Pandora App Review – Data Usage Test
It was recently announced that Verizon is ending its unlimited data plan. Starting July 7th, instead of ‘all you can eat’, you’ll be getting 2GB for $30. While 2GB might seem like a lot to some, if you’re a heavy streaming app user, you might find yourself paying overage charges if you’re not careful. One of the major causes of this may be Pandora.
For the most part, everyone loves Pandora. I personally know several people who use it heavily on their smartphones, whether Android, or iPhone. The most common usage scenario seems to be while commuting, or while at work during the day. This wasn’t a problem if you were on an unlimited data plan. Unfortunately, now that the entire industry seems to have decided that the unlimited plans are history, these users need to either change their plan, or change their habits.
Pandora Data Usage
With the thought of looming data caps in mind, I decided to do a little homework, and figure out exactly how much data Pandora actually uses. My testing environment:
- Phone – Droid Incredible
- Data metering app – Netcounter
- Music – an eclectic ‘Quick Mix’ of every station on my account, ranging from Country to Metal
Since the time of a Pandora session would always have different songs, and therefore different bandwidth usage (due to differences in beat/rhythm/range etc.) I decided that the best thing to do was run three 15 minute tests, then average it out. The music selection was as random as I could make it, and 15 minutes seems long enough to hit a few genres. That’s about as scientific as i could get.
After listening to Pandora for 15 minutes, I recorded the data usage each time:
- Test 1 – 10.22MB used
- Test 2 – 8.26MB used
- Test 3 – 8.42MB used
Interesting, but what exactly does this mean to the average Pandora user? Time for some analysis:
- The Pandora app uses on average 8.96MB per 15 minutes, which is 35.84MB per hour of music.
- If you’re on a 150MB per month plan (my current Verizon plan) you can listen to only 4.18 hours of music a month!
- If you’re on a 2GB plan, you can listen for 55.8 hours a month. Broken down to a standard 5 day work week, that would be 2.79 hours of music a day.
Those numbers aren’t exactly encouraging. I don’t know about you, but there are days when I listen to music at work for at least 6 hours in a single day. On my current plan, I’d hit my cap, and have to pay overage charges before my day was even done. The 2GB plan would obviously take me a lot farther, but I’m pretty sure that on average, I listen to more than 2.79 hours of music a day.
Oh, in case this isn’t clear, I’m just talking about Pandora data usage here. All of your browsing, email, etc. haven’t even been added to these bandwidth totals. So in summary, if you listen to Pandora a LOT, and don’t have an unlimited plan (or are about to lose it), then you’d better upgrade, or make sure you’re near a WiFi spot.
One last point. There’s a lot of commentary recently on Sirius XM Satellite Radio vs Pandora. I keep seeing statements such as “Why do I need to pay a monthly fee for Sirius when Pandora is free on my phone?!??!”. This is a much larger discussion, because it’s not really an apples to apples comparison. However, as far as “portable music” is concerned, they’re both considered options. So just to bang the point home here, if you use Pandora enough, and take a road trip or two on the weekends while listening, you’ll probably go over your data plan’s bandwidth allotment, resulting in overage fees. Those fees would be just about equal to, or possibly much more, than a Sirius subscription.
That’s about it. Now get out there, find a WiFi spot, and THEN turn on Pandora! Bam, no problems.