How much data does YouTube actually use?

A photo of the YouTube resolution selector
YouTube is the world’s most popular video streaming website. It’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole and watch several videos back-to-back or even for hours at a time. Some content is good enough to watch like a television show. Thus, it’s quite easy to rack up quite the data bill without a bit of caution. There are some correct assumptions you can make immediately. Lower resolution videos obviously don’t use nearly as much data as higher resolution videos. However, do you really know how much data YouTube uses? If not, we plan to tell you.


A photo of Datally showing YouTube's data usage

Our testing method

The testing method is actually pretty simple. Android has a data monitoring tool in the OS already. However, for the sake of verification, we also used Google’s Datally app as well as GlassWire. Both apps also record data usage in nearly real-time. That way we have three total sources so we can compare and average results for better accuracy. Otherwise, it’s just watching a video and seeing what the data apps all say.

We used this 8k, 60FPS, HDR video tour of Peru because Peru is a beautiful place and also this video had every available resolution on YouTube at the fastest possible frame rate with HDR. We viewed the video at a locked resolution for three minutes and measured the data. Unfortunately, not all resolutions are always available on mobile. Thus, for 4k and 8k, we used the Windows data monitor along with, well, GlassWire because it’s available on PC as well. It also helped confirm continuity between platforms.

We also ultimately measured all available resolutions on PC because we could and used Google’s Stats for Nerds option by right-clicking the video for the bitrate numbers. We also sourced YouTube’s bitrate recommendations since they likely encode videos in those birates anyway.

There were some troubles. The computer I used had no problem playing the 8k video. However, my monitor doesn’t support HDR so I don’t believe I saw the maximum possible bitrates for 8k. Until we do further testing, our 8k numbers are estimates.


A photograph of YouTube's main video player

YouTube data usage, by the numbers

Check the table below for our findings:

Video Quality Resolution (pixels) Framrate (FPS) Bitrate (average) Data used per minute Data used per 60 minutes
144p 256×144 30 80-100 Kbps 0.5-1.5 MB 30-90 MB
240p 426×240 30 300-700 Kbps 3-4.5 MB 180-250 MB
360p 640×360 30 400-1,000 Kbps 5-7.5 MB 300-450 MB
480p 854×480 30 500-2,000 Kbps 8-11 MB 480-660 MB
720p (HD) 1280×720 30-60 1.5-6.0 Mbps 20-45 MB 1.2-2.7 GB
1080p (FHD) 1920×1080 30-60 3.0-9.0 Mbps 50-68 MB 2.5-4.1 GB
1440p (QHD) 2560×1440 30-60 6.0-18.0 Mbps 45-135 MB 2.7-8.1 GB
2160p (4k) (UHD) 3840×2160 30-60 13.0-51.0 Mbps 95-385 MB 5.5-23.0 GB
4320p (8k) (FUHD) 7680×4320 30-60 20-50 Mbps (estimated @30FPS) 150-375 MB (estimated at 30FPS) 9.0-22.5 GB (estimated @30FPS)


YouTube Data Patterns

Some additional observations

These measurements are far from cut and dry. Our first observation is that a 30FPS, non-HDR video uses less data than a 60FPS, HDR-enabled video. That is why our graph has ranges rather than exact numbers. Those watching low bitrate videos at 30FPS and no HDR should clock in toward the bottom end of the spectrum. Obviously, those watching high bitrate videos at 60FPS and HDR will see significantly higher data usage rates.

YouTube buffers more video than you actually watch and that affects your usage-per-minute.

Another fun little observation is how YouTube loads data. It loads data in chunks rather than a continuous stream of data. In lower quality video, these chunks are easily identifiable because YouTube loads larger portions of the video all at once. For instance, in the 144p test YouTube loaded almost the entire video in about six very clean chunks (shown above). Meanwhile, the 4k video loaded in chunks so small that it looks like a continuous data stream. The 4k video also did not buffer as far into the video as the 144p did during our testing.

We did not correct our data for this behavior. The reason is because YouTube does this whether you want it to or not. If you watch a three minutes of a five minute video in 144p, YouTube still buffers almost the entire video. We could easily use math to remove the excess data and give you something closer to an exact per-minute usage. However, that would be inaccurate to real-world use.

Live streamed videos and regular videos had roughly the same bitrates and overall data usage, but live streams require a stable connection to function.

We also tested during a livestream and the data usage was about the same there as well. However, it is consistent data usage instead of chunks so those with less stable Internet connections may have buffer troubles even if your data speeds show sufficiently fast data to stream.

The last observation was how big of a range the data consumption is relative to the resolution. At 144p, the variance over the course of an hour is a mere 60MB. However, the variance for 4k is more than 15GB. Bitrates matter a great deal. However, YouTube uses a variable bitrate that makes exact numbers difficult to pinpoint.

It’s also interesting that the sizes can overlap. For instance, a low bitrate 480p video consumes less data than 360p video with a maxed out bitrate. We recommend averaging the top and bottom numbers for an idea of what you’ll use, but understand that number is very inexact and it could vary greatly depending on the content you watch.


A second photo of YouTube's various video resolutions

How to save data on YouTube

This is fairly easy. Simply lower the resolution of the video you want to watch. Going from 1080p to 720p can cut your data usage in half. It uses about one sixth of the data dropping from 1080p to 480p. Those numbers get more absurd if you go from an even higher resolution. Simply tap the three-dot menu button to choose your video quality.

Some other obvious choices include switching to WiFi whenever possible. This helps ease the use on your data cap, especially for those with lower caps. Additionally, some data saving apps can help even further. Google’s Datally app has such a feature and you can also find it in the Settings menu of most Android phones.


Have you ever tried to measure your YouTube data speeds? If so, tell us your results in the comments!

Google: No more YouTube comments on almost every video featuring minors

The YouTube logo as of 2019.

In a sweeping policy change announced today, Google is disabling YouTube comments on nearly every video on the platform which features at least one minor. The company made the announcement on its YouTube Creator Blog.

According to the blog post, Google is instituting the huge alteration to YouTube comments due to “predatory behavior.”

This reasoning is sound, as it recently came to light that child predators use YouTube comments as gateways to “wormholes” of child pornography. In a video explaining how it works, former YouTuber Matt Watson shows how a search for a keyword unrelated to child pornography can easily lead you to content most would consider predatory.

However, the new policy is also likely in response to accusations that internet trolls are using YouTube comments policies to take down seemingly-innocuous channels. This abuse of a system which is there for good reasons was likely the final straw for Google, although it makes no mention of this in its announcement.

Editor’s Pick

Google does make it clear in the announcement that it is leaving YouTube comments open for “a small number of creators,” although it doesn’t say which ones. It also promises to add more creators to this whitelist as soon as possible.

In related news, Google is also launching a new YouTube comments classifier which identifies and blocks perceptively-abusive comments. This classifier, according to Google, is twice as effective as the previous classifier.

You can read Google’s full statement on the matter here.

NEXT: YouTube finally admitted that it’s Rewind 2018 video was hot garbage

YouTube is banning dangerous pranks and challenges including Bird Box and Tide Pod

After the Netflix Original Bird Box became a viral hit, people around the world uploaded videos to YouTube showing them compete in the Bird Box challenge. While some of the clips showing people stumble around their homes were funny, others involved dangerous stunts such as driving while blindfolded.

After receiving demands from the community to not allow these types of dangerous videos, YouTube has announced that it is banning all harmful challenges and pranks.

YouTube announced its policy changes yesterday in a blog post (via Ars Technica):

Dangerous challenges and pranks: Reminder – content that encourages violence or dangerous activities that may result in serious physical harm, distress or death violates our harmful and dangerous policy, so we’re clarifying what this means for dangerous challenges and pranks. YouTube is home to many beloved viral challenges and pranks, but we need to make sure what’s funny doesn’t cross the line into also being harmful or dangerous. We’ve updated our external guidelines to make it clear that we prohibit challenges presenting a risk of serious danger or death, and pranks that make victims believe they’re in serious physical danger, or cause children to experience severe emotional distress. Read more in this Dangerous Challenges & Pranks FAQ.

YouTube’s official policy on harmful or dangerous content has also been updated. The following items were added to the list that already included instructional bomb making, hard drug use, and other acts that may result in serious injury.

  • Challenges that encourage acts that have an inherent risk of severe physical harm
  • Pranks that make victims believe they’re in physical danger
  • Pranks that cause emotional distress to children
Editor’s Pick

Many worry that YouTube’s guidelines are too ambiguous and will lead to some content being deleted while others are left untouched. As YouTuber Philip Defranco discusses, will this only remove videos involving dangerous stunts such as the Bird Box and Tide Pod challenges or will it also wipe the platform free of everything that includes upsetting a child such as Jimmy Kimmel’s Halloween Candy challenge?

To enforce these new policies and deter creators from uploading harmful videos, YouTube is using its community guidelines three-strike rule. After the channel has been stricken three times, the video platform can choose to shut it down completely.

YouTube is giving creators who have previously uploaded this type of content a pass. Over the next two months, any videos that were already uploaded involving harmful pranks or challenges will be deleted without striking the channel.

Microsoft intern claims Google tried to sabotage Edge browser, Google issues denial

  • A former Microsoft intern claims that Google introduced minor code into YouTube in an effort to sabotage the Microsoft Edge browser.
  • Google just issued a statement denying the validity of the claim.
  • This isn’t the first time someone has alleged that Google purposely gives other browsers disadvantages.

Earlier this week, Joshua Bakita, a former software engineering intern at Microsoft, posted a comment to Hacker News which lays out a stunning allegation: that Google allegedly tweaked YouTube code in order to hinder other browsers’ use of YouTube content, specifically Microsoft Edge.

According to Bakita, Google introduced “a hidden empty div” over YouTube videos, which caused no effect in Chrome browsers but caused the Edge browser’s hardware acceleration fast-path to malfunction. The result of this hidden code made YouTube videos display faster and more efficiently in Google Chrome than in Microsoft Edge.

Editor’s Pick

Bakita points to this alleged coding trick as an example of Google’s playing dirty to keep Chrome on top and other browsers struggling. He also says it is one example of why Microsoft is overhauling the Edge browser and re-building it with Chromium as its base, which will make it work more like Google Chrome.

Today, via The Verge, a YouTube spokesperson issued a formal statement on the matter, categorically denying Bakita’s allegations. The statement is here:

“YouTube does not add code designed to defeat optimizations in other browsers, and works quickly to fix bugs when they’re discovered. We regularly engage with other browser vendors through standards bodies, the Web Platform Tests project, the open-source Chromium project and more to improve browser interoperability.”

According to the YouTube spokesperson, the “hidden empty div” code Bakita suggests was sabotage was actually simply a bug, which has now been fixed.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time someone has claimed that Google stacks the deck in favor of Chrome. Earlier this year, a Mozilla program manager claimed YouTube code created a page load bottleneck for Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Edge, resulting in five-fold speed deprecation in non-Chrome browsers. The Mozilla employee pointed to a Firefox extension which circumvented the problem.

What do you think? Is Google playing dirty in the browser wars, or are these isolated incidents of bugs blown out of proportion? Let us know your opinions in the comments.

NEXT: Chrome for Android’s ‘Sneak Peek’ loads a link without leaving current tab