I wouldn’t consider myself the type to store a lot of things on my phone.
As crazy as that may sound, it’s true. In fact, outside pictures and the occasional downloaded files, most of my documents, digital content, and other files remain in the cloud full-time. I have several hundred gigabytes of cloud storage, spread out across multiple services: 15GB in Drive for each Google account, 82.4GB in one Dropbox account, 317GB in Copy, 50GB each on two Box accounts, etc.
All my movies and television shows are streamed from Google Play, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. Music is streamed via Google Play Music All Access and occasionally Spotify. And only a few podcasts are ever stored locally at a time, though I opt to stream more often than not.
Yet I constantly struggle with local storage space on even the most modern devices – even high-end devices, flagships.
Around 50 applications (ranging from a few hundred kilobytes to roughly 50MB a piece), one or two high-quality games, a few dozen photos, and the system files are usually enough to make storage space rather cramped on a 16GB smartphone or tablet. I’m sometimes forced to juggle my favorite apps and games, and have to limit how much I go “hunting” for up-and-coming additions in Google Play or the App Store.
However, the common answers to those very woes – which dozens of people readily bombard my social feeds and comment sections with – are half-baked, at best, and don’t even begin solve my problems. They say:
“Just use an OTG cable with a standard flash drive.“
I’ve tried this, and so long as you find a device which supports OTG, it works reliably … and also very horribly. I don’t want to carry around, not one, but two additional pieces of equipment. Not to mention, I have ample cloud storage space to store practically all I would ever need from my smartphone.
“Buy a device with microSD support.” Again, the storage for external files isn’t the issue, and it hasn’t been for some time – I have plenty of cloud for that. Back in August, Joe explained why Google hates your SD card. I’ve also explained many times in the past why SD cards don’t solve my problems: without some hackery, you can’t install applications or games on an SD card. Even when Google did support application installation on a removable SD card, it typically made for a horrible user experience.
I have, however, come to a small compromise. I ordered a Meenova mini microSD card reader, since it’s affordable and I have piles of microSD cards collecting dust. It’s small enough to throw in my pocket every day with the same effect as an OTG cable and a USB flash drive, but a lot more polished.
The outstanding problem is still growing, though. Hardware OEMs are building out their software offerings, bloating system images. At the same time, display resolutions are doubling, tripling, and quadrupling what they were just two years ago, making both games and applications five or more times their original size. Multimedia, apps, games, and everything in between with support for high-resolution beg more storage space, yet manufacturers seem so hesitant to offer it.
Case in point: 16GB smartphones still exist, for whatever reason.
There are some exceptions to the rule, such as the Moto G, a phone meant for the bare minimum user, one who wouldn’t likely fill their phone with, well … anything anyway. It comes in 8GB and 16GB models, and the target users will most likely cope with that just fine.
But let’s take a different – yet still very affordable – phone from last year as an example. The Nexus 4. It originally launched in an 8GB model for $299. The step up from that, a 16GB model, sold for $50 more.
I’m willing to wager that the only reason the 8GB model ever sold to begin with was the incredibly low price. I’m also willing to bet most the people who bought an 8GB Nexus 4 regretted their decision just a few weeks or months in. (Likely just after the return window closed. Am I right?) I ended up wiping the 16GB Nexus 4 countless times, simply because I’d fill it up in no time.
I assumed Samsung would be the first to jump on the high capacity storage model bandwagon first, since its 128GB eMMC NAND chips went into product almost a year ago. Not to mention this totally insane 384GB chip. But it seems Apple was the first to go all-in on higher storage capacities. Even Apple, however, is clinging to the 16GB entry level model.
Went 32GB. Can’t deal with 16GB anymore. Phone is full after all my apps, one game, and a little music.
— Taylor Martin (@caspertek) December 7, 2013
The easy answer is for me to man-up and pay the extra cash for a 32GB (or larger) model each time, which I have been doing lately.
But I have an issue with principle there. The price to upgrade to the higher capacity model isn’t always logical. In the case of the Moto X or Nexus 5, 16GB models are the base, and double the storage is $50 more. That’s fair. But in the case of iPhones, iPads, Galaxy devices, and other premium mobile devices, doubling the storage capacity is sometimes $100 more. Frankly, that’s absurd.
While most will say 16GB is enough to store everything they need, it’s impossible to deny that 16GB will only be enough for a limited amount of time. (I’d like to know what side hard drive those people have inside their desktops or laptops. “Just enough”? Doubtful.) Why should your smartphone be any different? The 34MB on my Curve 8330 was more than enough for me in 2007; it’s laughable now. Someday soon, 16GB will be the same. File sizes are continually growing, and one day 32GB won’t be enough either.
With the price of flash storage dropping, I say it’s high time manufacturers begin phasing out their 16GB options, reserving those for the Moto Gs of this world. For now, 32GB is a fair introductory capacity, which gives users enough room to install all they want and still breathe.
With 64GB and 128GB NAND chips as upgradable options, 32GB will eventually become the entry level capacity at some point anyway. Why put off the inevitable?
The cost savings of using lower storage options are a real concern. But you can’t put a price on forward thinking. Mobile manufacturers are so big on “firsts”, so why hasn’t one of them been the first to put the final nail in the coffin for the painfully annoying 16GB base model already?