How Much Data Does Your Streaming Music App Eat Up?

How Much Data Does Your Streaming Music App Eat Up?

A reader, Chris, wrote us yesterday with a very good question about streaming music services: " do they compare when it comes to data usage? How does Google's compression compare to Pandora, Spotify or the Amazon player? Funky playlists and mood music is all well and good, but how much of my 4g/mo are they going to eat?"

Good question! Burning through your monthly data cap on your smartphone is a pain in the arse, and your music streaming app is probably guilty of some serious damage. But just how much is data is your app using?

The amount of data your service chews up depends on the quality settings. For Beats Music, Spotify and Google Play Music, a high-quality stream maxes out at 320kbps. (Not all tracks are available at that high quality, but most are.)

Pandora is the only big mainstream service we could find that doesn't offer 320kbps streams. In fact, on mobile it maxes out at 64kbps. Lower quality streams obviously use way less data.

So what does that mean in terms of your data plan? 320kbps rate translates to 2.40 MB per minute of audio or 115.2 MB per hour. So if you were to stream music for an entire eight hour work day, you'd burn through nearly 1GB. If you have a 2GB cap like I do, then this is not an advisable splurge!

Here's a breakdown of a number of the most popular services.

Beats Music

Standard quality: 64kbps High quality: 320kbps


Normal quality: 96 kbps High quality: 160kbps Extreme quality: 320kbps

Google Play Music

Three quality settings, with a maximum of 320kbps.


Maximum rate is 64kbps (adjusts automatically depending on your connection).

That's not every service (Apple doesn't publish a spec for iTunes Radio, but it gives you an idea for how much data these services chomp: 320kbps at the top end, 64kbps/128kbps at the low end.)

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    Cheaper to buy your music and have it for the rest of your life. Same with movie streaming if you cough cough pirate the movies. Who said that, not me. :)

    Last edited 23/10/14 3:18 pm

    For the more technically minded:

    Pandora's mobile setting is 32kbps AAC, and 64kbps AAC for "high" quality
    AAC is the audio part of the MPEG4 standard (mp4) that smartphones and camcorders use for video recording today.

    Audio in AAC format sounds about equal to a MP3 at twice that bandwidth. So eg 64kbps AAC being labelled high quality is reasonable because it actually sounds like a 128kbps mp3. (although that's still pretty low sound quality compared to the competition, and a audiophile would not regard 64kbps AAC as acceptable sound quality at all)

    A 128kbps AAC (which use) is equivilent to a 256kbps MP3, and so on.

    Spotify uses up more because it uses the OGG Vorbis (a open source competitor to MP3) which has terrible sound quality at very low bitrates

    Google Play Music and Beats/MOG use plain vanilla MP3 behind the DRM container they sit in.

    Last edited 23/10/14 3:49 pm

    320kbps rate translates to 2.40 MB per minute of audio or 115.2 MB per hour., do the math. One hour has 60 minutes in it. So 2.4MB * 60 = 144MB / hour.

    So is it safe to assume that 160kbps will use 1.2MB/min and 72MB/hour?

    Still using MOG while it exists.
    48 kbps AAC+ or Higher on Mobile Data, and 320 kbps MP3 on Wi-Fi.
    The drawcard being that Telstra customers aren't metered for data usage.

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