If you’re considering driving for Uber, Lyft or some other on-demand service, you’re probably wondering what kind of impact the job will have on your phone’s data usage. In this video Jonathan will dive into the numbers and even compare a few cell phone plans to help you get the most bandwidth for your buck.
Take a look at the video, then read the transcript to see all of Jon’s points at a glance.
For this project I tracked data from four apps, Uber, Lyft, Doordash and Amazon Flex. Even if you drive for a different service, you can probably expect similar data usage. The key point here is that your data is a lot like gas. The more you drive, the more you’ll need.
Looking at monthly data usage
Since data plans are sold by the month, we’ll look at the monthly data usage you can expect to see when working part-time and full-time for each of these services. Remember, these numbers are approximate and can vary depending on how many rides you get while you’re online. As you can see, Lyft tends to be the most data hungry of the bunch, sucking up 720 megabytes per month on a 15 hours per week schedule, or almost 2 gigabytes for a full-timer. Amazon Flex was the easiest on the data plan, using on a gigabyte per month for a full-time schedule.
The apps aren’t the only thing using data though. Unless you use a stand alone unit like a Garman GPS, you’ll need to save some data for your navigation app too. Google Maps will use about 700 megabytes per month on a full-time schedule. Waze uses only a bit more at 736 megabytes. It’s important to keep in mind that these numbers are the bare minimum for your monthly data use. If you stream a lot of music or browse the web a lot while you’re away from Wifi, you may be using quite a bit on top of what you use while ride sharing. This is especially true if you rely on your data plan for entertainment between rides but in general terms, if you’re driving full-time you’ll want at least 3 gigabytes of data on your plan. For the occasional driver with lots of Wifi access, 2 gigabytes may be more than enough.
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What happens if you run out of data
If you run out of data, you may not lose connectivity entirely but you’ll definitely get throttled, meaning that everything will run really slow or potentially not at all. Carriers usually have an option to purchase additional gigabytes of data if you run out but this usually costs a lot of money and it’s definitely not something you want to be doing on a regular basis. While you may find that driving is still possible on a throttled connection, it may not go smoothly. You may have to wait whole minutes to get directions to load and your passengers will undoubtedly start to get impatient.
The ride share apps themselves may run very slowly or not at all. Ride sharing on a throttled data plan is definitely something you want to avoid. Just in case though, I always recommend taking advantage of Google’s offline maps feature. This allows you to download an area where you regularly drive so you can still get directions, even when there’s poor reception.
Which cellphone plan is best?
That really depends on where you live. If you’re in Atlanta, we enjoy pretty good coverage from all the major carriers. In less populated areas, you may find that your options are more limited. Uber and Lyft do offer discounts with the big names, Sprint, AT&T and Verizon but you may find a better deal from a reseller. Here’s a chart comparing monthly prices from five budget cellular providers. Personally, I use Boost Mobile. They operate on a Sprint network. On their website you’ll find only two price tiers, the $30.00 plan and the $50.00 unlimited plan. However, you can add up to 2 gigabytes to the $30.00 plan for $5.00 a gigabyte.
A unique feature at Boost is the option to save an additional $5.00 per month by installing their Boost Deals app, which serves up an ad each time you unlock your phone.
Cricket operates on AT&T’s network and their 8 gigabyte plan stands out as a winner. If you drive a lot and AT&T offers good coverage in your area, it will be hard to beat that price per gigabyte. Cricket also offers pretty good deals on devices. In some cases they’re even free, which is pretty incredible considering you won’t locked into a contract.
Republic Wireless uses both the Sprint and the T Mobile networks. In addition, their phones offer the ability to make calls and send texts over Wifi. In fact, the phone can even make use of both Wifi and 3G and 4G simultaneously. This allows you to stay fully connected via Wifi in areas where cell reception might be poor, like your basement. While not the cheapest option per gigabyye, this unique option could be invaluable if your house gets poor cell service.
Straight Talk’s $45.00 a month plan also stands out as a good buy and for $10.00 more you can double your data, giving you plenty of spare gigabytes for entertaining yourself between rides. Straight Talk is what’s known as an MVNO or mobile virtual network operator. That means they have agreements with all three major networks so you should be getting service anytime you’re in range of a tower, whether it’s a Sprint tower, an AT&T tower or one from another company. Head to the Straight Talk website to learn more about their plans and devices.
T Mobile operates their own network so you’ll have to make sure they offer coverage in your area first. They offer a variety of plans, some of which include unlimited music and video streaming, which won’t count against your data cap. T Mobile also offers some pretty good deals on family plans, so if you’re shopping for a group, this is definitely an option to check out. All these prices include unlimited nationwide calls and texts. Check out the current discounts available through Uber and Lyft and then see if you can’t find something cheaper from one of these companies. You might be surprised. Find out more about cellular plans for ride sharing on the blog at the link below.
That about does it for our look at data plans. Let us know your phone plan of choice in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more ride sharing info and advice. Thanks for watching and drive safe.
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