Can You Listen to Podcasts without using Data?

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Today we are more connected than ever. Whether you are on a train, in a park, or just about anywhere, mobile data allows for the luxury of browsing and streaming without the need for a WiFi connection.

While we often take it for granted, mobile data is essential for information and entertainment when on the move. You’d be hard-pressed to find a current phone contract that doesn’t provide a data allowance, and innovations in 5G capabilities allow for high-speed connections capable of streaming the most demanding of media formats.

Despite the ease and speed of current mobile data, it is wise to keep a keen eye on how much data you are using on a day-to-day basis, as streaming on the go can quickly rack up a fortune in phone bill excess.

In today’s article, we will be breaking down what kind of impact mobile data has on the world of podcasting and providing you with the critical info to allow you to keep listening to your favorite show when you need to rely on cellular data.

What is Mobile Data?

Mobile data is a form of wireless cellular connection allowing you to access the internet without a secure WiFi signal. This means that any applications that normally require WiFi – including any searching in the browser – will consume mobile data.

Streaming your favorite podcast from a browser or podcast app will eat into your data allowance. As with any app that needs internet access to function, mobile data is required to facilitate the continued streaming required to listen to a podcast.

Data use is commonly measured in bytes (the digital memory unit of measurement). This is most commonly seen on data allowances on phone contracts and will range from megabytes (MB) to gigabytes (GB) of data. For reference, 1 GB contains 1,000 MB, so while 5 GB may seem like a smaller amount than 500 MB, it is actually 10x the amount of data.

While WiFi relies on a router to connect to the internet, mobile data secures a wireless cellular connection created by a network of pylons all over the country. For this reason, you will experience weaker WiFi the further you move from the router, while on mobile data, your signal should stay relatively stable.

Mobile Streaming and Data Consumption

Using any online streaming service on the go will use mobile data. Whether it’s listening to music, browsing the internet, or watching TV shows, the act of viewing content that requires a WiFi connection relies on the cellular connection when a router is not available.

Listening to a podcast is no different. By now you should be well aware of the different applications that allow you to stream your favorite show; Podbean, Stitcher, Castbox, etc. These applications rely on an internet connection to transmit the show’s RSS feed for audio and other show information.

This mobile streaming occurs in real-time – meaning that the more time you listen for, the more data is going to be consumed. With current cellular connection technology, you should experience very little latency when streaming however it is worth noting that in rural or densely populated areas your connection may become weaker.

The speed of cellular connection relies on proximity to a pylon in the cellular network and is affected by the volume of users on the network. Rural areas may have fewer pylons than a city, resulting in a weaker connection. A city, on the other hand, may have more users connected at one time, eating up the bandwidth of the connection.

Does Listening to Podcasts use much Data?

The amount of data consumed by listening to a podcast is largely determined by the amount of time streamed, and the quality of the audio.

Audio quality can be capped at the initial export of the show. If the show is bounced out at MP3, then the file will be smaller due to the lossy file compression. What this means in terms of streaming is that the quality will be lower than other formats, reducing the amount of data required to listen.

On the other hand, lossless file compression such as WAV audio files will be larger in size. In this case, the quality of the audio will be higher, streaming at this higher quality will require additional data. Most podcast streaming apps let you control the quality of the audio, however, so if you are conscious of data consumption, you have the option to adjust the quality of shows to an MP3 quality regardless of file format.

How many MB is a 1-hour Podcast?

Another factor that will determine the amount of data usage is the time spent streaming. It makes sense that the more time you spend streaming your favorite show, the more data is used up.

As a rule of thumb, an hour of streaming at low quality will use approximately 45MB of data. At ‘normal’ quality, you can expect to use roughly 70MB of data, and at the highest quality, you will reach up to around 120MB per hour.

Streaming music on the go takes up a similar amount of data depending on audio quality. If you were to stream your favorite TV show in HD for an hour, you’d be looking at around 3GB of data consumption, a substantial amount of data even on the most expensive tariffs.

Please note that these figures should only be used as a guide and you should do your own research about the specific app you’re using and the media you’re streaming so you can be sure that you’re comfortable with the data requirement prior to listening/watching.

Is it Better to Stream or Download Podcasts?

One way you can cut down on data consumption when listening to your favorite podcast is by switching from streaming to downloading. Almost all modern podcast streaming apps have an option to download shows which are then stored on your device for future listening.

Taking a few minutes to download podcasts while connected to a WiFi signal means you can listen to your favorite shows offline, using no data allowance at all. Of course, downloading shows will take up storage on your phone, however, with podcasts downloaded, your podcasting app is able to access and stream the audio file directly from your phone’s internal memory.

This not only cuts down on data usage when out and about but also ensures that there are no latency issues when listening. As the entire episode is readily available to you, rural or busy environments will have no adverse effects on your listening experience.

Which Podcast App uses the Least Data?

When it comes to deciding on which podcast app to use, data may play a big part. Today many podcasting apps include a lot of nifty features to ensure you can rest easy listening to your favorite podcast without running up a large bill.

All iOS devices have the Apple Podcast app installed out of the box. This standard iOS podcasting app has a few key features that help cut down on data usage. Along with downloading episodes for offline listening, you have the option of turning off cellular data in the settings meaning the app will run offline even if your data is on.

For an app that runs on both Android and iOS, PocketCasts is a popular choice. PocketCasts allows for auto-downloading of selected podcasts meaning the app will automatically save the podcasts you like when they release a new episode. Not only this, but you can set up a warning push notification letting you know that your mobile data is on. This is great for those instances when you forget to switch your data off.

While these are just a few examples of a few ways in which apps reduce their overall data usage, most streaming apps will also include features such as only downloading over a WiFi connection and the option to adjust audio quality.

Do Podcast Apps Work without WiFi?

While podcasting apps have options to limit their use to only WiFi connections, they by no means need one to function. Wireless cellular connection functions virtually identically to a router-based WiFi connection meaning that all podcasting apps can be run solely via mobile data if needs be.

If you’re on the move and looking for a new podcast to listen to then every podcasting app will allow you to browse, stream, and even download episodes for later listening. The only difference (other than the increase in data usage) you will experience is fluctuations in streaming and download speed. In some cases, the audio quality may vary to account for the slow connection.

Final Thoughts

This is only a short introduction into one aspect of podcasting apps, however, for those of us who have busy daily routines, a firm understanding of how the apps you frequently interact with using mobile data can save you from long car rides in silence, without running up an eye-watering phone bill.

That being said, there is much more to be learned to get the most out of your favorite podcasting app. We encourage you to visit the app website, forums, and any other guides that break down the more obscure features these apps have to offer.

Here at The Seasoned Podcaster, we are committed to making streaming as easy as possible. For another great insight into all things podcasting apps, check out our ‘How to Rate and Review a Podcast’.