How Much Mobile Data Does Pokémon Go Use?

Last week, Congress asked Pokémon Go creator Niantic to make public how much mobile data their hit game Pokemon Go uses.

Poke Ball
The Pokemon Go App that is draining cellular bandwidth

The U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee is, apparently, concerned about the strain the game may put on the country’s cellular networks. The inquiry was likely inspired by anecdotes of Pokémon Go players exceeding their monthly data caps and accumulating expensive overage charges from their cellular carriers.

Since its staggered launch earlier this month, Pokémon Go has taken the world by storm. With 26 million daily active users in the United States, the game has twice the retention rate of other online games [1]. Pokémon Go, the first highly successful augmented reality game, has also attracted adiverse group of players that reaches beyond the conventional gaming demographics. The congressional inquiry into Pokémon Go deals with the negative effects of the game’s widespread success – a potential spike in data usage among the game’s players. The committee’s four questions demand an unprecedented level of transparency on data use from Niantic:

  1. Are there best practices that Niantic follows to minimize the amount of data consumers use when playing Pokémon Go?
  2. Has Niantic worked with wireless carriers to ensure that consumers are not unexpectedly hit with large overage charges?
  3. Does Niantic conspicuously warn customers before they start using the app about how much data the app consumes?
  4. Does Niantic have any mechanism in place to make sure consumers are made whole in the event that they are hit with an unexpected overage charge resulting from the use of your app?”

The congressional inquiry into Pokémon Go puzzled gaming experts, who point out that data use varies substantially from player to player and that individuals can measure the data use of the game on their own.

Cell Phone With A Map On Screen Demonstrating The Use Of GPS
GPS location gathering consumes the most data for Pokemon Go

Networks themselves are not reporting huge spikes in data use due to the popularity of the game.  Verizon, for example, reported that: “Our customers using Pokémon GO High overage charges experienced by players from cellular carriershave not seen dramatic data consumption waves. The app sends information in bursts rather than streaming – as a video service does – so GPS location is the most data-intensive task it completes. The app represents less than 1% of our overall network data traffic on the Verizon network.”

Third parties, like Tech Insider, have also already calculated the data use of Pokémon Go and sometimes found that the game uses less data than other popular apps like Facebook or Snapchat [2].

Cellphone With Pokemon Go App Store Page
Sometimes Pokemon Go uses less data and sometimes more. The Jury is still out.

Unfortunately, the results of third party inquiries are just as anecdotal as the reports of Pokémon Go players exceeding data caps, since they are almost entirely based on trials by one player.
While no complete study on Pokémon Go data use exists (perhaps Niantic will furnish congress with comprehensive statistics), we’ve compiled a table of the results so far:


As you can see, the results vary drastically due to diverse playing styles and settings. Even if Niantic supplies congress with statistics about average data use, these statistics won’t be particularly useful for any individual player because there is so much variation. Track your data use yourself, then, through your cellphone carrier.

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