How Much Data do You Need For Your French Mobile Phone Plan?

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You've just moved to France, your phone is unlocked, and you're ready to get yourself started with a French mobile phone number. You know you need data - for checking your emails, Facebook, or Whatsapp - but how much do you really need? What's the difference between 500MB and 1GB Internet, anyway? To help you choose the right mobile phone plan that meets your needs, here's our guide to Internet data for mobile phones.

If you're reading this, chances are you own a smartphone (and hey, maybe you're reading this on your smartphone right now!). From checking directions to listening to music to sending Snapchats to friends, many people have gotten used to being constantly connected to the Internet, wherever we are. But Internet access on your phone comes at a cost, and data-heavy mobile phone plans can be expensive. Knowing how much data you need will help you save money on your phone during your stay in France. So let's get started!

Cellphone Data Explained

Data allowances in mobile phone plans in France range from as little as 50 MB per month to as much as 10GB. But what is an MB and a GB anyway?

Well, 1024 KB is equivalent to 1 MB, and 1024 MB is equal to 1 GB. To help visualize what this means, here are a few examples:

  • One Whatsapp message (no attachments) uses about 0.003MB per message
  • A rich email or instant message (with an attachment) uses about 0.5MB per message
  • Browsing the web (Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc) uses 0.6MB per web page or about 35MB per hour of web surfing.
  • Streaming music (e.g. Spotify) uses about 5MB per song
  • Updating an app takes up about 13MB data

"Megabyte" in French is Megaoctet, which is why you will see data allowances indicated in terms of "Mo/Go"

Data Equivalencies
  50 MB (50 Mo) 1 GB (1 Go) 5 GB (5 Go) 10 GB (10 Go)
Accessing Web Pages 90 web pages 1 800 web pages 9000 web pages 18 000 web pages
Rich e-mail/instant messaging
(with attachments)
100 messages/emails 2 000 messages or emails 10 000 messages or emails 20 000 messages or emails
streaming music
10 songs 200 songs 1 000 songs 2 000 songs
streaming video
30 minutes 2 hours 10 hours 20 hours
updating apps
4 apps 75 apps 375 apps 750 apps

Note: calculations based off of information found here

Note that the following table indicates what a certain amount of data represents for each activity alone.

Mobile Phone Plans in France: Your Options

young people looking at their phones

There are many different mobile phone plans with data options: which one is right for you?

With a wide range of offers and options, it's pretty easy to find a mobile phone plan that meets your data needs in France. The most common types of mobile phone plans with data (we'll call them smartphone plans) are postpaid plans, which can either come with a contract (avec engagement) or be contract-free (sans engagement). However, some providers even offer pay-as-you-go data as part of their prepaid SIM card offers.

Prepaid or Postpaid?

While there are some prepaid credit offers that include data, this is a more expensive option over the long run, in terms of cost per usage. What's more, an advantage of signing up for a mobile phone plan is that you will get access to your operator's Wifi hotspots, allowing you to avoid over-using your data allowance! 

If you can, we recommend choosing a postpaid plan. If you already have an unlocked phone with GSM that you can use, SIM-only plans that are sans engagement (contract-free) tend to be the cheapest options. 

How much data do I need? Choosing the Right Mobile Phone Plan

Need help finding a plan with data in France?Selectra can help you find the best plan for your needs. Call 09 77 55 72 27 Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 9 pm and 9:30 am to 6:30 pm on Saturdays and on Sundays 9 am to 5 pm to speak to an English speaking advisor about your options or ask for a free callback.

"I have a smartphone, but sometimes I forget that I can access the Internet"

If you use your phone mainly for calling and sending texts, but like to have access to the Internet from time to time, you can probably get by with a small data package. However, there's small, and there's very small data packages in France. For example, a 50 Mo (MB) package gets you approximately:

  • 22 emails sent/received (no attachments)
  • 11 web pages
  • 24 instant messages
  • 2 social media posts

A 500 Mo plan, on the other hand, allows you to access:

  • 116 emails sent/received (including 34 sent with attachments)
  • 54 web pages
  • 138 instant messages
  • 13 social media posts
  • 1 app downloaded

"I like to check Facebook when I'm bored"

If you use your phone for a few minutes every day to check your emails, Facebook, etc, you should probably look for plans that provide at least 1 Go data per month. For example, with a 1 Go data allowance, you can:

  • Send/receive 346 emails (including 37 with attachments)
  • View 67 web pages
  • Send 287 instant messages
  • Make 50 social media posts
  • Update 3 apps

"My smartphone is an extension of myself"

Whether for work or out of habit, if you are almost constantly on your phone your data usage can add up. Particularly if you stream videos/music regularly, it is best to go with a generous data package - think 5 Go per month or more.

4 Ways to Use Less Data in France

Luckily, there are a few things that you can do to reduce your data usage and save money on your mobile phone plan in France.

 Wifi Hotspots in France

All of the major telecommunications operators in France (Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom, Free) offer Wifi hotspots that their customers can access throughout the country. Connecting to your operator's Wifi whenever possible allows you to avoid reaching or going over your monthly data limit.

Depending on where you are, you may also be able to access free wifi hotspots. Wifi is becoming increasingly common in cafes, restaurants, and even in public parks!

 "Blocked" Phone Plans

Some providers allow you the option of "blocking" your data usage once it reaches its limit. This allows you to avoid paying more expensive rates for additional Internet use.

 Avoid 4G

While using 4G doesn't actually use more data, increased speeds are more likely to make you want to use more data, which means you might reach your limit quicker than you would have otherwise on 3G. 

 Watch Out for Apps

You can reduce the amount of data you use by changing the settings on some of your apps, particularly social media ones so that they use less data. Try not to let apps run in the background when you're not using them, in order to avoid using data unnecessarily. If you use apps like Spotify, try to download playlists when you're connected to Wifi and then listen to them in offline mode.