YouTube streaming is an everyday activity for most smartphone users in 2019, but it can put a dent in your cell phone plan’s data allowance. So how much data does YouTube actually use? And how can you consume less and still get high-quality video? Find out below.

YouTube Playback Settings and Data Consumption Change YouTube Streaming Quality Reduce YouTube Data Usage

YouTube Playback Settings and Data Consumption

YouTube has a variety of playback quality options for mobile phones, ranging from 240p to 1440p—depending on your device’s screen capabilities. The default setting for YouTube playback on a smartphone is 480p, which is considered standard definition video playback, and most phones will cap at 720p or 1080p video playback.

When streaming content at 480p, data usage reaches 4MB/minute or 240MB/hour. For a more standard HD-quality video playback setting like 1080p, you’ll hit 12.4MB/minute. or 750MB per hour, just under 1GB/hour.

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YouTube Data Usage Compared by Video Quality

Video Quality 240p 360p 480p 720p 1080p
Data Per Minute 1.6MB 2.66MB 4MB 7.4MB 12.4MB
Data Per Hour 100MB 160MB 240MB 450MB 750MB

How to Change YouTube Streaming Quality?

In order to change the default playback quality setting in iOS or Android, simply select the three dots in the upper-right hand corner of a video while playing. This brings up a menu with a gear icon for changing streaming quality. Once selected, you can choose between all available playback options (based on your device’s screen capabilities) on your device. From then on, videos will stream at the selected quality.

A second option is to set the quality at “Automatic,” which will play videos at the best quality based on the network connection.

How do you Reduce Data Use When Watching YouTube?

The following are some tips for conserving the data on your cell phone plan and avoiding potential overage fees or throttled speeds (slower speeds after a data cap on unlimited data plans) while streaming YouTube.

  • Watch Low-Resolution Videos
  • Restrict HD Streaming to WiFi
  • Get an Unlimited Data Plan
  • Update your Application
YouTube Data on Mobile
Choosing lower-quality video playback is the best solution to save data when streaming YouTube on mobile. While it’s less rich than HD, the pixels on a small smartphone screen already difficult to discern.

Watch Low-Resolution Videos

Choosing lower-quality video playback, such as 240p or 360p, will burn less data. This resolution, although lower than standard definition television, will keep even the stingiest of data plans in the clear of data caps.

Restrict HD Streaming to WiFi

Another option is to strictly use WiFi instead of cellular data when streaming YouTube content. In order to do this, go into YouTube and select Settings > General > and select “Limit Mobile Data Usage.” This option allows you to continue streaming YouTube content in standard and lower video quality, but HD content will only be downloaded when your phone is connected to the internet.

Get an Unlimited Data Plan

If you don’t already have an unlimited data plan, it might be time to consider one especially if you’re dead set on watching HD YouTube videos on the go. Unlimited plans are offered on carriers of all sizes with a wide range of affordability options. Many plans come with perks like a hotspot allowance, international calling features, and even video streaming subscriptions. Find the right one for you using the Whistleout Comparison Engine.

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Update your Application

As a final tip to remedy YouTube data use, make sure your YouTube application is up to date in the Apple Store or Google Play Store. Updated software comes with bug fixes that can occasionally make streaming applications more efficient in downloading and caching files, sparing you precious megabytes of monthly data.