Most mobile phone deals offer unlimited texts and enough minutes for phone calls for all but the most talkative user. Unless you’re on a truly unlimited deal, however, the data usage allowance may be a problem. That’s particularly true so if you download lots of data regularly, other than when accessing a WiFi network.
Do Radio Apps Use Data?
Some people think that since listening to the radio on an actual radio is free, it might be free to use a radio app, but this isn’t the case. Radio apps do use data since they stream the radio via the internet. You need to be aware of the amount of data transmitted so you don’t exceed your allocation.
Some phones have a built-in FM receiver which will let you listen to the radio for free without using data. If you’re using a popular streaming app such as TuneIn, you will be using data.
How Much Data Does a Radio App Use?
If you’re not aware of how much data your radio app uses, you may get a nasty shock at the end of the month when you get charged a large amount for excess usage.
To avoid this, you need to know how much you’re likely to use, which can depend on a number of factors. These include the bit-rate, which affects the quality of the sound.
Radio apps usually have a bit-rate between 64 kilobits per second (Kbps) and 320 Kbps. A higher bit rate uses more data, so an easy way to reduce the cost of listening to the radio is to use the lowest bit-rate possible.
How Much Data Does Streaming Radio Use Per Hour?
Here are some other common radio streaming bit rates and how much data they use per hour:
- 64 kbps = 28.8 MB per hour
- 128 kbps = 57.6 MB per hour
- 256 kbps = 115.2 MB per hour
- 320 kbps = 144 MB per hour
Listening to only one hour of radio each day for 30 days (a typical month) will add up to between 1.7 and 3.42 gigabytes (GB).
If your data usage allowance is only one GB per month, which is not untypical for some of the cheaper deals, you’ll be paying for a lot of excess usage if listening at high quality. Even a more generous 5 GB allowance won’t see you safe because it doesn’t take into consideration other downloads and you need to keep a check on these to ensure you stay within the limits.
Unlimited usage will, of course, mean you’ve no worries but you need to check it is truly unlimited. Sometimes ‘traffic management’ rules will restrict the amount of streaming you can do.
Avoiding Excess Charges and Other Considerations
You can alleviate any potential problem by reducing the sound quality, always ensuring WiFi is available and enabled when listening to radio or using an app that utilises your phone’s FM receiver and so avoids the internet altogether.
You can also, of course, switch to a plan that offers truly unlimited data usage, although that may be restricted by your current contract and provider, and will naturally cost more money.
When choosing to listen to radio over your phone, the choice of app may not be influenced purely by the amount of data usage. There are operating system considerations, with some apps not available across Android, Apple and Windows platforms. A big consideration also is what each app offers.
Some apps offer only a limited number of stations and features, and they all have varying interfaces and ease of use. Most have a free version with advertisements as well as premium versions that may be advertisement free and offer additional services but require a monthly fee.
You do need to look at what each app has to offer and choose the one that best fits what you want to do. But always bear in mind what extended listening may do to your data usage allowance.
Popular Radio Apps
For some people, listening to the radio over breakfast, in the car or at certain times of the day is a bit of a tradition. Nowadays, they can do that wherever they are over their mobile phone rather than a traditional radio that can’t necessarily be used everywhere.
Some phones have a radio app built in. If not, there are plenty of apps to download, each with its own unique features and advantages. Most of them offer a mixture of playlists and traditional radio broadcasts from selected stations and all provide music in the form of streamed data.
One of the most popular apps is TuneIn, which gives you access to over 100,000 stations and millions of podcasts through the free version while the premium version offers the removal of advertisements plus additional services. iHeart Radio also has free and paid versions, with a large selection of stations and playlists.
For iPhone and iPad users, Beats 1 provides 24-hour music through the device’s pre-installed Music app and is free to use, in contrast to the Apple Music subscription service.
Some radio stations provide their own apps while the BBC iPlayer Radio gives access to all BBC radio stations, both national and local, plus a catch-up function, downloads for offline listening and the ability to create your own play lists — all for free and with no advertisements.
For some more options, see this article: Best Radio Apps.