8 ridiculous gigabytes


App usage

It appears that Apple yesterday introduced a new iPhone 5c with 8GB of storage. CNN Money writes that “The 8 GB edition will only be available in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia and China.” I won’t discuss this move from a strategical or financial standpoint — though I still think that at £429, versus the £469 for the 16GB version, it’s still too expensive a model. No, what I want to point out is that, today, offering a device like the iPhone with just 8GB of internal storage is simply ridiculous. It could work if the App Store didn’t exist, but let’s be frank here: 8GB are barely manageable once you put music on the device and start shooting photos and videos.

The picture above is the current Settings > General > Usage screen from my 16GB iPhone 4. Those are the apps that occupy the most space on the phone. Note that I still haven’t put back some of the music I removed before installing iOS 7.1 (before I had 1.5GB worth of music). If my 16GB iPhone 4 has an actual 13.5GB available out of the box, we can assume that a 8GB iPhone will have roughly 6GB of actual storage available to the user. Look at the picture above once again. If you calculate how much space those apps take up combined, you’ll have a total of almost 4.4GB. The same situation on a 8GB iPhone would be even less manageable.

A lot of iOS apps are quite lightweight on average, but have a tendency to grow in size when you use them regularly. That’s because they start accumulating data, documents, caches, etc. Hipstamatic, taken alone, weighs less than 40MB, but when you start buying and downloading new packs of lenses/filters, the app takes up more and more space. Hipstamatic also stores the photos you take in its own camera roll. You can keep its size under control by periodically deleting the photos from its camera roll (if you auto-save them to the iPhone’s Camera Roll). Same goes for apps like VSCOcam, KitCam and Camera+. I do that every now and then, and I have a 16GB iPhone. On an 8GB iPhone, if you like to take photos and use different third-party photo apps, you’d have to perform this kind of maintenance constantly, and it’s not fun. Also, the 8-megapixel iPhone 5c camera shoots photos & videos with better resolution than the 5-megapixel camera of my iPhone 4, thus taking up more space.

Other apps are a bit more difficult to manage. As far as I know, there’s no direct way to prevent Spotify from bloating. I guess those 365MB (almost 900MB on my iPad 3) are cached data for the most part, and so far the only way I’ve found to eliminate such cache has been to manually delete and reinstall the app.

And even if you don’t shoot a lot of photos and videos (come on, now, you buy an iPhone 5c and you don’t take photos?), even if you keep your music library to a minimum, what about other things like podcasts, books, dictionaries, drawing apps? What about games? Some of the best games for iOS take up a lot of space. I had to eventually get rid of a couple of games because together they took up more than 2 gigabytes.

An 8GB iPhone 5c with roughly 6GB of actual available space is simply a crippled device if you ask me. And with those prices, it’s just too expensive to make sense. It’s time to make 32GB the default option, and go up to 64 and 128GB, and keep the 16GB as the ‘emerging markets’ version. And to increase the 5GB offered with iCloud free accounts, but that’s another story.

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