The data-draining apps that are costing you more than you think

What Mobile
February 17, 2019

  • Daily video and music streaming could be consuming more data than you think

  • BBC iPlayer and Channel 5’s: My5 named worst offending video apps

  • Use Spotify’s ‘secret’ app to minimise data usage

As Brits admit to spending more than 24 hours per week online, individual data usage is expected to be at an all-time high.

For gym-goers, commuters and the 50% of adults that use their smartphones whilst walking, a new study has revealed how much of your data is guzzled up by the most popular video and music streaming apps.

Catch-up services BBC iPlayer and Channel 5: My5 have been named the worst culprits for video, each using over a whole GB (gigabyte) over the course of streaming for an hour.

Video streaming apps that use the most data:


Channel 5: My5

1.11 GB

BBC iPlayer

1.07 GB


736 MB

Video streaming apps that use the least data:


Amazon Prime Video

180.6 MB


289.2 MB


314.4 MB


Comparing the best and worst offenders, Channel 5: My5 is using more than six times as much data as Amazon Prime Video, or 920 MB extra per hour.


To save data whilst catching up on your favourite programmes on the go, allow the video you want to watch to buffer or download whilst you’re still connected to Wi-Fi (before using mobile data). For apps like YouTube, go to settings and make sure the ‘limit mobile data usage’ option is selected. This will only stream videos in HD when you’re connected to Wi-Fi.


For music streaming services, Apple Music and Tidal soak up the most data when listening for an hour. Tidal drains a staggering 184 MB, in comparison to Spotify that uses almost 100 MB less.


Music streaming apps that use the most data:


184.8 MB

Apple Music

109.2 MB


Users can minimise their data usage when listening to music by changing the default ‘streaming quality’, which is often set to high. This option is most often found in the app’s individual settings and changing it to medium or low will reduce your data consumption significantly.

Spotify users may want to try out its data-friendly version of the app called ‘Spotify Lite’. It was especially designed for those with phones that don’t hold much memory (taking up just 15 MB compared to the original at 100 MB.) The 85% reduction in size also means that it does not allow a high-quality music playback, however, users can still search and play millions of songs on the go.

For Tidal, the music app known for using heaps of data, there are multiple options within its settings that allow you to customise elements that will ultimately affect data usage. This includes pre-downloading albums, authorising the device for offline use and restoring offline content.

The study, conducted by Mobile Phones Direct, explores the data usage of a number of apps and includes top tips on how to save data whilst streaming.

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