With WWDC in full swing, Apple executive Phil Schiller on Tuesday sat down for wide-ranging interview with noted blogger John Gruber of Daring Fireball.
Not one to beat around the bush, Gruber asked a number of pointed questions, one of which was why Apple continues to sell 16GB iPhones. Indeed, with storage being extremely cheap these days, not to mention how much space apps and other media files can take up, many people have voiced the opinion that it’s decidedly a cheap move for Apple to release a device with such paltry storage by today’s standards. Some have even argued that Apple in this regard is opting for profits over an enjoyable user experience.
You might recall that the iPhone storage issue eventually boiled over this past September when Apple released iOS 8, a gargantuan-sized update that many iPhone users simply couldn’t install because they didn’t have enough room. Incredibly, the entry level iPhone has sported 16GB of storage since way back in 2011 when Apple introduced the iPhone 4s.
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So, when asked why Apple continues to sell 16GB iPhones in 2015, Schiller danced gingerly around the topic, articulating that storage is less of an issue nowadays since so much of what users do resides in the cloud.
“The belief is more and more as we use iCloud services for documents and our photos and videos and music,” Schiller explained, “that perhaps the most price-conscious customers are able to live in an environment where they don’t need gobs of local storage because these services are lightening the load.”
While that line of reasoning may seem sound at first glance, the iOS 8 rollout clearly demonstrates that 16GB simply isn’t enough in today’s smartphone market. Especially when Apple keeps trying to convince us to download more and more apps and take more and more high-res photos.
Ultimately, the issue centers on money.
Consider this: With the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple upped the storage on the mid-tier iPhone model to 64GB. The end result is that Apple can sell cheaper entry level iPhones while, at the same time, convincing users to fork over an extra $100 to upgrade for the 64GB model. It’s a win-win strategy for Apple, to be sure, but one wonders how much longer Apple is going to keep it up.
Schiller also added that the money Apple saves on 16GB iPhones gives it more money to spend on more advanced device components like camera modules.
On a related note, Apple mentioned during Monday’s keynote that iOS 9 will take up much less space than iOS 8 and that apps themselves will be smaller downloads. As a result, it’s not completely crazy to think that Apple will stick with a 16GB entry level model when it announces the iPhone 6s later this year.
Moving on to another topic entirely, Gruber asked Schiller if Apple was perhaps focusing too much attention on making devices increasingly thin, all at the expense of equally important features such as, oh I don’t know, battery life.
Again, Schiller artfully dodged the question. Schiller’s response, as relayed by 9to5Mac:
Schiller claimed that Apple has struck the perfect balance between battery life and thinness, noting that if you want a larger battery in a device, its “heavier, more costly, and takes longer to charge. We model every thickness, every size, every weight and try to figure out what the tradeoffs are. I think we’ve made great choices there.”
Well, with an answer like that, it’s no wonder that Schiller is the head of Apple’s marketing arm.
The reality is most iPhone users are more than willing to exchange a bit of thinness for just a little bit more in the battery life department. Time and time again, surveys which touch on this very question all yield the same response: “more battery life, please.”
When the conversation naturally veered towards the recently released MacBook, a product with trade-offs in the interest of thinness, Schiller was just as quick to put up a defense, or rationalization depending on your point of view.
Schiller acknowledged that the MacBook won’t be right for everyone, but believes Apple needs to actually release forward-thinking products in order to push the world into the future — in this case, a future where we don’t need to plug things into laptops. “That’s the Apple I want — I want an Apple that’s bold and taking risks and being aggressive.”
Schiller’s full talk with Gruber will hopefully go up online sometime later this week.