Cost-effective ways to stream your favourite shows on your phone
Streaming video can use up to 3GB of data per hour if you’re streaming in HD, and about 1GB when streaming in SD – though the exact usage depends on the quality and streaming service. That means you’ll end up burning through 3GB of data in the space of three episodes of Housekeepers or Gomora, or one-and-a-half episodes of Deadly Class when you’re watching in HD. And who can afford that these days?
But when you’re streaming on the small screen of your mobile phone, you don’t need to stream in HD – a lower resolution will have hardly any noticeable effect on the quality of the visuals.
Which means it makes sense to check and control the picture quality in your favourite streaming app, because it’ll save you a tonne of data.
Bandwidth capping on Showmax
Showmax’s data-saving tools now reduce data use to as low as 100MB an hour when streaming on mobile, and less than 200MB for downloads.
How to put a cap on bandwidth on Showmax on your mobile phone:
- Download the Showmax app for iOS, Android or Huawei.
- Login and go to settings (For iOS, click App Preference after Settings).
- Select Bandwidth Capping and choose:
No Capping – this gives you the highest possible quality at 1.4GB per hour
Medium – 0.7GB per hour
Low – 0.3GB per hour
Minimum – 0.1GB per hour (mobile devices only)
- Select the bandwidth capping setting best suited to your device and budget.
You’ll be surprised how good the picture quality is on the low settings – in our tests, we’ve found that it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference in picture quality between minimum capping (which uses the least data) and no capping (which uses the most).
How to budget for the right amount of data on Showmax:
Showmax has a nifty bandwidth calculator that will allow you to budget for the amount of data you’re likely to need every month or week, depending on your streaming habits. The minimum capping is a recent development and isn’t yet included in the calculator, but if you choose “low”, you’ll get an idea of how little you’ll need when you’re on the minimum cap.
What is there to watch with all the data I’ll be saving?
Data control settings on Netflix
Both downloading and streaming on Netflix use the same (or a similar) amount of data, so whether you’re planning on downloading a few episodes to watch while you’re offline or are streaming to watch immediately, you’ll want to adjust the amount of data you’ll be using.
Data control settings on Netflix look like this:
- Auto – Adjusts automatically to deliver the highest possible quality, based on your current internet connection speed
- High – Best video quality, up to 3GB per hour per device for HD, and 7GB per hour per device for Ultra HD
- Medium – SD: 0.7GB per hour per device
- Low – 0.3GB per hour per device
As you can see, Netflix does not have the minimum cap that Showmax has, so the lowest you can go is 0.3GB per hour.
How to use data control settings on Netflix:
- From a web browser, go to your Account page.
- Select a profile name from Profile & Parental Controls.
- Select Change for Playback settings.
- Select your desired data usage setting.
- Save changes. Your changes will take effect within 8 hours.
This will apply to your Netflix data usage across all your devices.
But the platform also offers data control settings that are specifically for the mobile app.
Netflix’s data usage settings specifically for streaming on your phone:
- Automatic – Netflix will select a data usage setting that balances data usage with good video quality. Currently this will allow you to watch about 4 hours per GB of data. (This is around 0.3GB per hour.)
- Wi-Fi Only – You will only be able to stream on the device while connected to Wi-Fi.
- Save Data – Watch about 6 hours per GB of data. (This is around 0.2GB per hour.)
- Maximum Data – Recommended only if you have an unlimited data plan. This setting will stream at the highest possible quality for your device and the content you are viewing. This may use 1GB per 20 minutes or more depending on your device and network speeds.
But if you have already set your Netflix data usage, streaming on mobile devices will not exceed this setting. So if you’ve set your Netflix cap using your web browser as above at the lowest setting of 0.3GB per hour, but have selected Maximum Data for your phone, you’ll still only be streaming at the lowest cap.
How to set your mobile data usage on Netflix:
- While in the Netflix app, select the Menu icon.
- Select App Settings.
- Select Cellular Data Usage.
- Select your preferred setting.
Now you’ve learned how to conserve as much data as possible, it’s time to get streaming! Here’s our pick of what we’d watch right now.