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You are here: MacNN Forums > News > Mac News > Editorial: In defense of the 16GB iPhone 6s

Editorial: In defense of the 16GB iPhone 6s
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NewsPoster
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Sep 28, 2015, 10:21 PM
 
I don't own this place, but I run it. It is literally my job to stay on top of things Apple, and give you the biggest news and trends driving our favorite fruit-themed computer company. I am supposed to know the ins and outs of all of the current and past Apple lineups from high-end to bottom-of-the-barrel, with in-depth assessment of the benefits and compromises of same. Despite all the sturm und drang about Apple profiteering on the backs of its users by only deigning to install a paltry 16GB in the most inexpensive models, I'm getting the lowest capacity iPhone 6s. Read on to find out why.

Stop looking aghast. Sure, I wouldn't turn down a free iPhone 6s with larger capacity, but I'm a guy who has been using a personal "cloud" for a decade for media streaming, and I'm fortunate to have a big pool of monthly LTE data -- this makes having stuff mostly in the cloud a bit easier, but with just a small smidge of self-discipline, this could be you -- enjoying a cheaper iPhone that doesn't continuously hover near full, ever in search of more storage. Nonetheless, I hear your doubts. Let's examine and destroy them one by one.

The Arguments

"But you need all that space for modern apps."

Once upon a time, there was a problem. Big iPhones were crashing with thousand-strong app libraries. The flash media was blamed, but that wasn't the problem at all. The problem lurked within Apple's file structure, which bogs down a bit when pressed by a ridiculous quantity of apps loaded on a device.

Nobody needs 700 apps available on the phone at all times, which is still Apple's recommendation at the Genius Bar for sluggish devices. Nobody needs even 200 apps simultaneously. I've got 81 apps on my iPhone 5c right now, and 94 on my iPad Air. I probably only use 25 of them with any regularity. Just now, checking to see how many apps I had installed on both, I noted 10 on each that could be purged, and I wouldn't miss them. You're likely to find a similar result.

When we tested large library app crashing, we polled 20 users to see how many apps they used daily. and all but one claimed to have less than 16 everyday-use apps, with the average app use on the day hitting 10. One outlier claimed to use 30 or more per day, but we had doubts of the veracity of this claim. We asked a prominent business in the Washington DC metro area with wide iOS utility what use patterns they were seeing, and they said that most users were using 10 or fewer apps per day, lending credence to our informal polling.

"What about your music, and your reading material? You have kids, what about pictures?"

Yes, there are some songs that I must have, and some books that I must carry, directly on the device. However, just like you're doing yourself a disservice if you check out 40 books from the public library, there is no need to lug around a massive reading library on your iPhone.

For music, I've had iTunes Match since its inception. I'm currently subscribing to Apple Music, so I've got the same functionality here. For books, half have come from iTunes with the other half purchased from Amazon, and I have them available at a moment's notice. Plus, books are very, very small, in the order of kilobytes sometimes.

For the rest, I have a home server (and you should too), but this can be mimicked by cloud storage like, well, iCloud for photos, music, and iWork documents. For more general storage, OneDrive or DropBox and its competitors work great, and are fantastic for cross-platform work migration. Need video entertainment? Hit Wi-Fi and use your cable provider's app, Netflix, Crunchyroll, or Hulu. For that matter, if you need books, use Scribd, or even (here's a crazy idea) check out e-books from your local public library.

"You work for MacNN. Shouldn't you get the best and most powerful to talk to us about it?"

Yes, I can afford the 6s Plus, and not just because I can write it off on my taxes. Most Apple users don't have the best and brightest of everything. In fact, Apple hardware outlives its non-Apple counterparts, and the iPad and iPhone are no exception to this rule. Knowing how well the low-end and middle-range hardware holds up over time gives us a little more perspective on the industry, rather than having an array of Mac Pros connected to a Retina iMac, chained to a 6s Plus with 128GB, on an Ive-inspired chrome and white wood desk with elevation control.

The flaw in the plan

I have unlimited data, grandfathered from what seems like days of yore. This gives me a little more flexibility, but honestly, not that much. We gave my limited capacity phone a workout not all that long ago -- my family is not all that far removed from an extended hospital stay, and during that time we suffered with the de rigeur spotty Wi-Fi. With three family iPhones nearly always on 4G/LTE, we chewed through 10.2GB of data in 32 days.

Here's the thing, though. When I knew I needed something big from the house, I found decent Wi-Fi to get it, which probably required more walking distance than most would need to find a good signal. It was a hospital after all, which is always loaded with Wi-Fi demanding caretakers, patients, and visitors demanding connectivity from an overworked and under-provisioned network.

So, if you're really tight on data, this may be a problem. Given proper device management, however, not as big a one as you think. Plus, there are now excruciatingly portable hardware solutions for media storage issues on a phone, like protective cases with up to 128GB of storage, or Lightning-equipped flash drives, even further lessening any bandwidth pinch on the cheap.

The Apple Tax

I hate the concept of an "Apple Tax," but in this case, is very, very real. A phone with 16GB is either $200 for the iPhone 6s or $300 for the 6s Plus with a two-year contract, or $649 and $749 respectively to purchase outright. Boosting this to 64GB is another $100, and going to 128GB is another $100 on top of that. Your mileage may vary depending on offer, or if you're buying a phone outright, but the $100 per-tier increase in cost for additional storage on the phone is static.

I think these numbers are psychological, to get you to buy a larger capacity phone, as there's a great deal of profit to be made here from the flash media. There is literally no way that 128GB of media costs Apple even another $100 in component costs over the 16GB version of the same device.

I'd rather spend part of that money on cloud storage. Apple's 200GB plan for iCloud runs a whole $3 a month, or $36 for the entire year. If you add two years of Apple music at $10 a month, I've paid more than I would have for the 128GB iPhone, but I also have far more to show for it. I get these costs down even further by hitting our own deals posts, and generally spending $80 for a $100 iTunes gift card.

It works for me. Will it work for you?

My case is not everybody's. However, with a (very) little prior planning, the 16GB capacity is more spacious with cloud extensions than with prior versions of the iOS. Clouds are faster and more reliable than they were even two years ago, and options for networked or local external storage are now plentiful, and inexpensive.

Try keeping your device clean of extraneous apps. That network sniffer you needed once? It's still on the iTunes App Store. Those albums your friend told you that you "had" to buy? They can go, for the same reason. Sure, 64GB delays device data sanitation, but never quite eliminates it. Why not start in an environment that requires digital cleanliness from the get-go? You'll likely pick up a habit that will serve you well on other devices, platforms, and maybe even your life generally.
( Last edited by NewsPoster; Sep 29, 2015 at 07:27 AM. )
     
Chongo
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Sep 28, 2015, 10:36 PM
 
What about shooting 4K video? Will that require more memory than 1080P video?
     
DiabloConQueso
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Sep 28, 2015, 10:47 PM
 
Yes, 4k video has more pixels than 1080p video, just like 1080p video has more pixels than 720p video.

More pixels (or "greater resolution") requires more storage space (or "memory," as you call it), just like with still images.
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Sep 29, 2015, 12:16 AM
 
It does, but I'm still not shooting Lord of the Rings on it. That 1GB free? That's still a good solid 30 minutes of 4K video shooting.
     
MacStrategy
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Sep 29, 2015, 05:23 AM
 
"That's still a good solid 30 minutes of 4K video shooting" - Um, I think you'll find 1GB is about 2.75 minutes of 4K footage and nowhere near 30!!!
     
Mike Wuerthele
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Sep 29, 2015, 06:44 AM
 
Yeah, you're right, posted way too late last night, and did the math wrong. However, at nearly 400MB per minute, its arguable that just because you CAN do a thing on the iPhone doesn't mean you SHOULD. Where are you even going to play it back that the resolution makes a difference? Certainly not AirPlay to an Apple TV. There's a reason 4K isn't enabled by default on the phone.

I will concede that this is really the only reason that you'd need a larger capacity iPhone, and if you're shooting 4k video for any serious purpose, you should get a better device to do it.
     
Inkling
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Sep 29, 2015, 08:27 AM
 
The most irritating aspect of that 16 GB low end is that it reinforces the suspicion many of us have that Apple deliberately guts many of their low-end products so users have to pay inflated prices to get hardware that's workable. Apple needs to either make the low-end viable for the life of a product (for the latest iPhone that'd be 32 GB), or charge less—far less—for upgrades. What Apple is doing is so transparently dishonest it's insulting to most customers.
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Steve Wilkinson
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Sep 29, 2015, 12:35 PM
 
Inkling is right... the ONLY reason Apple offers a 16GB iPhone is to push up-sells. And, my argument isn't really any of the above, which you've maybe addressed for the tech-geeks among us.

My argument is that *most* iPhone users, who head to the store and probably haven't even thought much of this through, might possibly buy the 16GB model, as that's the one all the telco stores advertise the deals on.

Once they start using it (probably not following your frugal guidelines), and gasp, possibly even shooting 4K video with it.... and loading up free games, etc (let alone even trying to add music libraries or carry around a bunch of pics of their kids and pets)... THEY WILL constantly struggle with storage... which, BTW, isn't exactly a fun user experience (and from conversations with these average iPhone owners, is their #1 source of frustration).

Is that worth the $4 or $5 Apple saves in part costs? Certainly not! Is that worth all the $100 upgrades they probably drive by doing so? On the quarterly profit report, yes. For the long-term good of Apple, no way! This is simple old-school business class 101... putting spreadsheets before user-experience... and it's also insanely stupid!

Should have that user thought things through fully.... read Mike's article... spent the extra $100 or $200? Sure, but that's simply not the reality of the situation. Hopefully, they'll realize their mistake, but still love their iPhone and one day, buy another, correcting the issue. But, it's also quite likely they'll feel a bit ripped off, having bought a high-end luxury product that already costs WAY more than it probably should, and then being skimped on storage space. (And, then when their Android-toting friends start talking about costs and cards to add storage and such.... well, you get the idea.)

So, Mike, while I mostly agree with what you've written here, I also have to respectfully say that I think you're wrong on the big picture of what's really going on and the implications of it.

It's not that it can't be made to work... it's that it shouldn't ever have to be!
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Charles Martin
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Sep 29, 2015, 02:10 PM
 
The problem here, I think though, is that if the base model were 32GB, you'd get **exactly** the same complaints. If you're not disciplined at all, 32GB isn't going to help -- you'll just load it up with free apps and music/photos/media, exactly as you're saying happens to 16GB buyers. It's still not a lot of space. The bottom line is that low-end iPhone (or Android!) buyers need to be aware that they'll need more cloud services and discipline than those who buy the more expensive devices.
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chimaera
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Sep 29, 2015, 03:51 PM
 
While I agree with Inkling, I'm going to disagree with 16GB for a different reason.

Users are moving towards smartphones as their primary computer. Desktops have been in decline for awhile, so it boils down to having a laptop + phone, or just a phone. I know at least two older users who lack a laptop or desktop, but have an iPhone and Touch. They have no plans to buy a home computer.

16 GB is ridiculously small for the HD in your main computer. The last time an iBook had storage like that was in 2001. 32GB minimum brings things up to 2002. 64GB minimum reaches the first MacBooks in 2006, which are still usable for non-challenging users. The very people most likely to buy the base model.

Admittedly, we aren't really "there" yet. Standard speech recognition for dictation will have to be there, to replace external keyboards that grandma isn't likely to buy. But going forward, Apple needs to stop dogging the low-memory configurations.
     
jimdreamworx
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Sep 29, 2015, 04:09 PM
 
Thank goodness someone finally wrote an article like this! All the webpages chastising Apple for creating a device that many of us are happy with.

I have always bought the low-end iPhone, and so have my family members.

Even though I am tech savvy and have a job supporting Macs, I really don't know what people load on to their phones that they need so much storage. Music? That's what streaming is for. Photos? I take pictures and copy them to my computer or iCloud as soon as I can because I don't need to carry around thousands of IMG_0001 files that aren't properly named and sorted. Apps? Like you said, does anyone run that many apps in one day? The stock ones are good enough with maybe an odd useful one out there.

Those who complain about memory might be the ones who initially claimed you couldn't swap the battery and had to live with the first-world problem of plugging in the device every night (or when near a computer to transfer all that content off.) People don't like to organize their lives. 16GB keeps you that way.
     
Steve Wilkinson
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Sep 29, 2015, 04:56 PM
 
I still disagree Charles. While yes, it will always take *some* discipline to keep a computer or mobile device with some free space, even with bigger amounts of storage, there is a big difference between a GB or two free and 16GB + a GB or two free. For one, you're up against the wall right from the get-go.

And, again, back to my point that there is no good reason to have 16GB be the base in the first place. Just start the line-up at 32GB. Extra space isn't going to hurt anyone.... even Mike.
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Mike Wuerthele
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Sep 29, 2015, 05:44 PM
 
Tell you what. I'll report back in if I find 16GB oppressive, and eat crow if need be.
     
sunman42
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Oct 1, 2015, 10:46 AM
 
iBooks are not a cocncern. Unless the contain lots of videos and other features, they come in well under a Mbyte apiece, so you could have well over a thousand on your phone before you reached a single Gbyte of storage.
     
MarkTime
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Oct 1, 2015, 11:13 AM
 
I've had a 16GB iPhone 6 Plus for the last year without issue. I agree with others about 4k video, if you are buying the iPhone 6s to shoot 4k video, you need more space.

I appreciate the iPhones high quality camera, but I don't use it for shooting video very often. For me, the main thing about space, is if I did watch a few TV shows, every once in a while, I have to go through and delete old shows.

Phone has been great, don't regret a thing. I actually did buy an iPhone 6S, but ultimately decided to give it to my wife, so I'm sticking with my 16GB iPhone 6 for another year....awesome phone, won't regret it at all. 6S is fast, but for now, my apps work fine, and I don't require the faster phone.
     
   
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