Gone are the days when it was just a repository for still images of people’s dinners and summer holidays. Now, there are live streams, stories and other features that can soon eat through your data plan if you’re not careful.
But how much data does Instagram actually use? We don our white lab coats and run some experiments.
How much data does Instagram claim to use?
There are no official figures available directly from Instagram, so we don’t know what to expect when it comes to data usage through the app.
But how much data does a normal feed use on Instagram use?
To test this out we downloaded a data usage monitoring app and set it to zero. Then, with a timer set for five minutes, we browsed our Instagram timeline, trying to focus mainly on still images. This, of course, is next to impossible now that videos are all over the app, so the results we obtained are a mixture of video and stills, which is a better real-world test case anyway.
When the timer finished, the amount of data that had been consumed by Instagram after 5 minutes was around 50MB. Extrapolating from this figure, we deduced the follow usage figures (when mainly viewing still images):
15 minutes = 150MB
30 minutes = 300MB
45 minutes = 450MB
1 hour = 600MB
So, if you spend an hour a day on Instagram, you’ll have used up 4.2GB of data (600 x 7) by the end of the week. Do that across a month and you’ll rack up around 16GB.
How much data does uploading photos and videos to Instagram use?
Obviously, most people don’t just consume content on Instagram but also upload their own. This can be a bit more difficult to accurately estimate (as we have different cameras, file sizes and quality), but it as a rule of thumb uploading a photo will use around 2MB of data. It’s more for video, with around 8MB for a quick story. It’s safe to say then that if you’re uploading videos all the time, you’ll soon start to edge towards the limits of your data plan, especially if you’re also an avid scroller through the Instagram feed.
How to lower your use of data on Instagram
If you want to lower the amount of data Instagram uses, there are some settings you can adjust to achieve this.
First, Instagram pre-loads videos in your feed to ensure that everything works quickly. You can prevent this from happening so that the data consumed is less. The trade-off is that videos will take longer to load when you’re on a mobile connection.
Here’s how to adjust the settings in the Instagram app:
Tap on your Profile picture in the bottom right corner of the screen
Tap the three horizontal lines in the top right of the screen
Next, tap Account followed by Data Usage (iPhone) or Mobile data use (Android)
From the menu, choose Use less mobile data (iPhone) or data saver (Android)
If you’re an Android user, then you also have the option of limiting when Instagram serves high-resolution content. This means you can have lower-res stuff when on your mobile connection, then full resolution when you get back to a Wi-Fi connection.
To use this feature, tap the High-Resolution media option that’s under Data Saver. Then select from Never, Wi-Fi only, or Mobile + Wi-Fi.
You can always adjust these setting again later if your circumstances change.
Martyn has been involved with tech ever since the arrival of his ZX Spectrum back in the early 80s. He covers iOS, Android, Windows and macOS, writing tutorials, buying guides and reviews for Macworld and its sister site Tech Advisor.