The smartphone storage problem: or is there really a problem at all?

Paul Alvarez

For the past few years, the tech world has criticized Apple for its minuscule base storage sizes. Apple has slowly crept up this standard capacity from 4 gigabytes with the original iPhone to now 64 gigabytes for the iPhone 11 Pro.

Apple doesn’t change things very often, as seen in the chart below. They usually stick to specific storage capacity for quite a while, until they increase it and then keep it that way for a few years after. base storage sizes by models (in gigabytes).

Some argue that Apple moves too slow in increasing its base storage size. This choice may be due to Apple liking to keep things the way they are for cost reasons in manufacturing. Most think it is a cash grab for Apple to force people into either paying extra for a more significant sized storage option or to force users to sign up for additional iCloud storage.

Both of these may be true, and I am not one to know enough with the business decisions at Apple to understand why they choose not to have higher capacity storage at their base models. Especially since they focus so much on upgrading the cameras to allow better photos to take more of and video options up to 4K, which requires a lot of free space to store.

An example of showing Apple’s lack of base storage capacity is comparing them to their biggest Android competitor Samsung, and it’s Galaxy S line. You can see in the graph below Samsung had higher capacity base storage options in their first phones compared to Apple and have increased those sizes much more frequently. Galaxy S phones storage size by models (in gigabytes).

Samsung’s current base Galaxy S10 phone is 128 GB, double what Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro is at only 64 GB. You can also purchase a Galaxy S10 for $100 cheaper, at $899, than the iPhone 11 Pro, at $999, if you were buying the phones from their company’s websites.

If you didn’t have a preference between iOS and Android, you would immediately think that Samsung would be the way to go. You would have more onboard storage for videos, photos, music, and everything else you want to keep on your device for $100 cheaper. It would seem like a no brainer.

Except that most people have a strong preference between iOS and Android, especially when it comes to Samsungs version of Android with there custom OneUI user interface built on top of it. But for argument sake lets say there is no preference, would it then mean that Samsung wins by default?

I would argue no.

This is because I don’t think local storage should be something that users should worry about. As we head into the future of technology, I see a time when data on our devices will not need to be stored on our phones at all times.

The things we need for the moment like photos, documents, videos or even music will be downloaded and cached while in use, but then removed from your phone until you need it again. The ultimate cloud-based technology where you don’t care if there is storage on your phone or not, the data will always be there whenever you need it regardless.

I feel I am slightly living in that world now. When I purchased my iPhone 11 Pro, I opted for a 64 GB base model. This is because I am already paying for the 2 TB iCloud storage option that I share with my wife and wanted to see if this would remove the need to jump up to the 256 GB tier of additional storage.

So far, four months in, it seems I was correct in not needing additional storage. My photos and videos are backed up to my iCloud Photo Library, and all of my apps use iCloud to store data that I need, such as documents, lists, email, etc. The local 64 GB provides plenty of space for downloading old photos when I need them, all of my iMessages, apps I have installed, and everything else with over 27 GB to spare.

My iCloud storage of 2 terabytes only has about a third being used, but that is mostly photos for both my wife and me — mostly taken up by my wife with her photos equaling over 500 GB. With cloud storage uploading unsued items to keep your phone available for anything you need in the future, I believe these kinds of conveniences are what we have all been waiting for in tech. One cloud storage tiers.

Before you argue that I am only talking about Apple and iCloud, Google has the same features for Android devices and even offers a free photo storage option is you use Google Photos, available both on Android and iPhone. iCloud storage tiers.

Google even offers almost the same pricing and storage options as Apple. Of course, their starting free tier is triple what Apple’s is at 15 GB compared to 5 GB, but everything above that is pretty equal.

So does paying hundreds of additional dollars to move up in storage for your phone worth it? Are you going to need to download all of your music on your device? Do you need all of your photos going back years available on your phone at all times?

For most, I do not think so.

When it comes to computers, I can see the argument in needing large amounts of data available locally for more extended periods. I can especially see large-capacity local storage useful in fields such as video and audio engineering, photography, software development, and maybe even writing if you do a lot of research and need that information available all the time.

But even in these situations, I see a future where cloud storage and internet bandwidth speeds will make all of our worries of having things local be diminished. If you are using an internet connection at around 1000 gigabit speeds, streaming a 4K, even 5K, footage to edit from the cloud would be a piece of cake.

For now, we have the storage that we need locally for our computers to handle these big projects. As for our phones, we are already living in the future where local storage isn’t required; we just need to be better at embracing it.

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My passion is in technology. I write reviews about gadgets that interest me but also provide some kind of value in my toolset to achieve my goals. Most of my writing is surrounded by technology and how it plays a role as a tool, help with productivity, and also provide mindfulness for a more fulfilled life.

Turlock, CA

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