Apple is right, 16 GB is more than enough space on your phone

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How much space do you really need on your phone? Is it 128 GB, 64 GB, or 32 GB or simply 16 GB?

I say you just need 16 GB. (Don’t make noise just yet, hear me out) And I’m not alone in this way of thinking. Apple thinks that way too. So does HTC, and a lot of mobile phone manufacturers. Otherwise, how do you explain why they keep churning out, with every new phone release, a 16 GB memory variant of their flagship.

Apple did it again on Monday 21 March 2016 with the announcement of the new iPhone SE. At this point, you must be lashing out in defence of more memory on a phone because I know you want all those gigabytes and if you had things your way you’d be owning a phone with terabytes of memory.

But here’s a line of thought that may be worth your time and effort. Stop and pause to think about why you really need a lot of memory on a phone. Why do you really need a lot of memory on your phone?

Let me help you out on this. Let me start by listing the major areas you need phone memory for.

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  1. Apps & Games
  2. Music & Videos
  3. Documents & Data

Let me start with Apps.

Exactly how many apps do you need on a phone? Do you need or use 100 apps? 50? 20? 10? Most people use their phones for communication and social media, productivity, entertainment and media (music, video, gaming).

But how many communication & social media apps can one have? Let’s count. Phone app, SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, SnapChat. Add 3 or 5 more for those who use WeChat, BBM or Tumblr. That makes a total of 13 apps at most in the communication and social media category.

Then we go to the productivity apps. So you have a Notes app, Alarm, Evernote, Google Keep, Finance Tracker, Project Manager, Office mobile, etc. This category would have just a little over 10 apps

Next up are entertainment apps. The major apps in this category are a music player, a video player, camera, gallery, and games. I’ll say 5 games are enough on your phone at any one given time. You never play 10 or more games anyway. So this category would have 10 apps.

So far our total number of apps comes to 33 apps. I’ll be generous enough to make a round figure of 40 apps and you can add 7 more. Now let’s work with the numbers. Let’s assume every app is 100 MB big. That means you need 40*100 = 4,000 MB. That’s about 4 GB of memory. Cool.

Now let’s hit number 2: Music and Videos, the controversial one.

Exactly how many music files and videos do you need to carry around on your phone? I like to use a very simple and practical solution and the following philosophy.

On a single day, between my normal routine of work, commute, home, lunch breaks and so forth, I never listen to more than 1 hour of music on my phone. Some of you may listen to more than 1 hour, but that just means your day is not as busy or perhaps it’s just not a productive day at work, home, or school.

With that said, I find it very practical to ONLY add to the phone, (from my entire music collection), a top 200 songs list. In my opinion, I can never listen to all 200 songs in a day or a week, perhaps even for a month. So only 200 of my favorite songs should do the trick. That’s roughly 2 GB of music.

I apply the same logic to my videos. I don’t really watch movies on a phone because the battery wouldn’t help me watch 2 movies entirely in one sitting. I mostly keep short music videos and I have a top 20 list for that.

That comes to about 2 GB also.

Then next, there are the pictures I take with my phone. At any given time I keep about 200 pictures and maybe 5 videos taken with my camera. Anything older than a year I backup to the usual cloud services (Dropbox, Google drive, iCloud, etc). That’s another 1GB there.

Then lastly (number 3, Documents & data ) we have those who insist on carrying around documents, books, files etc on their phones. I’ll just generously give that bunch 1gb of memory for that.

In total, as a basic and yet lacking nothing user, I use 4 GB (apps) + 2 GB (music) + 2 GB (videos) + 1 GB (camera photos and videos) + 1 GB (documents, books, data). The sum total comes up to 10 GB of memory in total.

Yes, 10GB of memory for all that. Even if we give you 3 more GB of free usage and for miscellaneous usage that total would still come short of 16GB. So yes, it is really practical to have a phone with 16 GB memory that does everything you want.

If you need more space I know what you’re likely doing. You may be carrying tonnes of music, videos, and games which you never really need or listen to or watch or play. Like seriously, why carry around 5,000 songs on your phone? Or 500 videos? Or have 50 games?

My opinion is that you must use your phone for utilitarian purposes and use only stuff you really need. That way you will actually find that you don’t really need to be carrying around more than 16 GB of your stuff on a phone that you use here and there. Rather keep all your collections on a drive or PC and then usually and frequently update your most used stuff to the phone.

So yes, it makes sense that Apple and HTC make 16 GB every year and you only need 16 GB of memory on a phone.

What are your thoughts? Is 16 GB of memory on your phone enough or too little?

This article was written by James Ritala, a Zimbabwean software developer based in South Africa with a passion for gadgets, apps and all things tech.

53 Comments

  1. herry says:

    You just consoled me alot. Was feeling bad about buying a 16gb iphone. Thank you.

    1. Japhet says:

      Man I have that fone less than 5 gig remains after system software. I think the phone is useless so does everyone who uses it .don’t even think about it.

      1. garbage disposer says:

        you are garbage

  2. David says:

    True I have about 60 Apps but I only use bwt 10 only, the rest are just there…most people need to learn and know space and app optimization!

  3. Dave says:

    For me 16GB is not any issue as long as the phone comes with an expandable memory slot. Should at any point i decide to go beyond 16GB, let me have that flexibility than to decide the limit for me.

  4. macd chip says:

    Wrong! You scope is very limited.

    l do not want to be carrying a phone plus a laptop especially across continents where every airport security guys are increasingly developing dislike for laptops.

    This is where the Ubuntu phone comes in:

    Dual boot Ubuntu mobile OS and Android
    Fully integrated Ubuntu desktop PC when docked
    Fastest multi-core CPU, 4GB RAM, 128GB storage
    4.5in 1,280 x 720 HD sapphire crystal display
    8mp low-light rear camera, 2mp front camera
    Dual-LTE, dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4, NFC
    GPS, accelerometer, gyro, proximity sensor, compass, barometer
    Stereo speakers with HD audio, dual-mic recording, Active Noise Cancellation
    MHL connector, 3.5mm jack
    Silicon-anode Li-Ion battery
    64 x 9 x 124mm

    Give me that and lm happy man.

    1. James says:

      Would I be correct if I assumed you are either Jack Sparrow or his/her lawyer? Lol

      1. macd chip says:

        Which one is better? l always want to be the better one of the two?

        l carry a lot of virtual machines around which allows me to do my work where ever lm. if you look at VMs, the minimum windows vm is 4gig.

    2. Vinny says:

      You sir are a man who knows where his towel is.

  5. Beatnyama says:

    Your arguments although meticulously out across remind me of this statement from non other than Bill Gates himself:

    “640K ought to be enough for anybody”

    Turned out to be the miss of the century, and i feel that’s what you are doing by specifying a small limit like that. In your usage scenarios you left out a few things. Some of these things which make me require more that 16Gb include:

    1. My phone is an expensive phone. (Samgung Galaxy S6 Edge 64Gb). So if i’m buying an expensive phone, i dont want to be limited to 16Gb of memory

    2. Expensive phones usually have high quality cameras. This means their photos take up more space and the videos even more so. For example i make sure I record at least a 1min video of my son and daughter every single day. Thats already 500mb per day for videos alone. As for pictures, well, lets say I enjoy taking photos with my phone’s excellent camera. These are usually quite a lot every single day. Running also into the hundreds of MBs especially during weekends.

    3. WhatsApp. On most phones i have seen, WhatsApp media usually takes the most amount of space and you have understated the memory it actually takes. With most people on multiple groups and these groups sharing all sorts of pictures and videos, these easily run into gigabytes.

    4. The Phone Operating system. I didn’t see anywhere in your space usage scenarios the space actually taken by the phone’s operating system. This usually turns out to be quite large in most cases. On my phone, the system takes up to 9Gb of storage space (this is excluding apps, apps are accounted for separately). On other phones it might be lower, but still we are talking about a few gigs just for the OS.

    5. Cached data in different app. Apps like Facebook, Instagram, et al use space on the phone for storing data and cache content. If you app usage is heavy this can again run into gigabytes.

    6. Your number of songs on the phone although it being your personal preference, seems a little bit small. Most people usually have more songs on the phone again running into a few gigabytes. Personally on my phone, my music library on the phone is about 5gb.

    So looking at all these items i’m mentioning you will find out that that 16Gb that you are recommending is not quite enough after all. Unless you like having to clear your phone storage after every now and then. Which then defeats any real need to want 16Gb of storage.

    1. Dungarr says:

      I agree with all your points. Pictures alone take space at an incremental rate. If you want to update your software on 16 gig you have to delete stuff. It’s not actually 16gig BTW, it’s less due to the OS.

    2. REWMO says:

      you should be writing articles for Techzim, not this ignorant guy. real phone games take almost 2gb per game. i’m currently playing asphalt 8 airborne. last year i attended my Granny’s funeral with an empty 8Gb sd on top of my 16gb internal storage. the video footage i took was almost 6gb and storage was my limit.

    3. Galaxy says:

      I was going to reply with more or less the same points. You are absoloutely right in all respects. I have a One Plus 2 with 64Gb of flash and already my photos alone are consuming 10Gb after about three months of use.

  6. Memeater says:

    y in the world should I be limited? Even if I want a 1000 songs on my phone it should be possible.

  7. Ben10 says:

    Sometimes I use my phone as a flash drive esp if I get data from a friend and I need to take it home to put in my PC. Sometimes it then forces me to delete some things just to make space. I hate that inconvenience

  8. macd chip says:

    Steve Jobs once said ..”you can’t get your hand around it ….no one’s going to buy that.”

    He was reffering to Samsung when they first released a phablet!

  9. rjcdube says:

    I know why I have no memory…
    I download albums instead of individual songs…
    I take A LOT of screenshots
    I download torrents (I have about six 300 mb episodes)
    the only space guzzler app I got rid of is Facebook and it’s associated apps(Disabled Facebook still occupying 205mb of my precious space mxcm!)
    Otherwise I rock upwards of 86 apps(1 game… )
    no I don’t use them all but everytime I do a clean up campaign I always uninstall seconds before I need the app again…
    there was once upon a time when I had a a phone with 3 gb memory I was pretty diligent or utilitarian as you say…
    but like the kid from the ghetto winning the lottery
    I got a little more space and when crazy… now I think I am like those little old ladies on Extreme Hoarders… I don’t need to throw stuff away I need a bigger place
    (64 gb sounds like a good start)

  10. Moze says:

    In a 16 gig highend phone .nomaly 4 to 5 gig is used up by the operating system.then u are left with 11 to 12 gig. If u use 4k video recording it will chew gigs for a small video .if you open those apps they will expand eg facebook unopened is 43MB if u open it will be 253 or more MB. 16 g is too little .

  11. rjcdube says:

    point of correction… turns out I actually have 131 apps!

    Only 128 gb will do!

  12. Ngoni says:

    I have games which consume up to 3Gb of space and of which that is a single game.l have 4 games that ocuppy also 14Gb of space and that is excluding music,video,apps and the operating system.16Gb is a no longer worth it

  13. Erne says:

    Apple is slowly failing to catch up with the tide. They are always smart in their own flaws! Remember that they enjoy being the makers of a prettyt much fast phone. Sadly fon storage impact on speed. If ever they increase their storage then their fons become dead slow! hahaha wat a smart company to a not so smart array of fons!

    Samsung addresses the needs of ppl whereas Apple imposes their needs to pple! Silly tht they even detect the amnt of space u need. Shallow and unresearched arguments!

    Americans just think they r best in all items bt Samsung is the real deal! Shockng to note that a so called software developer can sit for such crap. Im embarassed!

    1. REWMO says:

      well said

  14. Curious says:

    guys anyone know the cost difference is of producing a 16gb phone and 32gb a dollar or two
    Apple out just to make super profits with their phone retail prices
    and why should memory be restricted when you getting faster processor, ram and os all the time

  15. Scritch says:

    Off by a mile and a half. I have 3 games Mortal Kombat, Injustice: Gods Among Us, and Real Racing 3 which take up almost 5GB together. I recorded a single 10 minute video and that took 1.2GB. Music is about right and even the your 10GB is not enough since the phone’s OS is gotta chug down at least 5GB plus 200 photos is like 2 weeks worth of photos. The reason Apple and Co would insist on 16GB variants is so you utilise their cloud services

    1. tawa says:

      For reals for gamers 16 gig its nothing especially with Real Racing and Gta and many other. 16 gig is a headache. Thank God I have 32gig iphone but its not enough. Wish there was a memory card option

  16. E says:

    Its an iphone you need like a thousand apps to use a flash drive music video playuer etc. The effort leads to many people using 16gb just fine.

  17. #PrayforBrussels says:

    Guys lets stop lying to each other.. 99% of people in Zim never use their phones for gaming.. The most popular game is Candy Crush which can’t even take 1GB of your phone memory.. Missing with these 128kbps files an average song is 3mb so for a collection of 500 songs it’s only 1.5GB. For videos the occasional video on WhatsApp is not more than 20mb so how many of us here even eish downloading a 20mb video on WhatsApp… (60% of your weekly WhatsApp bundle). Appdata is the biggest culprit with WhatsApp going to around 1GB and FB likewise.. 16GB is more than enough.. That’s a fact.. Those who run 4GB on your phones don’t you have laptops?? You can’t expect me to enjoy GTA on a phone… Even on a 5.7inch screen it’s too small won’t be able to enjoy it.. Let’s get real… Phones are not meant to be data storage devices.. That’s enemy they are called smartphones.

    1. Macd Chip says:

      Not everyone who is commenting here stays in Zim so do not lie to yourself. I have never used whatsapp bundles because they are crap, when lm away from wifi, l put my phone on roaming.

      So do not look this through your limited experience, there is bigger world out there. Checkout the Samsung Gear and tell you wouldnt want to watch a move or play games on your phone!

      1. NewKid says:

        whats your point Macd… r u for the 16gb or not?

        1. macd chip says:

          check my very ealier post, 16gb is nothing to me, 1TB is a good starting point

    2. Dungarr says:

      Where did you get your statistical figures (99%).

    3. E says:

      One point 4k video when i downloaded a 4k movie it chowed like 16gb for 1 hr 30 min. So you can imagine 16gb works ouyt there where wifi is uncapped and the standard phone contract has more than 1gb and a 20gb limit for uncapped mobile data to push through their cloud strategy. In zim even a 5gb ata cap is nt effective cz the speed is too slow. And were not covered by streaming such as spotify. So in the grand scale 16gb works with the right internet data caps and speed as well as the neccessary services.

  18. Siege says:

    My thoughts:
    If you are a music fan like me 200 songs is nothing! I have plenty of genres that include HipHop, RnB, EDM, Trance (in all its forms), Contemporary Rock, New Age & Classic, Zouk, Passada, Afro-Pop, House and bit more!…and if you travel a lot like me you will know that you need a big and diverse playlist…moods change on that 12 hour journey with 3 transfers plus 8 hours spent in airport lounges! What about pod-casts, Ted Talks and such content that every modern progressive should have on their person? For me…32 GB at minimum keeps me learning, thinking and productive. It’s more about having as much content that stimulates your mind as possible than it is about apps or games.

    1. Elephant says:

      Add Zimdancehall to that list!

  19. LoveJ says:

    I guess the real determining factor here is whether or not you have access to wifi most of the time. You don’t need 500 songs on your phone if you use spotify (or apple music). You don’t need 4movie downloads on your phone if you got netflix. You don’t need to store too many photos or even media if you bought more iCloud storage (or even cheaper, just using one drive, google storage or other cloud storage platforms.) Truth is, I really needed all that storage space on my phone, until I had cheaper access to wifi almost all the time. Not to mention, spotify comes as part of the package from my phone company.

  20. Elephant says:

    James don’t be ridiculous. Apple’s bloatware (forgive me folks I just like the word) will chew up about 10GB, leaving me with 6GB. Then I install 10 GB of my apps, music and videos (ooops… I cant go 10 GB, I cut it to 6GB). Then I cant take video of my son crawling, i cant receive those funny clips on whatsapp and I CANT update the freaking OS coz I have no disk space. I need at least 32GB – 64GB will allow me to occasionally forget to move old files to the cloud.
    You surely sound like Ser William of House Gates – first of his name!!!!! I want my GOT with me everywhere!!!

  21. Elton Shumba says:

    Excellently written. Power of thought. I call it smart management. Storage also is dependant on what other apps you run that require bigger storage to work. But I do agree not everything stored is used on a daily basis. And apple are moving to a cloud based storage concept and that inclined you will still have access to your files when you want them.

  22. Henry says:

    They produce the 16g phone to anchor the price and make the 64g phone seem a reasonable cost by comparison.

  23. Junior says:

    Different needs for different folk. You’re comfortable with 16gb, 32gb does it for me and the oems are aware of that!

  24. smusto1 says:

    True. Different needs for different folks and noone really should be limiting the scope of what you can use your smartphone for. We have only just begun to scratch the surface of what these wonderful devices can do. In addition to all the uses mentioned above I also use my phone as an ebook reader and Office Suite for creating and reading documents I use for my business. I have 1GB of epub book files on my phone and another 1GB of PDFs, Word docs and excel files. My App collection uses 500MB of space just for apps like Adobe PDf, Quickoffice, Excel, Moon Reader etc.

  25. maluveh says:

    There is really no harm in having a bit more memory. The extra capacity is always good because especially ios apps are big and are getting bigger. The operating system of the phone also takes a huge chunk of the 16gb you will be left to work with around 13gb or less

  26. Fourwallsinaroom says:

    Ok – so a few points on how I use my phone and why 16Gb will never be enough for me.

    1. I have all my apps automatically set to download media – Whatsapp in a month can easily churn through 1Gb of data and photo’s
    2. I use google drive (2 Accounts Business and Personal) – 7Gb online but each time i open a file it goes into the cache or i save a local copy
    3. Dropbox was my preferred photo backup option – All my images are 5Mp or more
    4. Trying out one drive because I use Microsoft Lens to scan documents on my phone and then edit them in the office suite
    5. My music is based on mood so I want to sync the whole library. Sometimes I hear something on my laptop and delete it so I immediately want that change synced to the phone when I next plug in. I am not going to sync different playlists everyday
    6. APK files are getting huge – My key apps here are Chrome, Facebook, Linked IN, Twitter, Facebook lite(when data is low lol), Messenger, Hangouts, Godaddy Domain Admin, Google Admin, Adsense, Two bank apps for online banking, Hotel Loyalty App, Airline loyalty App, Grocery App, Mobile network App, A bible, Cyberghost VPN (everyone needs this 😉 ) Train Schedule App, VUZE torrent app VLC, Stratia reader for opening seecure docs, Pricecheck for online shopping, speedtest is a must have, track ID, Sony Lifelog, Sony Smartwatch companion app, Microsoft Office, the rest of the google suite (docs etc), News and Weather, Barcode Scanner, 2 Factor Authentication app, Foreign Exchange rate app…
    Thesee are apps that I use once a week at least.
    7. I would like a season of apps with me on the go at any time easy enough to get to 3Gb or less
    8. All my apps that are data aware need to cache data somewhere.

    If I try I can get it down to 16 but its a squeeze. 25Gb of accessible space is what I would personally be comfortable. the remaining 7 can go to the OS.

  27. Ndini Wenyu says:

    Don’t forget effective space is only 10.9GB the rest is used by the IOS. I think Apple thinks the world is flat… i.e. everyone has access to cheap and fast internet access. We cannot effectively use iCloud to store photos and music. We can’t afford the $10/month iTunes music subscription. We have no option but to store our favorite memories and our music on the phone.. with that in mind.. 10.9GB is just not enough. I have iPhone6 16GB, its a nightmare, a mistake I will not repeat. I also have 64GB iPad.. I have no such issues!!!

  28. TutsieK says:

    Jimalo!

    You forgot to mention the portion of memory that the OS also utilises of that memory.

  29. RsTade says:

    WRONG WRONG WRONG ! For starters you never get to use the full amount of memory some is taken by the phone OS android /iPhone . What is written on the box is not what you get inside It’s not a can of coke where you will get exactly 300ml inside. This just a fact of life accept it. Think of phone memory as an OPTIONAL EXTRA. The base model 16GB model performs exactly the same nd has the same functions as the 32 GB or the 64GB model the other two just cost more. It’s just a way making more money from the same product. Car manufacturers eg Mercedes-Benz, BMW do this all the time sell a base model nd then offer all sorts expensive optional extras which if you pick them all can double the cost of the car. Resulting in them making more PROFIT. It’s all about the money ! . If Apple thought they could get away with it they would sell a 8GB iPhone nd tell people that they really didn’t need more memory 😉.

  30. macd chip says:

    Just to pour cold water on your head, why is Apple about to start selling 64gb phone is 16gig is enough:

    The iPhone SE will become available for UK pre-order on 24 March and go on sale on 31 March. UK prices start at £359 for the 16GB; there is also a 64GB model, which costs £439, but no 128GB offering. The iPhone SE, like the iPhone 6s handsets, will be available in silver, gold, Space Grey and Rose Gold.

  31. Jarlborg says:

    And I say don’t drink the Apple Kool~Aid. I have 32gb and they are full all the time. Check this out right my music FLAC right there you are looking at 25mb per track ain’t no way 16GB will be any good. Video files are now huge 1080p movies shit…..hell go on with your 16gb

  32. SoTypMe says:

    QUESTION: “I read in a newspaper that in l981 you said ‘640K of memory should be enough for anybody.’ What did you mean when you said this?”

    ANSWER: “I’ve said some stupid things and some wrong things, but not that. No one involved in computers would ever say that a certain amount of memory is enough for all time.”

    http://www.wired.com/1997/01/did-gates-really-say-640k-is-enough-for-anyone/

  33. Anonymous says:

    200 songs??? Are you joking? I have thousands and want more. I want every song I have ever purchased with me at all times. Next up Pictures, my pics get backed up to the cloud but I want them on my phone too. My phone has hundreds of pictures on it at all times. 16 gigs is maybe enough back in 2010 but not in 2016. My phone is basically my mobile hard drive and I want all the space I can get.

  34. techallday says:

    i agree with most of y’all why limit people. for instance someone who makes beats and sing may need a mobile studio at all times. and there phone is a solution. the phone have become more just a communication tool. so one requirement of space depends on what they use it for.

  35. Keith Zongoro says:

    You should also consider that these new iphones take high quality images and videos. Let me break it down to this, a one minute 4K video takes up 375-400mb of storage. Say you take a 10min 4K video that’s already 4gig of space gone. So it really just depends on what you use it for but honestly a 16gig iphone is a nightmare.

  36. anonymous says:

    That article shows a myopic (short-sighted) view. In this age of big data you talk about 16 GB being enough? If we had reliable and affordable internet connection you could argue that I can store some of the data in the cloud ; but not in Zim where 200MB costs $10 which you can use to buy 4GB in war torn countries like Afghanistan.

    I store photos, music, documents and I can work on my mobile… and you tell me 16GB is enough?

    After all apple products like iPhones are not meant for IT pros that’s why 16GB may be OK. But for IT pros and software developers as you claim to be, I am shocked to say the least and your article is a waste of time and space!

  37. Loud Speaker says:

    Nothing more than an exercise in mboro waving amongst a bunch of juveniles this talk of how much storage memory on phone is too much or too little ecksy!

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