Freshly Squeezed Op-Ed: Are 16GB phones really pointless?

Oct 5, 2015 | OpEd | 3 comments

It’s been over one week since the release of the iPhone 6S and the iPhone 6S+. Since then, we have been inundated with podcasts and articles from reviewers relating their experiences with their new smartphones over their first weekend of usage.

We’ve been treated to the usual boilerplate talking points – battery life, improved camera, stunning screen display, etc.

One thing that everyone was harping on, however, was the fact that the entry level iPhone is 16 GB and not 32 GB. How could Apple overlook such a thing? Why wouldn’t they just start at 32 GB? Let’s think about it. I’m most definitely sure that Apple has.

With only 16 GB, you can barely store anything. This is most definitely true. And I think that’s precisely why they left the entry-level at 16 GB. There are two words crucial to my following theory: streaming and Clouds.

We have all been streaming for years, beginning with YouTube. Now there’s Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, ad nauseum. You name it, we stream it. Of course, streaming frees us from having to store anything on our device. So, bang goes one argument against the 16 GB being of little use. (Of course, if you prefer to physically download, say a movie, to your iPhone, one would require more storage. But I would bet that most people who have an iPhone and travel a lot, also own iPads, which due to their size, provide for a much better viewing experience.)

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as your media. Music allows you to store your music library in the cloud (and then some). Photos allow you to store all of your memories, both still and video, within the Cloud, enabling you to access them anytime, anywhere, on any device. Including your new iPhone6S and 6S+. Even a 16 GB model.

Work? iCloud allows you to use all of your iWork apps on your iPhone. Of course, you could use the chestnut Evernote or any number of cloud services to fulfill this need. Again – no storage necessary on your device.

Why am I so headstrong on this issue? Remember Apple’s MO after Steve Jobs’ return; create things that users didn’t know that they needed.

You may have noticed that around the same time Apple was releasing the Watch, Music, the iPad Pro and the new iPhones, they doubled your storage capacity in their iCloud without raising the price one cent. My belief is that keeping the storage capacity low on iPhones means one of two things: cheaper components increase profit margins or helps to keep the price of iPhones from escalating. (Or perhaps even lowering iPhone’s cost in an increasingly crowded marketplaces such as China or India?)

Of course, if you use your iPhone for creating a lot of professional media, like podcasts, music, filmmaking, etc., you most definitely need more storage, without question. In that scenario, think of the 64 GB and 128 GB models as an ‘iPhone Pro.’ After all, we serve the creative niche with the Mac Pro and are embarking on fulfilling the business niche with the iPad Pro.

People will always do their heavy lifting with their desktop. But when around and about, an iPhone with incredibly fast performance and ease of use at a reasonable price seems to me to be a logical step in the growth of Apple’s ecosystem.

What do you think? Have an opinion? Then leave me a comment.

©2015 Frank Petrie


  1. Jim G

    Being a tech support person for over two decades, I’ve never understood the need for lots of iPhone memory. And neither have my family members. 16GB is more than enough if you use the stock apps (which most people do, outside of the narrow sliver that is the superusers.)

    I wonder if anyone will write a similar article explaining why the black Mac Pros did away with expansion slots. Because the vast majority of users didn’t care! Ditto for 16GB.

  2. Matthew Smith

    I agree very strongly with this article. I consult with and help many people with their iPhones and most people don’t take a lot of videos or load much music on the phones. They often have plenty of the 16GB still available after 2 years with the phones. It’s funny: every article written about the “inexcusable” 16GB phones is written by tech writers: people who use tech stuff for a living. Of COURSE they want more space because they are loading tons of apps on there to test them. For an average person, 16GB is plenty. Finally, a “tech” writer who seems to understand this.

    • ympnow

      I plan on doing a bit of recording video and taking snaps at Macstock this summer, so I purchase a SansDisk lightning flash drive.


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