 2011

VOIP (Skype) is a bandwidth/cost hog for voice but chat is possible. You may wish to test this aspect as some have mentioned already and see if it fits in with your 200 MB preferred limit.

Other bandwidth hogs - Flickr, Youtube, Tumblr

One way I find this works is by converting as many of my preferred sites to feeds in an RSS reader like Google's - I can browse headlines and stories (where possible) and then come back to anything I like on the laptop
posted by infini at 2:35 PM on July 17, 2011

Best answer: I have a 300 MB 3G plan on my iPhone and it's usually fine and I don't think about it, though this is also because the price for going over the limit is relatively reasonable (about ยข5 US per MB). My usage is mostly email, Wikipedia, Google maps, simple games, and one or two Skype calls a month.

I would certainly avoid Youtube, Pandora and other streaming media, and rely on apps rather than full web pages.

You may consider Opera Mobile, which is a web browser that runs everything through a proxy which compresses images etc.
posted by Aiwen at 3:49 PM on July 17, 2011

For my portables without 3G or 4G, I've had good luck getting a cheap Sprint employee referral plan and a WM/Android phone that can tether via WiFi or Bluetooth (much easier on battery). Sprint still has "unlimited" (actually 5 GB/month) bandwidth plans, and you can get a voice-free data-only connection if you really try.
posted by meehawl at 7:22 PM on July 17, 2011

Are yousure you need constant net access? I think it's a question of attitude. 3G is slow anyway. If you're certain then I'd get 'CityMaps2Go' for offline maps. It's Open Street Maps so not as good as Google but still very useful, and being offline panning and zooming and quick. They give you one free city download. My medium sized town was 25Mb.
posted by Deor at 3:44 AM on July 18, 2011

Response by poster: According to the survey griphus linked above, about 95% of all iPhone users use 1 GB or less per month. That seems like a pretty good number to me. Some days I won't use the internet it all. Others days I might look at a couple of pages. Other days might see heavier usage -- YouTube, VOIP calls and the suchlike.

T-Mobile is offering a gig a month for $30. I think that's what I'll go for.

I'll keep you guys posted.

Many thanks to everyone who contributed! I appreciate it!
posted by jason's_planet at 4:24 PM on July 18, 2011

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