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How much data do you need?

How much data do you need?
photo courtesy of shutterstock

There are two major decisions you make when buying a smartphone. The first is which smartphone to get and we have a buying guide to help you decide just that. The second one, which is what we're talking about today, is how much data to get with your plan.

Most carriers offer unlimited talk and text with every plan, so the only variable is how much data you need each month. We've tackled how to get the best deal on the plan you choose, but how do you decide the amount of data you need in the first place? There are a few factors you need to consider.

Who is using the plan?

One big factor is who exactly is on your data plan. Most of the carriers take a "bucket" approach that gives you one big pool of data that everyone on the plan uses. The exception is T-Mobile, which lets you pick a data amount for each plan member.

If you're buying for just you, things are fairly easy to figure out. However, if you have another person on the plan, or several persons, you need to sit down with them and figure out how they're going to be using their phone.

At a minimum, plan to get 1 gigabyte for each person on the plan to start. That will cover basic Internet browsing, texting and email. So, a four-person family or office will need a minimum of 4GB to be safe.

In the case of preteens and teenagers, expect them to underestimate how much data they'll need. Even if they say they won't stream video using cellular, they probably will when they're trying to show their friends the latest hilarious viral video while out and about.

In general, you'll want to overestimate how much they need and then keep a close eye on their usage (more on that later). Remember, you can always downgrade a plan if it turns out you aren't using as much as you think.

Next page: How are you using the phone?
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