Guide: Minimize Music Streaming Data Usage

May 6, 2024

Have you ever wondered how much data does your music streaming service use? If your Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music or any other service is draining your Internet plan?

It’s not gonna be an article about making the budget cuts. We’re gonna talk about minimizing your phone data usage when listening to streaming music.

Remember when you were a kid and you got some small cash from your parents and you plan big for your future VC empire built on outsourced work and clever marketing? Right.

You spent it all on candy in the first store you found. How not to repeat that mistake with limited data on your phone?


So we looked and talked and asked some really tech-savvy people and came up with a simple fix…es for this issue. First off, there’s the thing that’s called the offline function. We’ve been through this already, but to get you on your feet – it’s an option, that allows your device to download the Ogg or Vorbis format files and play the tunes on demand without the internet connection! This is the best way to get your music without losing data from your phone.

The problem is, you need to reemerge on the web every 30 days. The music files stored on your device will update on their quality (if it had improved), licenses will get paid according to what you had stashed and some royalties will get transferred to the artists. You can dive back below the grid with your phone for another 30 days and stay there without using up your precious data. Just like a submarine that needs to recharge batteries and oxygen every now and then.

Let’s know our data eaters first…

In this article:

  1. How Much Data Does Pandora Use?
  2. How Much Data Does iHeartradio Use?
  3. How Much Data Does Spotify Use?
  4. How Much Data Does Amazon Music Use?
  5. How Much Data Does YouTube Use?
  6. How to Save Data With Apple Music (And Other Music Streaming Services)

How much data does Pandora use?

Sure, you can always use Wi-Fi to minimize the data consumption but let’s face it… We all like listening to music when we’re not home. Especially then. Pandora does not allow to store files on your computer/mobile device too. In contrary to Spotify or Apple Music.

As a premium user of Pandora, if you listen to music for 1h, you will use 86.4mb per hour. Is that a lot? It’s your decision. The free version (the one full of annoying ads) consumes 57.6mb on the other hand.

How much data does iHeartradio use?

Another monster sneaking on your data… The iHeartRadio music streaming service offers a 128kbps bitrate option. That’s the only option. That equals to 57.6mb. Just like in the case of Pandora.

You will have to listen to iHeartradio for around 17 hours to use one gigabyte. If you have limits on your data plan, it’s better not to fall asleep listening to any music platform I guess… (Spotify users can set a Spotify sleep timer though)

How much data does Spotify use?

Spotify likes to give us a choice. And we love it. Spotify offers a few different streaming sound quality. The lowest is 96kbps, and the highest is 320kbps. Which means that you will use this much data per hour:

  • 96kbps = 43mb
  • 128kbps = 58mb
  • 160kbps = 72mb
  • 256kbps = 115mb
  • 320kbps = 144mb

Is it worth to rely on the highest quality? I’ll leave it for you to judge… You can also download songs from Spotify and just forget about data limits, of course…

Apple Music does not offer 320kbps quality so if you’re a music geek, you may want to go with Spotify here. (Psst, we have a full comparison of Spotify and Apple Music)

How much data does Amazon Music use?

It’s a bit more complicated with Amazon Music as they haven’t revealed the standard streaming quality of their service. It might be hard to pin down Amazon Music data usage without the specific bitrate, but we can take an educated guess here. Since Most music streaming services offer quality up to 320 kbps, we expect Amazon Music uses approximately 175MB per hour.

As for the premium tiers, Amazon Music HD offers a bitrate up to 850kbps, while Amazon Ultra HD with a bitrate up to 3,730kbps (which is 10x times higher than most streaming services!). This also means that Amazon Music is going to use more data: 330MB per hour for “HD” and as much as 720MB per hour for “Ultra HD”

Pro tip: Amazon Music gives you the option to reduce data usage when streaming. Simply tap the three dots in the upper-right corner of the app and go to Settings > Streaming Audio Quality. Head to the Mobile Data section and select Data Saver.

How much data does YouTube use?

Youtube is a video-streaming platform but many people use it to listen to music (and watch music video clips, of course). If you belong to this group, this is what you need to know: watching a YouTube video at the standard 480p will chew around 260MB per hour, while Full HD will "cost" you 1.65GB. Viewing videos in 4K uses 2.7GB per hour.

How to save data with Apple Music (and other music streaming services)

We’re not trying to sell you an iPhone now, it’s just that it has an additional option to save you some data and it fits the idea of this article to have four paragraphs.

Anyway, follow these steps:

  1. Open Music.
  2. Tap Radio.
  3. Tap Apple Music 1 Shows.
  4. Select the show you want to listen to under On Demand.
  5. Scroll down and tap the playlist you want under ‘Playlists’.
  6. Tap the +Add button.
  7. Tap the download button (looks like a cloud with a downward-pointing arrow in it).

What did you just do? You have limited your Apple Music 1 playtime to mitigate how much data the Music streaming app eats. If that’s not another reason to choose Apple Music, than I donno what it is.

And if that convinced you, you can easily migrate from Spotify to Apple Music.

Get a new deal with your operator

We’re not telling you to buy more phones, forfeit your current deal or… you know what? Do what you want, this article will have four paragraphs if its the last thing we’ll write!

Thanks to recent cross-selling deals done by the smart guys at the top of the smartphone companies, you can get yourself a new cell phone plan with your music platform not using data. For example at Virgin Mobile and have your needs covered when using Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRADIO, Slacker Radio, Napster or 8Tracks completely data-free.

Other tips

We’ve found some more stuff. Since it’s nothing really new or hidden from the public by some obscure marketing strategies or simply difficult to find – we’ll just leave them here.

Your smartphone can be set to stick to known Wi-Fi only. When outside of any recognized spots, your phone can stay offline. That’s one way to limit your data loss during the month, but sometimes you just can’t pass the opportunity to stay on the line, when waiting for an important email, while out of office.

**Of course, you should only download your music when connected to Wi-Fi.**Ogg and Vorbis formats are very light since they are super compressed, but still – getting an entire discography of Iron Maiden can hurt by the end of the month.

Depending on where you listen to your music the most – try to think one step ahead. Plan for the future and create playlists. Everybody has playlists for all kinds of stuff. If you listen to your music on the daily commute, set for some energizing, positive music on the way to work. On your way home? You may need some relaxing, nerve-soothing groovy beats. Download and make those playlists before leaving the house and you got your daily dose of music while your phone data usage doesn’t go up.

Remember to use Wi-Fi when listening to music at work. Don’t you dare feel bad about it… Music is something that helps you focus, get results and most of all, it numbs out those annoying people talking over your head, some call ‘fellow employees’.

Ok, now you know how to check your data transfer before you wreck your… Or at least, you can stop your music to do all the draining. Good luck and happy browsing while listening!

You’re not sure which platforms will let you listen to your music offline and cut your phone data usage down? We’ve got a nice post about how to listen to music offline.

No matter if you prefer Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, or YouTube, you should always be careful with your data usage (and battery drain). Good luck!

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