We have measured how much data is consumed by calls through the most popular communication applications

Almost two years we have started with Jirka our everyday day, while while I go for a roughly ninety-minute walk with the dog, we discuss work over the phone. It is always about an hour's conversation during which we plan articles, organizational matters and so on. One day we thought we could take advantage of this and compare how the individual services enabling audio calls over the Internet are doing in terms of quality and especially data consumption.

For testing we used iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone XS with the latest version of iOS 13.3 and connected to 4G LTE. While Jirka was still in one place, I changed the route with the dog every day. All calls were made under the same conditions at approximately the same time, beginning at 6:15 and ending at 7:30. Each call had exactly 75 minutes and during the week we tested the calls via FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype, Viber and Messenger. Thus, despite all the most popular communication applications that are used in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. All applications were installed on both phones in their latest public versions.

I would also like to start by saying that we could of course use a playlist or a movie that we would play so that the measurement is absolutely accurate at every call. On the other hand, we didn't do it on purpose, because no one will ever say exactly the same words, in the same order. Therefore, the test was conducted in the most natural conditions, as will your normal calls.

Application
Talk time
Consumed data

Skype
1 hour 15 minutes
56.7 MB

FaceTime
1 hour 15 minutes
43.6 MB

WhatsApp
1 hour 15 minutes
26 MB

Messenger
1 hour 15 minutes
25.2 MB

Viber
1 hour 15 minutes
15.6 MB

Call quality

FaceTime

In addition to data consumption, audio quality plays the biggest role in a call. The highest quality is clearly achieved through FaceTime calls. For example, when you use AirPods, the quality is that you feel like the person you're talking to is in the same room with you. This is the cleanest way to transmit audio that we've seen in all applications. There is virtually no noise, feedback, or anything similar during the call. The 75 minute call consumption was 43.6 MB of data.

Skype

As for the quality of the call, Skype placed clearly and with a great lead over the others. The call was not as clear as Apple's FaceTime, but it was incomparably better than calls to other services. Again, there was no feedback, noise, or other noise that would interfere with the conversation. Compared to FaceTime, Skype is really a little worse and for people who, for example, do not have an iPhone, it is a fully-fledged alternative to making calls on a daily basis much better than through GSM and other services. The 75-minute call consumption was 56.7 MB of data. If you don't need to save data and don't have FaceTime, it's definitely the best option in terms of sound quality. On the other hand, it is important to keep in mind that data consumption is really high and Skype has not achieved its sound quality despite higher data consumption than FaceTime.

Messenger

Messenger had a weaker first few minutes of the call, with more background noise. Although it was not as significant noise as in the case of GSM, it was still quite unpleasant. After a few minutes, the noise retreated much more into the background and, although still visible, was much less annoying than at the beginning. During the call, we did not hear any feedback or any other noise, but roughly twice in 75 minutes the call dropped for a few seconds and the caller did not hear the other party. The 75 minute call consumption was 25.2 MB of data.

Viber

The most economical way to make a call over the Internet is within the tested Viber applications. It was enough for a call with only 15.6 MB of data per 75 minutes of talk time, 10 MB less than the second most economical application and almost 4 times less than Skype. There was a noticeable background noise throughout the call, which increased as the call volume increased. Noise is definitely annoying and was a bit more pronounced than GSM. On the other hand, the voice was very clear, no artifacts bothered him, and the call worked very well. The quality of the voice is even comparable to Skype, for example, and all Viber is worried about is the noise present. On the other hand, if it is a tax for minimal data consumption, then I believe that if you save every "mega", you will be willing to pay that tax.

WhatsApp

Clearly the worst sound quality we have seen at WhatsApp. We were surprised to find out that even though it belongs to Facebook as well as Messenger, this service seems to use quite different technologies. The sound was worse than a GSM call, and not only was the noise from the first to the last minute of the call, but also an unpleasant feedback from the beginning of the call, when the caller heard himself. Calling via WhatsApp is therefore the last in terms of call quality, and frankly we think it is not worth the data saved. It is more of an emergency solution to call someone who has nothing but WhatsApp. Any other alternative tested by us is much better. The 75 minute call consumption was 26 MB of data. This is about the same data consumption as Messenger, which achieved a clearly better sound quality.

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If you do not care about the transferred data and you have enough of it, then you will definitely get the best quality when calling between a pair of users who have FaceTime available through this service from Apple. The quality of the call is unmatched and the data consumption in our opinion fully corresponds to the quality of the call. If you don't have the option to use FaceTime for Apple devices only, then SkyTime is definitely the best choice. However, its data consumption is really extremely high, especially when compared to, for example, FaceTime, whose quality is below and yet consumes about 30% more data.

The moment the main data plays for you and you can't afford to waste it, for example, if you're abroad, then Viber is definitely the best choice. Although it does not reach the quality of FaceTime or Skype remotely, but on the other hand can consume almost 3/4 less data and consumption of 15.6MB for a call lasting 75 minutes is absolutely perfect for us. The call is still better than GSM calls, and while you're on the other side of the world, it's definitely the best choice.

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