How to control the amount of data you’re streaming from Netflix

Just because you can stream unlimited data, with the latest plans from the four major carriers in the US, doesn’t mean you should. Unlimited data plans don’t come cheap and considering the average consumer uses just 1.8GB of data in data collected by Mobidia, using your data intelligently can save you money.

Checking email, sending photos, browsing the web and using navigation doesn’t consume a ton of data when you compare it to streaming music or videos. If you use your data wisely or download your videos to your device’s memory, which are getting more base storage in recent years, you can opt for cheaper plans to cut your monthly costs.

A standard definition video streaming from Netflix consumes roughly 1GB of data per hour. Want to watch in HD on your smartphone or tablet? Expect to consume 3GB of data per hour. That could result in 6GB of data just for watching one standard length movie.

If you have a family of four, you could be even be reaching your home internet provider’s data cap. For example, Cox and Comcast employ a 1TB data cap (1000GB) which can be consumed with 333 hours of HD video.  For a family of four, that would be roughly three hours of HD content streaming per person per month. While that might seem like a lot of video to watch, it’s well under the five hour and four minute average amount of TV average American’s consume per day. If you go over your 1TB data cap you can expect to pay an extra $10 for 50GB data allotments on top of your already pricey internet bill.

If you want to control the amount of data you’re streaming to save money, luckily Netflix gives you the option to make the changes.

Adjust your data usage settings for home use

Adjusting the data usage settings for your account is the easiest way to reduce the amount of bandwidth used while watching Netflix. There are four data usage settings to choose from. Each estimate below is per stream:

  • Low (0.3 GB per hour)
  • Medium (SD: 0.7 GB per hour)
  • High (Best video quality, up to 3 GB per hour for HD and 7 GB per hour for Ultra HD)
  • Auto (Adjusts automatically to deliver the highest possible quality, based on your current Internet connection speed)

To select a setting that works best for your Internet plan, navigate to the Your Account page and select Playback settings in the My Profile section. It can take up to eight hours for these changes to take effect, and restricting data usage may affect video quality.

Data usage settings only apply to the Netflix profile you set them from, meaning you can have different data usage settings for each profile. If you are concerned about the total amount of data that Netflix uses, make sure to change this setting for each profile.

Adjust your cellular data usage settings for Android or iOS devices

Adjusting the cellular data usage settings for your account is the easiest way to reduce the amount of data used while watching Netflix. There are six data usage settings to choose from. Each estimate below is per stream:

  • Off – You will only be able to stream on the device while connected to Wi-Fi.
  • Auto – Netflix will select a data usage setting that balances data usage with good video quality. Currently this will allow you to watch about 3 hours per GB of data.
  • Low – Watch about 4 hours per GB of data.
  • Medium – Watch about 2 hours per GB of data.
  • High – Watch about 1 hour per GB of data.
  • Unlimited – 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 1 GB per 20 minutes or more depending on your device and network speeds.

To select the setting that works best for your mobile data plan:

  • While in the Netflix app, select the Menu icon. This will either appear as  in the upper left corner or  in the upper right corner.
  • Select App Settings.
  • Select Cellular Data Usage.
  • Select your preferred setting.

Data setting changes you make from your mobile device apply to that device only while streaming over mobile networks. While connected to Wi-Fi, Netflix will attempt to stream in the highest quality possible for your connection speed and the content you’re watching.

If you have also set your data usage for all devices under Playback settings on the Your Account page, streaming on mobile devices will not exceed this setting.

If you need more help, you can visit the help section at Netflix.com.

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