Driving without listening to music is like eating pizza without cheese. Sure, you can do that. But why would you? Much like choosing the toppings on your pizza, we have an expansive amount of ways to listen to music. Back in the day it was like only being able to order a plain cheese pizza or a pepperoni pizza, we either listened to the radio or a CD.
Today with various music streaming options like Apple Music, Spotify, and Pandora we now have access to over 30 million songs, all from your cell phone. So unless Apple releases an iPhone with 90 TB of storage, there’s no way you would be able to store a music library of that size on your phone.
After signing up for Apple Music I spent the next month streaming during the wonderful Los Angeles traffic experience. While my commute was much more enjoyable, I began to wonder why I hadn’t started streaming music sooner… that is until I got my cell phone bill. I had gone over my data plan by 3 GB, adding an additional $45 to my bill. Knowing that the only change was streaming music I reset my data counter (Settings > Cellular) and set out on a four-hour road trip to find out how much data I was using with Apple Music.
Beats 1 Radio – 1 hour 2 minutes = 56.6 MB*
Gorillaz Humanz – 1 hour 9 minutes = 36.1 MB
Kendrick Lamar DAMN. – 55 minutes = 31.7 MB
Little Dragon Season High – 44 minutes = 25.6 MB
Avg. Data Used Per Hour = 39.5 MB
*data usage is higher due to downloading the album artwork for each song played
The Bottom Line
If you stream one hour of music per day, you’ll average around 1.2GB of data per month. Apple Music uses a variable bitrate (64kbps, 128kbps and 256kbps) for streaming so depending on if you are on Wi-Fi or cellular it will adjust the audio quality, which will affect data usage. For this test I was using AT&T’s 4G cellular service with high quality streaming turned off (Settings > Music > Cellular Data).
Spotify uses the same variable bitrate, so data usage with that app will be similar. If you’re looking to use less data (and lower sound quality), the free version of Pandora only streams at 64 kbps and for one hour will only use 18.5 MB. If you have a Pandora One subscription it raises the bitrate to 192 kbps so in the end your data usage would be similar to Apple Music or Spotify.
Depending on your service provider and data plan you might be better off looking at an unlimited data plan, I know I did. Getting access to all of the albums and radio stations that Apple Music offers is well worth the extra cost of moving to an unlimited data plan.
Bonus: How to Hack Apple Music
Ok this isn’t really hacking anything but during this little experiment I found that when listening to an album I had already streamed it used zero data. Doing a little digging it looks like Apple Music will store a cache of your streamed songs on your phone. While it will take up storage space, when you listen to the album again it will not use additional data. You won’t be able to access these files from your phone but when more space is needed iOS will automatically delete these files, so if you ran out of space and stream the album again it will use data to store these files.