Which voice calling app uses the most data per minute? We tested the top 10

by: Rob TriggsApril 3, 2015
5.9K
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Free voice call apps, which use data to place calls, can offer a cheaper way to keep in contact with friends abroad and come to the rescue when you’ve used up your monthly minute quota. However, with multi-gigabyte data plans still often coming at a premium price, the busiest chatters out there could soon eat into their monthly allowance using voice over data calls.

To shed some light on the issue, we’ve gone back over our list of 10 free call apps to investigate just how much data these apps end up consuming. In the list you’ll find popular apps such as Hangouts, Skype, WhatApp and Viber, as well as regional favourites including Line and Nimbuzz.

The test method

For our test, we subjected each of these 10 apps to three separate one minute calls and recorded the amount of data used by the app after each call. These three totals were then averaged together to produce the result.

Both sides spoke for 30 seconds each during the one minute call, to simulate a two way conversation. All of the test runs were conducted over a 4G network on both ends, with both phones running the latest versions of each app from the Play Store and the same Android operating system version, just to be extra safe.

The results

We can instantly spot a huge difference between the leanest and the heaviest data consuming applications. Interestingly, many of the most well-known apps, such as Hangouts, Skype and WhatsApp, consume by far the most data, while KakaoTalk, Nimbuzz and Line all consume comparatively smaller amounts of data. Facebook Messenger also makes a bit of a surprise appearance as one of the most data efficient ways of placing a voice call.

voice data app usage per min 710

Perhaps a little worryingly for Skype users, the app consumes over 2.7 times the amount of data per minute than the most economical apps. WhatsApp consumers 2.3 times the data of KakaoTalk, while Hangounts and Tango consume around twice the data each minute. Over the course of an hour’s worth of calls, the difference between Skype and KakaoTalk works out to around 33.4MB, which might be a point worth considering if you’re on a more limited data plan and like to talk.

Skype consumes over 2.7 times the amount of data per minute than the most economical apps

Magic Jack and Viber both consume a little more data than others, but are still much economical choices than the more established apps. These may be the best choice if you’re looking for a balance between call quality and data usage.

To be fair to the big brands, we do know that Skype implements a rather intelligent codec that is capable of various sample and bit rates. We went back to see if switching down to a 3G network, with more limited bandwidth, would make any difference to the data consumed, but the results came back well within the margin for error. We can conclude that a 3G connection is more than good enough for the best voice call quality that Skype and the other apps have to offer on Android, so you’ll probably always find that these apps consume around this amount of data, regardless of a 3G, 4G or WiFi connection type.

While the big companies may be able to spend some cash on extra bandwidth and servers, Kakao, Nimbuzz and Line most likely make use of a lower quality communication to save on expensive server bandwidth, which has the added benefit of saving us data usage too.

Of course, data usage is just a small aspect of a voice call app. If you would like a closer look at the features available with these apps, be sure to check out our list of to 10 free voice call apps.

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  • This is some really good data and I appreciate you taking the time to study it, but how does the voice quality compare from say the most economical one and the least? For example, I don’t mind that Hangouts uses more than the top 5 on that list if it means the voice quality is much better(less static, less echo, etc). Do you guys have any thoughts/data about the quality?

    • patrik

      I was just gonna say the exact same thing, but you beat me to it ;)

    • Avtar Rekhi

      Same here. You mention “Kakao, Nimbuzz and Line most likely make use of a lower quality communication” so does this mean you actually noticed that quality was lower?

      • McLaren F1P1

        I can say that Nimbuzz call quality seems to be better than Viber which has very good quality itself!

    • sarah

      I know that viber performs great on 3g in terms of sound quality. Crystal clear – usually much better than Hangouts.

    • rimmoah

      speaking from experience i can say skype and whatsapp are both good quality

    • Rob is looking for a way to objectively measure it, but at the very least we’ll update with his impressions on sound quality.

      • OhStopItYou!

        Thanks a lot for doing this! Definitely something I’d not thought about when I was using Skype (I knew it had issues to make even high end phones lag but never actually thought about how much data it consumed)

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    • chanman

      I just used the WhatsApp calling feature the other day to test it out, and the call quality was insanely impressive for me; VoIP services usually have some weird distortion echoeyness to them that I just don’t like, but WhatsApp was pretty good in that it simulated a normal phone call almost perfectly. Comparing WhatsApp with Facebook Messenger calling is like day and night.
      Edit: on that note, Hangouts has surprisingly poor quality, especially given the bandwidth it consumes shown here (but maybe they’ve improved it since I last used it)

      • Aaron

        WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger both are very clear, but they both have echo too. Fact.

    • Nanoey

      I have only used Fb messenger call before, it’s clear. Sounded like a normal phone call.

    • m_shark

      Facebook and Viber are best in terms of quality

  • Kanselier

    What about Ringcredible?

  • Alberto Abarca
    • Phil

      Red Phone would be intereresting

  • nullified

    heh, no wechat? that will blow everything out of the roof

    • Guest123

      Probably use 1GB an hour

  • Maiko Soriano

    Can you do a follow-up? Let’s say Video calls in the same apps listed?

  • dave

    why does the graph say “lower is better”? surely sound quality is worse? Unless different audio codecs are used, i’d rather have the one with the highest bitrate.

  • isuranirmal

    what about the quality of the voice?

  • mr code

    Not sure but when I use skype its still stable on low connection than other app.

  • h1ghland3r

    Really like this research!

  • Sheila C. Barber

    My grandkids and use something called Oovoo, never thought about data issues as I use it over WiFi only. But yeah, great article.

  • Android Developer

    Can Telegram perform audio calls too?

    • Avtar Rekhi

      No

      • Android Developer

        Was sure it can. Ok. Thank you.

  • Ahsan Ahmed

    Gonna check whatsapp calling quality. Skype is my no. 1 choice for both video and voice call. I don’t know why Viber and rest sucks on my.

  • Oobiewan

    The voice call function of Facebook Messenger works great even when my connection is limited to 32 kbps. I think that’s a really nice thing. And the voice quality is also totally okay

  • Yo

    Line has a very good voice call quality.

  • dray

    No facetime?

    • “All of the test runs were conducted over a 4G network on both ends, with
      both phones running the latest versions of each app from the Play Store
      and the same Android operating system version, just to be extra safe.”

    • Great Dude

      Isn’t facetime for apple products only?
      This site is for Android not iOS.

  • Zee

    I use kako talk everyday. This is the one gives me the best call quality and reliable connection compared to other services.

  • droopyar

    Skype uses SILK codec with hybrid technology with 1000 servers worldwide which gives them top1 quality. Others are low quality products

    • Jabon Eros

      Well, have you tried the others? In my personal use and comparison, FB messenger surprisingly gave better audio/voice quality than Skype.

  • kiran goud

    U havnt tested Hike messenger which give best audio quality and faster transfer rate….whatsapp audio quality sucks….

  • g

    Why isn’t Vonage Mobile on the board? It’s been the most pain-free app I’ve used (compared to even stuttering Hangouts on my Nexus 5). Heck, it did what Hangouts now does, way before Hangouts even had free VoIP calls. Free calls (mobile/landline) within the US, cheap calls internationally and free calls to other Vonage Mobile app users anywhere. I know AP readers can be a tech savvy bunch, I’d recommend giving this a look see.

    BTW, I am in no way associated with the company/product or anything. Just an ardent fan giving a shout out to a great product.

  • ajay b

    so even 512 kbps is more than enough for any voice call

  • Bhaavan

    Facetime?

  • MHPhan

    Skype sucks. Slow, laggy, outdated, consume battery and now thanks to this article, we know it use the most data.

  • Justin Uberti

    The numbers given are Kb – is this kilobits, or kilobytes? Kb typically means kilobits, but the numbers appear to too large to be kilobits.

    It would also be helpful to display kilobits per second in the graph, as this is typically how codec bandwidth use is measured.
    A normal uncompressed phone call (PCMU) uses ~64 kbps, or 480 KB/minute.

    • Aaron

      Remember, K is always small spelling.

  • ConCal

    Thanks for the Info

  • McLaren F1P1

    I use Nimbuzz as it supports voice calling for Symbian in sharp contrast to Viber and Skype which don’t support it for no valid reasons and call quality of Nimbuzz seems better. Now I understand why as it doesn’t require a lot of data to work!

  • m_shark

    WhatsApp just released voice calling, so give it some slack and time to optimize.

  • Newronz

    What about Hike??

  • Avi

    Tried half of these apps. skype has the best call quality by far. I don’t care if it uses x10 the data. the most important thing in call apps is call quality (and stability) everything else comes second. you usually use them on wifi anyway.

    • Great Dude

      You are right in that the quality is for sure is a lot important than other aspects and I also find Skype with a great performance,but for some people who go outside a lot and use 2g only,then these megabytes make a great difference for them,after all they will prefer cheap and fine than costly and great.
      Some people when I call them on Viber because of weak connection I found it difficult to speak with them,I will recommend them to use kakao and see how it would work.

    • Jabon Eros

      FB messenger gives me better clarity on voice calls than Skype.

    • gebonline

      10x the data usage means much more chances that your audio will break out when bandwidth fluctuates. I use VoIP for international calls, when end-to-end connections are most flaky, so I’d rather have decent quality using very low bandwidth rather than taking more chances of drops. I’m in an hotel with crappy WiFi and that’s when I need very low bandwidth first.

  • Supreeth

    The data consumed also depends on factors like HD audio, which makes the app consume more data. The HD quality can’t be provided without compromising on the Data consumed.

  • Aboobacker

    talkray / imo ????

  • Vishwas Singh Chouhan

    Amazing work. But do compare these services on the grounds of audio quality too.

  • Hossam

    I would like to clarify that voice calls traffic is only peer to peer. The. Voice stream does not pass through the app servers. The server only acts as a broker to connect both devices, but doesn’t serve any voice packets. So the conclusion at the end of the article is not so accurate.

  • akp

    Please include Hike app for test. We want to know. It give good call even on 2g networks.

  • ramjiyahoo

    I wonder why there is a difference between Facebook messenger and whatsapp, since both are owned by same investors and PE

    • Great Dude

      Big corporations do have several companies that work separately (or almost separately) from each other.
      I think because of privacy issues and different user base than Facebook (a lot use both but for different friends) ,they use totally different serves and managements to deal which each costumers.
      Don’t forget that if these particular apps merged then that would for certain damage the Whatsapp popularity.

  • fjleon

    try recording the calls and having the callers read the same 30 second call transcript, although recording the call may not be easy (you will probably need an external recorder and its own recording quality may impair the results)

  • Rhan Candia

    I use FB Messenger most of the time calling my relatives abroad. There’s a very noticeable delay on voice when I talk to my dad in the Middle East.

  • Anik

    After reading this, i tried both whatsapp and facebook over 2G, saw no data difference with whatsapp having slightly better call quility

  • Alex Woinder

    this article is being extremely unfair by not explaining to the end-user that although there’s a big difference in data quantity there’s also a difference in sound quality/crystallinety. This should have been pointed out AT LEAST ONCE.

  • mobilemann

    interesting!

  • Kukka Raja

    More data used means more voice clarity. Skype app lags but its voice clarity is very good. No echo and voice reaches immediately to the receiver unlike other apps which takes more than 1 second. Skype, Whatsapp and Hangouts, they go for better quality, not data.

  • Yalta

    I’d seen bad things said about the amount of data Skype uses for text alone. Before I install it and try it out, I’d like to know what your thoughts are on that. Does Skype eat up tons of data for text chat alone, simply by running in the background?

  • eugene savio

    Were as the Wass app have only voice calling which is not perfect up to that extension…..and even does not have video calling option if it would be the then Wass app will beat up the Skype …
    And coming to a app name jio chat has that feature of calling , video calling, chat, stickers of unlimited, news channel too. I think if this app start increase its user then the rest all app has to increase there work and ideas on it…..were as this jio chat is launched by reliance industries on India ……All the best anriod

  • cherry

    can you try Vsee too? some says it takes less data compare to skype or hangout, but have not seen any results like yours. thanks

  • MightyCash Gerente

    As a full-time Hangouts user to make and receive calls since I ported my Verizon phone number that I have been having for the past 10 years to Google Voice since February of 2014 to use it along with FreedomPop with data rollover (accumulated over 8.3 GB of data so far) which is a MVNO that operates on Sprint’s tower I can tell you that I am glad to know that Hangouts actually uses 681.3 KB per minute as opposed to 1.2 MB per minute that I always though Google Voice (Hangouts) utilized thanks to “snrblabs” statement the maker of the GrooveIP app for smartphones, when they used to use Google voice as their “supplier” back then as in last year, on their home page they stated that Google Voice used 1.2 MB per minute which translated to over having 400 Minutes available for a 500 MB data plan. Now on the new estimate of 681.3 KB per second, that translates to having 733.89 Minutes of talk time on a 500 MB of data freedompop gives you every months for 100% free which is not bad, but since I pay $3.99 every month for their data roll over plan, this means that my current 8.3 GB of data affords me a total talk time of 12,774.3737 Minutes instead of just 7,252.6507 minutes going by the old 1.2 MB per minute calculation.

    On the other token, on pre May 15, 2014 when you could still download, install GooveIP and use it with Google Voice to make and receive calls using that app, they were using the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) as their backbone to connect to Google’s servers and then Google told them that they were violating their (Google’s) terms and were forced to stop supporting and making new versions of GrooveIP that works with Google Voice. As a consequence, now the latest version of of GrooveIP makes use of a different VoIP provider called “Ring.To” which is as good as Google Voice since they have been in business since like 1997 or so and Ring.To claims that they are the master provider of lots of VoIP companies probably even Google’s supplier (who knows – their default voice message sounds even like Google Voice defaut voice message “The Ring.To subscriber is not available” while Google says “The Google Voice subscriber is not available” — exactly the same with just the product name changed). Well, Hangouts doesn’t use the XMPP protocol, maybe this might justify the change in calculations from 1.2 MB/minute (while in XMPP) to 681.3 KB/minute (using Hangout’s — what ever proprietary protocol they uss)

    Well, in short, I am stoked that Hangouts actually uses much less data than what I assumed I was using and that I actually have more talk time minutes available for my needs.

  • Adam Ward

    Your graph says “Average Data Use per Minute (Kb)”. Kb (lowercase “b”) is Kilobits. You need to fix it and change that to KB (capital “B”), as the results are obviously in Kilobytes, not Kilobits. If they were in fact in Kilobits then the difference in data usage between KakaoTalk and Skype over the course of an hour would be about 4MB, not 33.4MB as you claim. But that is obviously incorrect. Other than that, this is great! Very informative and helpful!

  • TalkRay, Grouphone, etc.. consumes very less amount of data per minute. :|

  • CK

    Thanks for the great and informative review! Good job!
    Would be much appreciate if Android Authority came out with “Which video calling app uses the most data per minute?” :)
    Thanks in advance!

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  • TheBashar

    Testing using the android Hangouts app showed 120-150kbps. That seems roughly in line for audio codec usage (87kbps for one-way G.711) plus overhead. Your chart shows Hangouts using 11.4kbps. That is unbelievably low. Are you sure there wasn’t a unit of measure conversion error in your results?

  • One Point though.. I know nobody will read it but still
    Was the same audio data was recorded by speaker I mean different amount of actual talking time can severly impact the Result :)

  • Adam Gustafson

    ZipT uses even less data then all of these apps and works well on 2G networks http://www.zipt.com.au

  • Adam Gustafson

    Check ZipT on the PlayStore very high quality calls and cheap international calls with value bundles

  • freakqnc

    How about the data used by an actual 4G call through a cell data network?

    • Barbara Harris

      Which uses more data whatsapp or messenger through facbook

  • bluelurker

    I think comparsion should have been based on the call quality rather than data consumption.

  • Bryan Fu

    The data is not accurate: I have severe problems having a normal conversation using Facebook messenger, Whatsapp and Skype on WIFI with 4.35 Mbps Download and 0.37 Mbps Upload (measured using speednet.net).

    From the measurements : Skype => 0.117 Mbps ; Whatsapp => 0.099 Mbps ; Facebook Messenger => 0.044 Mbps

    I should have more than enough to call but i hear 2 words every 10 sec blank. The same for my calling partner.

  • Max

    A very surprising, useful and clever article! Congrats

  • Simdude

    If you have an Ooma phone at home, they claim its app uses about 200 kb/minute which would significantly beat all of these other options.

  • Connie

    I’m trying to figure out why facebook messenger voice calling used up all my data when I had it set to wifi only any ideas?

    • Xavier

      To be safe, just turn off your Cellular Data when using it; that way it only uses the Wifi

  • Ahmad

    If you can do this test annually or bi-annually, it will be really appreciated.