Podcasts can use up tons of your data if you aren’t careful, but just how much, and how can you avoid it?
If you don’t have access to Wi-Fi but you really want to listen to your favorite podcast and that hot new episode, you can at least budget it out ahead of time.
Let’s talk about how much data is used up in podcast listening, then let’s talk about the data you’ll drain by streaming video podcasts in multiple qualities.
Is Data Used in Podcast Listening?
If you don’t have access to Wi-Fi, streaming a podcast to your phone will use up your data. How much depends entirely on the method that you use to listen (audio vs. video), and if the signal is steady.
When your provider sets up data rates, sometimes they’ll include “free hours” at night. This means that the data you use doesn’t count towards your monthly limit, so you won’t have to worry about using up every last bit of it.
You can download a podcast instead, as long as there’s an ethical way to do so. Whether you use an option like Spotify Premium so you can download them and use them offline or not is up to you, but just keep in mind that you should only ever do that on a Wi-Fi network, not through your data. Otherwise, what’s the point?
How Much Data is Used for Podcast Listening?
If you listen to podcasts and don’t watch video podcasts, you’re in for a treat: you can stream, on average, up to 15x more podcast hours than those who exclusively stream video podcasts (and that’s not even in HD).
Even with lossless audio quality, you can get much more audio podcast bandwidth. Let’s talk about how much each format takes up and match that to your budget.
Audio podcasts take up about 45 MB of data per hour streamed. This can vary depending on what quality you’re streaming in. That’s just an average.
The bitrate and kHz matters quite a bit. The standard is 44.1 kHz, but some podcasts want to be “high quality” and record at 192 kHz. At that level, you don’t hear enough of a difference to make it worthwhile unless you also have top-of-the-line audio equipment to listen to it on.
Basically, pay attention to the bitrate and kHz. A simple 16-bit 44.1 kHz means you have excellent quality and you won’t eat up a ton of data. Anything over that is basically overkill for a podcast, though there is an argument for higher sample rates for music.
In the day and age where you can buy an 8K monitor, video qualities are getting out of hand. Thankfully, podcasts aren’t high-budget HBO series, and having a relatively low quality video output doesn’t matter that much.
Let’s say you’re streaming it on your phone. You can get away with 480p (SD or standard definition), and that will still take 700 MB of data to stream it for a solid hour. Now imagine that’s at the standard 1080p (YouTube quality videos). It jumps up to just over 3 GB per hour.
You can get away with low quality videos on a phone. If you’re streaming it on your PC and using an internet plan with data (or using your phone as a hotspot), you can just not watch it in full screen and maintain that 480p quality to save your data usage.
How to Reduce Data Usage
Let’s not burn through all your data. This is what you need to know about stopping your mobile data from going over the line.
- Set Alarms to Check Usage: It stinks to have an alarm interrupt that podcast you’re watching, but as we all know, it’s very easy to get sucked into a podcast and lose track of time. Set intermittent alarms to go off and let you know when it’s time to stop for now.
- Stick to SD (or Lower): SD videos are low quality enough to not kill your data cap, but still look good on most smartphones. Stick to them.
- Listen, Don’t Watch: As we described before, video podcasts are major data hoarders. If we’re being frank here, most podcasts don’t benefit from the visual element by a whole ton. If the podcast really needs to be watched, put it on your list to watch when you have Wi-Fi access, or budget your data so you can watch it towards the end of your billing cycle.
- Download on Wi-Fi, Listen Later: It’s just as plain and simple as that. Even if you use free public library Wi-Fi or something along those lines, you just want to make sure you’re not using your data to download and store a podcast. Listen on-the-go with your local storage. You know, just make sure you have enough to hold the entire podcast before you download it.
- Be Smart About Apps: Did you know that there are a ton of apps running on your phone that are sucking up data even when they’re just sitting in the background? Some people use around 800 MB worth of data while they sleep because of data-drainer apps. Check which ones you have, and shut off data access for them all before you watch your podcast.
Keep Your Data Lean
Understand your data cap. Just like you would make a list with price values before you go grocery shopping, it’s best to do that with your data each month.
If you listen to a weekly podcast every single Friday and you know the average length of their episodes, you can account for that.
Video will obviously tear through your data, but if you’re okay listening to audio-only podcasts, you can stream well over 15 hours of audio podcasts for less bandwidth for 1 hour of video podcasts in SD quality (480p). Budget it ahead of time and don’t burn through it too quick.