Phone Plans

What is Data on a Cell Phone Plan? Getting to Know More About What We Use Everyday

Sara Nuss
April 4, 2023

Everyone nowadays has a cell phone and a plan to go along with it. Included in this plan are ways for people to utilize their smartphones every day, such as talking to loved ones, getting work done, or even passing the time by checking the news, streaming videos, playing games, or scrolling through social media. 

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Included in almost every single phone plan is data, whether it’s a set amount that can be used each month, or an unlimited plan that people use often without realizing it. There are many ways to use data, but when you think about it, what really is it, and how do you know you’re even using it?

There can be many questions that you have about data and  how much you’re using per month, so let’s get to know what exactly data is on a cell phone plan!

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What is Data on a Cell Phone?

Know the basics about data, including what it is and what uses data on your smartphone!

Almost all cell phone plans are equipped with data that can be used for texting, social media, games, and  other applications. Image courtesy of USA Today.

Everyone uses data on their smartphone, but knowing when you’re using it can be difficult to gauge. Many people use data for different things, no matter if it’s for something as small as checking your email, to gaming or streaming videos, which could use a ton of data per month. 

Knowing what data is should be one of the most important things to learn, especially when getting a cell phone plan for the very first time!

What Exactly is Data?

Many people who own smartphones may be using data even when they’re not fully aware of it because it is included with almost all smartphone plans. Getting data is a necessity nowadays, and it’s basically like using Wi-Fi on the go. Data, also called wireless data, or even cellular data, is the ability to use and connect to the internet without the use of Wi-Fi.

Data allows you to fully use your smartphone wirelessly, whether it’s checking your email, dming someone on a social media app, scrolling through your Instagram feed, or even watching Netflix without being on Wi-Fi. You never know just how much data that you use, or just how much you use your cell phone until you run out of data, or don’t have it on your cell phone because it can be used anywhere and everywhere.

What Kind of Data Plans Can You Get?

If you have a smartphone, whether it’s an iPhone, Samsung, Google Pixel, or any other kind of phone that allows access to the internet, there are a few different options when it comes to choosing data plans. Nowadays, it’s rare to get a cell phone plan that doesn’t include data on it because of how necessary it is to have.

There are two different kinds of cell phone data plans that you can get and deciding on one all depends on how much data that you use on a month-by-month basis. There are set data allotment plans that allow you to choose a set amount of data to have each month that you agree to with your provider, and unlimited plans. 

Set data allotment plans can help you to save more money, since the average person uses about 6GB of data per month, but if you end up going over the amount that you agreed upon with your provider, you could end up paying overages, or you will just get slowed down data.

Unlimited data plans are your other option, which is very convenient if you are getting a family plan where everyone will have a smartphone, so you never have to worry about any extra charges on your bill every month. This is also a great option for individuals who travel a ton, either recreationally or for work because you can use data no matter where you’re at inside or outside of the country.

Is Data Available Through Every Carrier in the Country?

Since using data has become extremely popular throughout the country, you’ll be assured to know that it is available on every cell phone carrier. No matter if you enjoy cell phone service and coverage through the big three, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, or AT&T, or if you wish to save money through a mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO.

While both the large carriers and MVNOs offer unlimited data plans, set data allotment plans are mainly offered through smaller carriers. MVNOs allow their customers to save money per month by not owning their own network, but sharing the network of a large carrier, and they also allow people to select how much data they will most likely need on their plan. 

Common Questions About Your Data Plan on Cell Phone

Understanding everything that you can about your data plan is important so you know if you’re spending too much money!

Almost all cell phone plans nowadays have a data plan on them and offer a set amount to use each month, or unlimited. Image courtesy of Lifewire

There are a ton of questions that you may have whenever you’re signing up for a new cell phone plan. We understand that you want to make sure that you have enough data for yourself, or  for your family.

You may have a ton of questions about data on your cell phone, and there are a ton of them to go over!

How Do I Know How Much Data I Am Using Per Month?

One of the biggest questions that you may have is how to gauge how much data that you are using per month. Many people don’t know where to look to find out, but this is fairly easy to figure out. 

All you need to do is go to the settings on your phone, and find the network or internet section. From there, you should be able to find a portion that specifically talks about the average amount of data that you use per month.

How Much Data Should I Choose For My First Plan?

If you are new to the cell phone world and are planning on getting a plan for the very first time on your own, it can be quite intimidating to figure out just how much data you truly need. You may not be able to use the advice we just gave, so choosing a set data allotment is your best bet.

This way, you can limit yourself and get an idea of how much you’re using every day. Since the average person uses around 6GB per month, if you end up going over, you can get an increase in your plan, or even get unlimited data if you find yourself using more than a set data allotment offers. 

How Much Data Should I Get on a Family Plan?

There are a few different routes that you can take when selecting the best data plan for your family. Some carriers offer you the option to choose how much data each person on your plan gets, and other carriers only allow you to select one type of data plan that everyone can share. 

If you have the option to select what type of data plan each person gets on your family plan, this is ideal because it allows you to save money for individuals who hardly ever use data, or if you have children, it allows you to control how much data they use per month to teach them responsibility.

Through many carriers though, you only have the option to select a set data allotment plan, or  an unlimited plan for your family. In these cases, an unlimited plan is the best option because then you don’t have to worry about any extra charges just for going over your data limit. 

How Do You Know How Much Data You Have Used?

Luckily, there are a few different ways to check this out and all it usually takes is looking in your account with your cell phone carrier.

There are a few different ways to see just how much data that you have used during the month and it can be checked by using your cell phone, or even by dialing a number to your cell phone carrier directly. 

The following is a few different ways on how to check and see how much data you have used over the course of the month:

  • iPhone - Settings > Cellular > Data Usage
  • Android - Settings > Data OR Settings > Connections > Data Usage
  • Verizon Wireless - Dial #DATA
  • AT&T - Dial *DATA#
  • T-Mobile - #WEB#

What Happens if I Go Over My Data Limit?

It’s important to know what will happen if you go over your data limit no matter what cell phone carrier you use. It can be stressful to go over your set data limit for a month, but usually carriers send out text messages warning you that you are getting close to your limit.

Even if your cell phone carrier sent out limits stating that you may be close to going over your data limit, you may still accidentally go over, and try not to beat yourself up too much because it does happen!

If you do go over your data limit, what usually happens is that you may get extra charges depending on how many GBs of data that you used on top of what you pay for data per month. 

Many other cell phone carriers don’t believe that extra charges are necessary and instead they will slow down your internet. Another way of describing this is called “shaping your connection” and you will just be very limited in what you can do with your cell phone until the following month when you restart your data allotment plan.

If going over your set data allotment plan becomes a regular monthly occasion, it may be in your best interest to up your set data allotment plan by a couple GBs, or if you find you’re using way more than you thought you would, an unlimited plan may be calling your name. 

Can Data That I Didn’t Use Be Carried Over to the Following Month?

Maybe people often wonder if you have any extra data left over from your set data allotment plan, if the extra GBs that you have can roll over into the following month. Many carriers recognize this and many others don’t use this rule for customers who have set data allotment plans, so it’s important to look into before selecting a data plan. 

When choosing a cell phone plan, seeing if your data will rollover is important to know and this can all depend on the carrier that you choose. The large carriers oftentimes do not allow this, but different MVNOs can instead. 

Some of the MVNOs that allow data rollover are:

  • Sky Mobile
  • iD Mobile
  • O2
  • Virgin Mobile
  • Vodafone

Cell Phone Carriers With the Best Data Plans

Finding a cell phone plan can be difficult, especially one that offers some of the best data plans!

Finding a cell phone carrier that offers some of the best data plans can be challenging, especially since there’s so many options to choose from. Image courtesy of CNET

Choosing the best cell phone plan either for yourself, or for your family can prove to be challenging. With so many great plans to choose from, you want to make sure that you get one that has a great data plan that is good in both coverage and price.

Let’s go over some of the most popular carriers with the best data plans to choose from!

Mint Mobile

One of the best MVNOs that are offered as of recent years and known for how great their service and coverage is across the United States is Mint Mobile. Using T-Mobile’s incredible network, you can choose prepaid plans for as short as three months and up to a year and you can select either a set data allotment plan or an unlimited one.

Some of the data plans that Mint Mobile offers its customers include:

  • $15 per line per month for unlimited talk, text, and 4GB of data
  • $20 per line per month for unlimited talk, text, and 10GB of data
  • $25 per line per month for unlimited talk, text, and 15GB of data
  • $30 per line per month for unlimited talk, text, and data


If you’re interested in another MVNO, one of the most affordable ones that you can choose from that offers unlimited data on both of the plans they offer is through Visible. This is an MVNO that is owned by Verizon Wireless and also uses their incredibly fast 5G service and coverage for an affordable price.

There are two main plans through Visible to choose from that offer unlimited data on both:

  • Visible Plan - $30 per month for unlimited talk, text, data, mobile hotspot, and 4G LTE and 5G nationwide coverage
  • Visible+ Plan - $45 per month for unlimited talk, text, data, mobile hotspot, 4G LTE and 5G nationwide coverage, 5G ultra wideband, and premium network experience

T-Mobile Magenta

Another great cell phone carrier to go through when you want to get the most out of your 5G data is through T-Mobile. The great thing about T-Mobile is that they offer some of the best unlimited data plans that also come with a ton of other features including international perks, entertainment perks, and T-Mobile Tuesdays where you can save money on almost anything.

T-Mobile’s Magenta plans offer a few different plans that are great for either yourself or your family:

  • Essentials Plan - $60 per line per month for unlimited talk, text, data and mobile hotspot
  • Essentials Four Line Plan - $100 per month for up to six-lines for unlimited talk, text, data and mobile hotspot
  • Magenta Plan  - $70 per line per month for unlimited talk, text, data, mobile hotspot and 100GB of premium data
  • Magenta MAX Plan - $85 per line per month for unlimited talk, text, data, 40GB of premium high-speed mobile hotspot, 100GB of premium data, and Netflix

Knowing and understanding how your data works in a cell phone plan is crucial since it has become a huge part of how people use and operate their smartphone on a day-by-day basis. It is essential to know how it works, and how you can get the most out of it with your data  plan.

Make sure that you understand how your data works on your cell phone plan and select the best one for yourself or your family today!

Sara Nuss
Sara Nuss is a journalist from Pittsburgh, PA that specializes in wireless, dewi, phone plan advice & blockchain.