A reader, Chris, wrote to us yesterday with a really good question about streaming music services:
“… what I want to know is how do they compare in terms of data usage? How does Google’s compression compare to Pandora, or Spotify, or the Amazon player? Funky playlists and piped music are fine, but how much of my 4g / month will they eat? “
Good question! Burning your monthly data cap on your smartphone is a headache, and your music streaming app is likely to be responsible for serious damage. But how much data is your app using?
The amount of data your service absorbs depends on the quality settings. For Beats Music, Spotify, and Google Play Music, a high-quality stream reaches a maximum of 320 kbps. (Not all tracks are available at this high quality, but most are.)
Pandora is the only major consumer service we’ve found that doesn’t offer 320kbps streams. In fact, on mobile, it reaches a maximum of 64 kbps. Lower quality streams obviously use a lot less data.
So what does this mean in terms of the data plan? The 320 kbps throughput translates to 2.40 MB per minute of audio or 115.2 MB per hour. So if you were to stream music for an entire eight hour work day, you would burn almost 1 GB. If you have a 2 GB cap like me, then this is no folly to advise!
Here is a breakdown of a number of the most popular services.
Standard quality: 64 kbit / s
High quality: 320kbps
Normal quality: 96 kbps
High quality: 160kbps
Extreme quality: 320kbps
Google Play Music
Three quality settings, with a maximum of 320kbps.
The maximum speed is 64kbps (automatically adjusts according to your connection).
This is not all services (Apple does not publish specifications for iTunes Radio, but it gives you an idea of how much data these services consume: 320 kbit / s on top, 64 kbit / s / 128 kbit / s at the bottom.)
Fortunately, you have music lover options. T Mobile offers Free streaming music for Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio and iTunes Radio. But to keep the most data for cat videos, download tracks while connected to Wi-Fi.
Remember, if you have any questions, advice, questions, concerns, you can always contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.