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The low-down on streaming: your data questions answered.
What is streaming?
Essentially, streaming is a way to receive a file (such as a movie, an episode of a series, or a song) over the internet without having to download it to your device or computer. You listen to the song, or watch the movie or episode, by having a constant, unbroken connection to the internet. You don't store the media file on your device, and so you cannot listen to it or watch it when you are offline.
It's great news for those of us who don't have piles of storage space on our devices - but it has its downsides too. You can only stream media if you have enough data on your device, or access to Wi-Fi, which brings us to our next question.
What does this mean for data usage?
Data is the fuel that powers your internet experience. Every time you connect to the internet, you are using data.
Streaming can quickly chew up a lot of data, especially if you're streaming high-quality video. You're getting about 30 pictures per second over the internet, plus sound, which means that you can use up 1GB of data in no time at all.
Music streaming doesn't use as much data as video streaming because audio alone isn't as data intensive.
If you don't want to use a lot of data, you can try streaming video or music over a free Wi-Fi connection, such as in a coffee shop, but often the internet speeds in free public Wi-Fi spaces are too slow for it to be worthwhile, and you'll get a lot of buffering and low-quality visuals.
The best thing to do if you want to stream on your device is to get an excellent deal on mobile data and make sure you're always topped up.
How do I make sure I have enough data to stream?
Vodacom's data bundles are the answer, because it costs more to use your airtime to power your internet experience than it does to buy a data bundle. You benefit from much better per MB rates when you purchase data bundles than when you simply let your airtime function as data. For example, the out-of-bundle rate for 15MB of data on Top Up is R2, whereas you'll pay only around 60c per 15MB when you use your data bundle.
So buying a data bundle is the obvious choice.
To make sure you're always topped up on data, you can either buy once-off or recurring data bundles. With a once-off bundle, you'll have the flexibility to add on data as you need it; but with the more cost-effective recurring option, you'll know you always have enough data.
What can I stream in South Africa?
Once you're topped up on data, the world of online streaming is your oyster. Here are your options for streaming media in SA.
- Showmax is South Africa's own internet TV service. For R99 a month, you get unlimited access to over 25 000 series, movies, documentaries and kids' shows, including loads of local hits, such as Ubizo: The Calling and Die Byl. Our favourite thing about Showmax is that it's been developed with South African infrastructure in mind. There's a bandwidth capping function that reduces your data usage by as much as 75% when streaming, and you can also choose a lower quality setting to save data, especially if you're watching on a small screen, such as on your smartphone. Plus, you can use their bandwidth calculator to work out how much data you'll use before you start streaming. All of this makes your data usage fairly easy to control. Go to showmax.com to find out more.
- You can pay for Showmax via your Vodacom account, so you don't even need a credit card to sign up!
- Deezer gives you unlimited access to over 40 million tracks, available on any of your devices, and it's super-easy to use. All you do is pay a monthly subscription, and then you'll have music with you wherever you go. Plus, as a Vodacom customer, you get special deals on your Deezer subscription - RED customers get Deezer for free for 6 months, and NXT LVL get a special rate on Deezer Freemium. Go to Vodacom Online for more »
- Google Play Music is similar, except the library is not as big as Deezer's. You get a three-month free trial, and after that you pay R59.99 per month, for access to up to 35 million songs, which you can download onto your device so you can also choose to listen offline for free.
- Apple Music is very similar to Google Play in functionality and it costs exactly the same - but if you're an Apple die-hard fan, you may want to go with this option. Don't worry - both Apple Music and Google Play music work on both iOS and Android, so you're free to choose whichever floats your boat.
This means streaming an event as it happens, either over the radio or TV.
- Live radio lets us listen to the radio stations from our home town, no matter where in the country (or the world) we are. Check out http://www.radiosa.org/ to find the radio station you listened to growing up, and start streaming immediately.
- DStv Now lets Premium customers view live TV wherever you are through the DStv Now app and your DStv Connect ID. It's like having a PVR in your pocket, which is especially useful for sports fans on the go.