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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?

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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.

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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.

  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.


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

    1. 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. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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. 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.

  4. 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. 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. 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. 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.

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

  6. 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

  7. 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!

  8. 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)

  9. 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 .

  10. 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

  11. 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!

  12. 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

  13. 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. 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

  14. 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.

  15. 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. 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!

    2. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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!!!

  19. 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.

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

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

  22. 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.

  23. 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

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