The Most Data-Friendly Music Streaming Options- Revealed

Streaming services have become the most popular way that people listen to music, podcasts, and other content. There are several platforms competing for users, all of which offer different benefits and features.

Which music streaming service uses the least amount of data?

When used at the lowest audio quality setting of 24kbps, Spotify is the streaming platform that uses the least data. You can also download songs while connected to wi-fi, which allows you to listen to music on Spotify without using any data.

This subject isn’t as simple as it may seem, though.

With so many music streaming services to choose from, it’s essential to know precisely how much data each uses and where they rank compared to one another.

There are many important factors to consider, such as the audio quality settings, the design of the apps, and more, which we will cover in this guide.

Which Music Streaming Service Uses The Least Amount of Data?

Every streaming service uses data when you listen to music. Although the amount of data is likely to be similar, certain platforms use less than others by allowing you to lower the audio bitrate, which in turn minimizes bandwidth usage.

The streaming platforms that use the least amount of data are Spotify and Pandora, the former being the most popular. When you sign up for Spotify Premium, you can choose from several different audio quality settings that impact the amount of data used.

The amount of data that a streaming platform uses depends on several variables. Any service that allows you to download songs to an offline playlist can be used without mobile data by connecting your smartphone or tablet to wi-fi.

The streaming services that offer offline music downloads include:

  • Spotify Premium
  • Tidal
  • Pandora
  • Apple Music
  • YouTube Music Premium
  • Amazon Music Unlimited
  • Deezer

You can download your favorite songs, albums, and playlists using any of these platforms while connected to wi-fi. No data will be used when you listen to the downloaded music.

Most streaming platforms offer a free paid membership and the option to upgrade to one of the paid subscriptions. One of the common perks you get when you upgrade is the option to play music at a higher bit rate.

The highest bitrate offered by streaming platforms is 320kbps, significantly higher than the lowest quality options discussed earlier in this guide. Therefore, using the highest settings is not advised if you want to use the least amount of data. 

Streaming platforms also use data by loading non-music content, such as artwork, lyrics, and other information. However, this uses minimal data and doesn’t vary significantly from platform to platform.

If you’re using a streaming platform to enjoy video content along with music, this will use a lot more data than consuming audio content alone.

Spotify, YouTube Music, and other platforms have integrated a lot of video content into their services in recent years, which should be avoided if you’re concerned about using too much data unless you’re connected to wi-fi.

Which Uses Less Data – Pandora or Spotify?

Spotify and Pandora are two of the best streaming platforms if you want to minimize data usage. Of the two, there’s no denying that Spotify is much more popular, but Pandora has a loyal and ever-growing user base.

Pandora offers a free version that can be upgraded of either Pandora Plus or Pandora Premium. Pandora Plus is somewhat of a middle ground for users who want an affordable streaming service with limited offline listening and unlimited skips.

At first glance, it appears Spotify and Pandora are pretty evenly matched regarding data usage, but when you analyze them closely, there is a clear winner. Let’s compare their performance in this area. 

Spotify’s lowest audio quality setting is 24 kbps. This results in only 0.18 MB of data being used per minute. For every hour you use Spotify on this setting, you will use 10.8 MB of data. That means that to use 1 GB of data, you would need to listen to music for 92 hours and 30 minutes.

Using the normal audio quality offered by Spotify, which has a bitrate of 96kbps, listening to music will use 0.72 MB per minute, or 43.2 MB each hour, meaning that 1 GB of data would be used for 23 hours and 6 minutes.

On the other hand, the free version of Pandora allows users to select either the standard or high audio quality. The standard quality streams audio at 64kbps, while the higher setting is 128kbps.

This means that Pandora will use around 0.38 MB per minute, or 23 MB every hour, on the lowest possible setting. The higher setting uses 0.96 MB per minute or 58 MB per hour.

However, like Spotify, Pandora adds more options to its audio quality settings if you decide to subscribe to the Premium package. The platform offers users the option to stream audio at a lower setting of 32kbps.

At the lowest audio quality setting, Pandora only uses 0.24 MB every minute, which equates to 14.4 MB each hour. This is pretty impressive and ranks amongst the lowest amount of data offered by music streaming services.

Nevertheless, it’s not quite low enough to beat Spotify’s incredibly low 10.8 MB of data usage per hour on the lowest bitrate setting of 24kbps.

The tables below directly compare the two streaming platforms’ data usage.

Pandora Audio Quality (Bitrate)Data Usage Per MinuteData Usage Per Hour
Lowest Quality (32kbps)0.24 MB14.4 MB
Standard Quality (60kbps)0.48 MB28.8 MB
High Quality (128kbps)1.2 MB57.6 MB
Highest Quality (192kbps)1.44 MB86.4 MB
Spotify Audio Quality (Bitrate)Data Usage Per MinuteData Usage Per Hour
Lowest Quality (24kbps)0.18 MB10.8 MB
Standard Quality (96kbps)0.72 MB43.2 MB
High Quality (160kbps)1.2 MB72 MB
Highest Quality (192kbps)2.4 MB144 MB
Comparison Table Of Data Usage Between Spotify And Pandora

As you can see, the differences in data usage between Pandora and Spotify are pretty minimal, particularly in the standard and high qualities. However, by offering the lowest setting of 24kbps, Spotify dramatically reduced the data usage when using the platform.

Indeed, using the lowest setting will ultimately result in you experiencing a reduced audio quality. The file will be more compressed, and therefore there will be less detail in the music.

So, although reducing the bitrate is a great way to save data, it’s not the best option if you want to experience high-quality audio.

Does Music Streaming Use a Lot of Data?

If you’re concerned about using a lot of mobile data, you’re probably wondering whether you should be using your preferred music streaming service regularly. The good news is that music streaming doesn’t use a lot of data compared to video streaming or social media apps.

Visual content is the main thing you need to limit if you want to save your data, particularly high-resolution videos. In comparison, listening to music on Spotify, Apple Music, or some other streaming platform isn’t going to be too taxing on your data allowance.

As we’ve already suggested, you can download music to listen to without any data if you subscribe to most of the popular streaming platform’s paid memberships. This will allow you to connect your device to wi-fi, download your favorite tracks, and then listen to them anywhere without affecting your data allowance.

Using Pandora as an example, you’d use half a gigabyte of data if you were to listen to your favorite music for a total of eight hours in a single day on the standard quality. All things considered, this isn’t a lot of data for that duration of streaming.

We don’t recommend listening to music for that long each day, particularly if you’re using headphones, so if we use a more realistic amount of time of 3 hours per day on the standard quality setting, you’d still struggle to use 1 GB of data in five days.

If you’re using a music streaming platform on the highest possible audio setting, watching the accompanying music videos, and scrolling through all of the different features for long periods, then, of course, you will use a lot of data.

Check out this YouTube video that shows how to get the best audio quality possible with Spotify.

However, it is possible to use very little data if you use the streaming platforms just for music playback, on the standard or low-quality settings.

Podcasts, audiobooks, and other audio content use a very similar amount of data to music, providing they’re not accompanied by videos.

Which Streaming Platform is Best for Offline Listening?

Offline listening is a feature that many streaming platforms offer their users. It works by storing songs in a downloaded folder on your device so that you don’t require a connection to the internet to play them.

This feature has obvious benefits when it comes to saving mobile data, but it’s also very useful if you travel a lot. When your device loses its connection to the network, usually your music will stop streaming until the connection is reestablished, but when you use offline listening, playback won’t be affected.

There are several streaming platforms that offer impressive offline listening, but the two that stand out the most are Apple Music and Spotify. There’s a reason that these two platforms are the most popular worldwide – they deliver on all fronts.

Spotify’s offline mode is free for a one-month trial period, after which users pay to subscribe to the Premium membership to continue using this feature. Likewise, Apple Music also includes this feature for a free three-month trial before you must pay for the platform.

The entirety of Spotify’s and Apple Music’s catalogs is available for offline listening, and both platforms don’t place any limits on the number of songs, albums, or playlists you can download. Simply connect to wi-fi, find the songs you want to save, and wait for them to download.

Tidal, Amazon Music, and Pandora are also great for offline listening, but Spotify and Apple Music are hard to beat due to their intuitive user interfaces, vast music selections, and simplicity.

Spotify vs. Apple Music – Which Uses The Most Data?

Apple Music uses more data than Spotify in general, but there are some measures you can take to limit the amount of data the platform uses. As we’ve already established, Spotify is very efficient on data usage particularly if you use one of the lower bitrate settings when streaming.

The high-quality audio setting offered by Apple Music is 256 kbps. With this setting, an average lengthed song will use somewhere in the region of 5 MB data.

On the standard audio quality setting, Apple Music uses, on average, 120 MB per hour. This is significantly more than Spotify, which is all the more reason to make sure you download your favorite songs to Apple’s offline playlist.

One of the ways that you can make Apple Music use less data is to check that “Lossless Audio” is turned off. If this feature is turned on, the music files will be uncompressed, resulting in them being larger and using more data to stream.

Another setting that can cause Apple Music to use more data is “Mobile Data Streaming.” This is found in Settings > Audio Quality > Mobile Data Streaming.

If this setting is set to “High Quality,” it will cause Apple Music to use significantly more data when you stream music. Switch it to “High Efficiency,” and it will be less taxing on your mobile data.

Other options that are available in Apple Music, such as “Download over Cellular Data,” “Automatic Downloads,” and “Download in Dolby Atmos,” should also be deactivated if you want to save mobile data.

Video vs. Audio Streaming – Data Usage

Compared to video streaming, using music streaming services won’t have that much of an effect on your data usage. However, some music streaming platforms also offer video content, which, if viewed, will significantly increase the amount of data you use.

YouTube Music is one of the most popular audio and video combination platforms, and it boasts a huge selection of songs, albums, music videos, and videos of live performances.

Watching one of the videos on this platform at the regular quality of 480p will use around 260 MB of data each hour. That’s a huge increase compared to the standard audio quality of Spotify, which only uses 43.2 MB per hour.

Most people like to watch videos in high definition, and this uses a lot of data. Watching a YouTube video on 1080p will use around 1.6 GB of data per hour, so it’s recommended to only do this when connected to wi-fi.

Furthermore, if you use other video streaming platforms like Netflix, the data usage makes YouTube look pretty tame! Netflix uses around 3 GB per hour on a high-quality setting.

How To Use Less Data When Streaming Music

The single most effective way that you can limit data usage when streaming on music platforms is by using the offline download feature that many services offer. This feature is mostly available on paid subscription plans like Spotify Premium or Youtube Music Premium.

Depending on the streaming service you use, there may be a limit to the number of songs or albums that you can download for offline listening. Others may offer unlimited downloads, which is a useful feature if you listen to a lot of different music.

Listening to music on a lower audio quality will also reduce the amount of data that you use. You can adjust this in the settings menu of your chosen streaming service, but it will result in less detailed sound quality.

If the streaming service you use has video content, such as music videos, you should avoid watching these if you want to keep data usage to a minimum.

It’s also a good idea to go through all of the individual settings in your preferred streaming platform to ensure that your data isn’t unnecessarily used by a setting you didn’t realize was activated.

Related Questions

Which streaming services use the most data?

The streaming platform that uses the most data is Netflix due to its high-quality video content. Netflix uses approximately 0.7 GB each hour on the standard definition setting and 3 GB per hour on high definition. In ultra high definition, the platform uses a massive 7 GB of data each hour.

Which streaming platform has the best sound quality?

The streaming platform with the best sound quality is Tidal. The platform is designed for sound quality and offers lossless audio that is better quality than any of its main competitors.

Which age group streams the most music?

Statistics show that the younger generation streams music most frequently, which isn’t surprising as they have grown up being exposed to this relatively new technology. Over 60 percent of 16-34-year-olds use audio streaming.

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