How Much Data Does YouTube Use?

Article Summary:
It's difficult to pin down exactly how much data you'll be using while watching videos on the YouTube mobile app, but at standard definition (480p), you can expect about 240MB of data usage per hour.

It's been stuck in your head since you watched the movie the other night—the iconic theme of the classic time-traveling romp Back to the Future. Finally, you decide you just need to hear it again. So, you grab your phone, open the YouTube mobile app and search for "back to the future theme" where you find that there is actually video footage of composer Alan Silvestri conducting a performance of a suite, including bits of the various Back to the Future themes. Once the video is almost over, you notice that there's video of a performance of the main theme for the Indiana Jones Trilogy (there's only three!!!). Before you know it, you've spent over 30 minutes watching performances of themes to classic movies. In a world where "unlimited data" doesn't really mean you have unlimited data, this could be troubling. For all you know, you might have just used your entire allotment of full-speed cellular data, or maybe you just used a tiny fraction of it. Either way, with the ubiquity of YouTube and the YouTube mobile app, it's important to understand how much data the video streaming service uses.

Can't Get Enough YouTube?

Going down a YouTube rabbit hole can be an entertaining way to kill some time, but remember all that time can quickly add up to a ton of data usage. If you're regularly on YouTube you'll probably want to consider a cell phone plan with unlimited data. We've compiled a list of some of the best unlimited plans available today.

YouTube Data Usage

There are several factors that determine how much data is being used when you access the internet on your phone, but when it comes to streaming with the YouTube mobile app, your main concern is going to be video quality. YouTube offers up 6 different video quality settings for most videos which include:
  • 1080p
  • 720p
  • 480p (Standard definition-default setting)
  • 360p
  • 240p
  • 144p
While the other factors of data usage make it difficult to determine just how much data is being used, the key thing to remember is the higher the video quality, the more data you'll be using.

Take a look at the following table to understand how much data you might be using when watching videos on YouTube. Remember, these are estimates only—data usage will vary. We are trying to caution towards mid-range to high-end estimates but for a better idea about the data you are using we highly recommend utilizing a data manager on your phone or other devices.

Video Quality 144p 240p 360p 480p 720p 1080p
Per Minute 1.3MB 3.3MB 5MB 8.3MB 25MB 50MB
Per Hour 80MB 200MB 300MB 500MB 1.5GB 3GB

Even Higher Video Quality

While not incredibly common, many videos on YouTube are available with higher video quality than those above. These higher quality options include:
  • 1440p (HD)
  • 2160p (4K UHD)
  • 4320p (8K FUHD)
You're probably not watching videos on your phone with these options (it's just not really going to result in a great experience) but if you do happen to stream elsewhere using these video qualities you can expect to be eating up a bunch of data.

Video Quality 1440p 4K 8K
Per Minute 90MB 233MB 900MB
Per Hour 5.5GB 14GB 54GB
Again (we can't stress this enough), these are estimates and data usage will vary.

Reducing YouTube Data Usage

Typically YouTube is set to auto select the video quality playback depending on different factors. If you have an especially good connection at high speeds, you might be automatically seeing HD quality video. One way to save yourself from using too much data with YouTube is by toggling on the setting to "Play HD on Wi-Fi only". This will automatically stop video from playing in HD if you are using cellular data. You can find this option in the YouTube app settings. While you are watching a video on the YouTube app, you can also change the video quality by tapping on the three vertical dots, selecting "Quality" and tapping on your desired video quality. Remember, the lower the video quality, the less data you'll be using.

Bandwidth Calculator


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