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How much data does YouTube actually use?

Do you really know how much data YouTube uses? If not, we plan to tell you.
By
May 5, 2022
YouTube Quality Settings 1
Joe Hindy / Android Authority

YouTube is the world’s most popular video streaming website. It’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole and watch several videos back-to-back or even for hours at a time. Some content is good enough to watch like a television show. Thus, it’s quite easy to rack up quite the data bill without a bit of caution. There are some correct assumptions you can make immediately. Lower resolution videos obviously don’t use nearly as much data as higher resolution videos. However, do you really know how much data YouTube uses? If not, we plan to tell you.

QUICK ANSWER

YouTube uses between 0.5-1.5 MB per minute at 144p and 150-375 per minute MB at 8K.


JUMP TO KEY SECTIONS

YouTube Time Watched
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
Our testing method is actually pretty simple. We used a total of three data monitoring tools. Android has a native data monitoring tool that we used. Additionally, we measured the data with Google’s Datally app (Google Play) as well as GlassWire (Google Play). To get our numbers, we measured with all three apps and averaged the results.

We used this 8k, 60FPS, HDR video tour of Peru because Peru is a beautiful place, and also this video had every available resolution on YouTube at the fastest possible frame rate with HDR. We viewed the video at a locked resolution for three minutes and measured the data. Unfortunately, not all resolutions are always available on mobile. Thus, for 8k, we used the Windows data monitor along with GlassWire’s PC client and averaged the results.

We also ultimately measured all available resolutions on PC because we could and used Google’s Stats for Nerds option by right-clicking the video for the bitrate numbers. We also sourced YouTube’s bitrate recommendations since they likely encode videos in those birates anyway.

There were some troubles. The PC I used had no problem playing the 8k video. However, my monitor doesn’t support HDR so I don’t believe I saw the maximum possible bitrates for 8k. Until we do further testing, our 8k numbers are estimates.


YouTube data usage, by the numbers

YouTube Quality Settings 2
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
Check the table below for our findings:

Video QualityResolution (pixels)Framrate (FPS)Bitrate (average)Data used per minuteData used per 60 minutes
Video Quality
144p
Resolution (pixels)
256x144
Framrate (FPS)
30
Bitrate (average)
80-100 Kbps
Data used per minute
0.5-1.5 MB
Data used per 60 minutes
30-90 MB
Video Quality
240p
Resolution (pixels)
426x240
Framrate (FPS)
30
Bitrate (average)
300-700 Kbps
Data used per minute
3-4.5 MB
Data used per 60 minutes
180-250 MB
Video Quality
360p
Resolution (pixels)
640x360
Framrate (FPS)
30
Bitrate (average)
400-1,000 Kbps
Data used per minute
5-7.5 MB
Data used per 60 minutes
300-450 MB
Video Quality
480p
Resolution (pixels)
854x480
Framrate (FPS)
30
Bitrate (average)
500-2,000 Kbps
Data used per minute
8-11 MB
Data used per 60 minutes
480-660 MB
Video Quality
720p (HD)
Resolution (pixels)
1280x720
Framrate (FPS)
30-60
Bitrate (average)
1.5-6.0 Mbps
Data used per minute
20-45 MB
Data used per 60 minutes
1.2-2.7 GB
Video Quality
1080p (FHD)
Resolution (pixels)
1920x1080
Framrate (FPS)
30-60
Bitrate (average)
3.0-9.0 Mbps
Data used per minute
50-68 MB
Data used per 60 minutes
2.5-4.1 GB
Video Quality
1440p (QHD)
Resolution (pixels)
2560x1440
Framrate (FPS)
30-60
Bitrate (average)
6.0-18.0 Mbps
Data used per minute
45-135 MB
Data used per 60 minutes
2.7-8.1 GB
Video Quality
2160p (4k) (UHD)
Resolution (pixels)
3840x2160
Framrate (FPS)
30-60
Bitrate (average)
13.0-51.0 Mbps
Data used per minute
95-385 MB
Data used per 60 minutes
5.5-23.0 GB
Video Quality
4320p (8k) (FUHD)
Resolution (pixels)
7680x4320
Framrate (FPS)
30-60
Bitrate (average)
20-50 Mbps (estimated @30FPS)
Data used per minute
150-375 MB (estimated at 30FPS)
Data used per 60 minutes
9.0-22.5 GB (estimated @30FPS)

We want to clarify the data a little bit.  YouTube employs a variable bitrate. Thus, the amount of data you’ll use should fall somewhere between the high and low numbers we posted above. We understand that the difference between the low and high can vary significantly at higher resolutions, but a 4K video uses much less data at a lower bitrate and 30FPS than it will at 60FPS and a higher bitrate. We’re fairly confident your overall data use will fall within the applicable ranges listed above.


How to reduce data usage on YouTube

YouTube Data Saver 1
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
It’s fairly easy to save data on YouTube. For starters, the app and the website both let you choose your resolution. You can simply set it to a manageable resolution. In addition, the YouTube app on mobile has a data saver function that hard locks videos to something like 480p and that looks reasonably good on most smartphone screens.

You can access this by opening the YouTube app, clicking your profile picture, and then tapping Settings. From there, tap the Data saving option and turn it on. It will reduce video quality so that you use less data.

You can also access the data saving mode while watching any YouTube video. Hit the cogwheel button, tap the Quality option, and choose the Data saver option there.

There are other ways to do it. We recommend being on Wi-Fi as often as possible so you don’t use a bunch of mobile data. You used to need a third-party data saver app to restrict usage even more. However, YouTube built a data saving feature right into the app, so any third-party app won’t be able to do anything the main YouTube app can.


Some additional observations

YouTube Data Usage 4K
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
Our first fun observation is how YouTube loads videos. It doesn’t use a continuous stream. Instead, it loads data in chunks as it pre-buffers the video as you watch. It does this quite often. This also skews the numbers a bit. Let’s say, for instance, that you only watch one minute of a four-minute video. YouTube likely loaded an extra 30-45 seconds in advance.

That means you loaded about one minute and 45 seconds of video even if you only watched one minute of it. We did not correct our data for this behavior because it is outside of our control. That is simply how YouTube uses data. We zoomed in on a section of GlassWire’s graph while measuring the 4K video stream and you can clearly see the big load at the beginning and the chunk loading happening later.

YouTube Data Usage 144p vs 4K
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
144p vs 4K test. The 144p test is the small bumps on the left while the 4K test is the massive bumps on the right.
Secondly, the difference between a 4K video and a 144p video really is massive. We’ve included the screenshot above so you can see it for yourself. The 144p test is the small bumps on the left and 4K test is the massive amount of usage on the right. Because the data is squished together to show two separate tests, you can’t really see the chunk loading. However, what you can see is the massive difference in data usage and how much more intense it is on your data connection.


FAQ

How much data does live streaming use?

In our testing, live-streamed data uses about the same about of data to a comparably long YouTube video at the same resolution and frame rate.

How do I check my own YouTube data usage?

Open the YouTube app, hit your profile picture, and then tap the Time watched option. This shows you how much YouTube you’ve watched in the last week. The option below that, Your data in YouTube will show you your watch history, comment history, playlist history, etc. Additionally, every tool we used to measure YouTube data is available to you for free. Scroll up to the section about our testing methods for download links.

Why is my YouTube data usage so high?

There are two likely causes for this. The first is your YouTube app settings have every video playing at its maximum resolution and bitrate. Secondly, you just might be watching a ton of YouTube videos. It adds up faster than you might think. Try adjusting your app settings to YouTube’s data saver


Read more: YouTube Music vs YouTube Premium: What’s the difference?

Have you ever tried to measure your YouTube data speeds? If so, tell us your results in the comments.