Guide: How to Choose the Right Data Plan for Your Internet Needs

mobile phone usage

Data Plans

It is obvious that our dependence on smart devices is personal, and we strive to squeeze the most out of them through phone calls (yeah right, some people make them), entertainment, social media and general internet usage. These services are not for free, and just like your vehicle needs a visit to the car doctor or a transistor radio that requires dry cells, you have to shell a few shillings to have the best of service from your cellular gadget. However, finding the best balance between not spending more than you need and enjoying your phone’s provisions is always challenging.

For this piece, we will concentrate on data and how to pick a package that suits your needs. Also, all references will be made to Safaricom’s data bundle options because there is a good chance you have their SIM popped in your phone right now.

Data usage patterns vary from person to person, which is why a correlation to usage and plans has to be made on a personal level. Admittedly, ascertaining the amounts of data we use on a regular basis is something most of us hardly do because 1) it does not bother us 2) we are lazy and do not want to dig into settings and pinpoint what activities consume data a lot or 3) it is difficult to read those data usage graphs and genuinely need help. In like manner, our online lifestyles are unorganized at best; we do not bother to know where we are on the web. Say you have a 35MB daily data package, jump into Facebook for 5 minutes, and take a leisurely stroll to Instagram for visual nourishment for another 5 minutes. Your 35 MB won’t last long – it is inevitable not to cry foul when the signature ‘Your data balance is below 2.00 MB…’ text sneaks into your inbox.

Data Settings
Make a habit of visiting this setting

So, how can we tackle this issue and enjoy our online life in peace?

Before we make a determination of the data we need, it is vital that we understand that Safaricom has no Unlimited Data options for you heavy, stream-everything users. Why? You figure.

What activities consume you bundles the most?


Determining the amount of data that you use while surfing is tricky. For example, the amount multimedia content on a website will increase data usage. Some websites have not been optimized to run on phones (you can tell if content is wider than the screen, or if text is illegible. Also, if the page loads slowly and content is unplayable, that site is not mobile-friendly), which is why they tend to use more data. To add, several people use different browsers that yield different usage patterns. Opera Mini, for instance, uses compression algorithms to save data, which is not something you can say about Chrome.

If you browse a lot, then any bundle that is not to the north of 50 MB (daily) will be depleted, so you may need a healthy package, say 1GB for a month.

Now, you need to open your Settings app and navigate to where usage stats are situated per app basis. Observe how much data you use to surf the web for a couple of days. My guess is that you will notice a pattern if your browsing habits are not sporadic.

Generally, your observations will give you a rough idea on the appropriate package that you can purchase daily (Daily Bundles), monthly (30 Day Bundle) or every three months (90-Day Bundles).

Social Media

Most of us have an online presence, which we service by social media applications such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter, to mention a few. These apps are fun to use, and their excellency make us their servants, meaning we are hooked to them. In principle, this addiction is the reason why some users, however careful they police their data usage, surpass a predefined limit. Also, with Safaricom’s wicked fast LTE speeds, it is possible to make a dent on monthly data plan without noticing. Once a user realizes that his or her geebeez are depleting fast, there is an urge to blame their service provider, say Safaricom for ‘suckling’ their data, forgetting that managing your pricey bundles is a personal responsibility.

Social media apps
Some social media apps

We need to be on the same page here; these apps are data hogs, and no matter how much we defend our slack tendencies, the mandate to do the math behind the scenes lies squarely on our shoulders.

Similar to surfing the web, finding the most accurate data mileage for your social media apps is done on the data usage settings. Assuming you have Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp installed on your device, and each of those apps consume 30 MB every day, then you will be spending 90 MB every day to service your social media needs. Approximately, that’s a gig of data for a month. Of course, this amount is relatively high, and could shoot up if your feeds are ridden with multimedia content such as videos, gifs and pictures.

Streaming Music

Some of us love offline music, while others are into streaming audio files. Any use of these apps, be it Mixcloud or Stitcher, will gobble up data.

Assuming you are streaming high-quality audio (320kbps) from your favourite music app, 2.40 MB per minute will be used. A two-hour stream will consume 230.4 MB. You see where this is going?

Audio streaming is a luxury you are going to satisfy when connected on Wi-Fi because there is no data plan for Safaricom that supports unlimited audio streaming.

Streaming Video

Video streaming is arguably the primary activity that consumes huge amounts of data. Services such as Showmax, YouTube and Netflix are nice to have if we need to catch up on events and newer episodes of our favourite TV shows, but this comes at a price. Fortunately, using mobile data on YouTube has a merit; access maxes out at 1080p (streaming crispy 2/4K videos is a pricey feat). Anyway, if you stick to HD quality (720p) videos for an hour, you will approximately consume 300 MB. For Netflix, low, medium and high settings will use 250 MB, 500 MB and 1GB of data per hour.

On the plus side, Showmax and Netflix have the option to save videos for offline viewing, and you won’t need an internet connection to watch them later on. Moreover, Safaricom offers Video Data bundles to access content on mobile. At the moment, the video data bundles are limited to Showmax.

Video Data Bundles
Video Data Bundles

App Updates

You may have noticed that apps are always ballooning in size because our devices adopt newer capabilities such as powerful cameras, improved sensors and sharing services, among many others. Developers have to incorporate such services in new libraries and churn out new code, not to mention the addition of images and texts – so, hefty apps.

Play Store Updates
We are seeing you, Google and Twitter

Also, popular apps get frequent updates, so chances of you being prompted to visit the Play Store are very high. Adapt.


There are times when we need to download a certain file on the go. Some of such files, which may be media-related, are relatively large. Anyway, you know the drill; use Wi-Fi. Another strategy of making sure that you don’t exhaust your plan before time is using media (videos, music, podcasts) that you have saved in directly in your device. Use the rest of your data to download smaller files such as email attachment and memes.

Moreover, whether you use your apps or not, they will always access data until you restrict them. Furthermore, there are behind-the-scenes access such updates involving Play Store and Play Services, not to mention background activities. There are some lucky folk who get monthly security updates, bug fixes, improvement alerts and general firmware updates. In essence, such usages are unplanned for, which is why it is possible to burn through data caps in a matter of days or hours.

Which Safaricom bundle meets your Internet demands?

We will start by having a look at Safaricom’s Daily offers that serve people who might not have the budget to purchase weekly or monthly bundles. It should be noted that these bundles last for 24 hours and have to be used within that period.

KES 50 should net you 150 MB and 150 SMS, which is enough for daily heavy lifting, say an hour of music streaming as well as servicing social media needs. Lengthy spells on the web will deplete this package in no time, so you need to be aware of the bundle’s limitations.

Other Daily offers include 60, 35, 15 and 7MB (with SMS too) of options for KES 30, 20, 10 and 5 respectively.

Weekly and Daily Bundles
Weekly and Daily Bundles

Next are the Weekly data bundles that purposely serve light internet users who may not exhaust Daily bundles. To be honest, there is little value when considering the pricing model of this bundle. For example, KES 100 is equivalent to 200 MB while KES 50, 30, 10 and 5 will net you 65, 30, 10 and 5 MB respectively. Ideally, this package will service very light internet usage such as occasional emails, chat services (just text-based because conversations devoid of gifs, videos or pictures) and light, intermittent web browsing.

If there is an offer that genuinely offers a bang for you buck, then it is the Monthly offer. Pertinent to the aforementioned internet usage patterns that need a substantial amount of data bundles, we can see why this package offers the best solution in terms of value. For instance, 12 gigs are available for KES 3000 and this is a safe haven for heavy users. It is the same package some of us use and we are happy to report that it meets our multimedia and social media needs with ease. On the other hand, 12 GB may be an overkill for some, which is why Safaricom offers lower amounts, including 7.5 GB for KES 2000, 5GB for KES 1500 or 350 MB for KES 250.

90 and 30-Day Bundles

In case the 30-day limitation is too restrictive, a 90-day bundle will stretch the validity of your hard-earned data but similar to weekly bundles, this deal is not as good as the 30-day one. Three thousand shillings will net you 6GB, which is half as much as the monthly offer for the same price.

Last but not least, Safaricom offers more flexibility with Tunukiwa, BLAZE and FLEX options that you should definitely consider.


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