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Why I Think the 16GB iPhone Curse is Here to Stay

Published Jun 24th, 2015 11:25AM EDT
16GB iPhone 6s iOS 9 Storage Fixes
Image: Apple Inc.

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One of the things iOS 9 is slowly fixing is the storage issue that has prevented many users who were not familiar how iOS updates work from upgrading. Instead, they found themselves delaying the move to iOS 8 because there wasn’t enough storage space on their devices to perform over-the-air (OTA) upgrades. But Apple’s actions also seem to indicate that despite the recent move to increase double the storage on its mid-tier and high-end iPhones, the 16GB iPhone is probably here to stay.

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After seeing all the complaints from iPhone and iPad users who weren’t able to upgrade to iOS 8 because they didn’t have enough storage space to download the update wirelessly and then perform the install – they could easily have done it by hooking the device up to a computer and let iTunes do the job – many criticized Apple’s decision to launch 16GB iPhone 6 models, instead of simply making 32GB the entry-level memory tier for new iPhones.

Since last September, Apple tried to fix the iOS 8 storage requirements in updates that followed, and explained why 16GB is enough for the user.

In iOS 9, Apple is taking several steps to ensure that it won’t run into any sort of upgrade issues with the devices that can run the new update. Overall, the iOS 9 update is significantly smaller than iOS 8 so far, measuring about 1.3GB rather than 4.58GB. Furthermore, Apple introduced a new ‘app thinning’ feature that lets users download only the app components required for their devices, which should decrease the size occupied by an app on a certain device.

Finally, in iOS 9 beta 2, a new feature was revealed that further helps with storage problems – iOS will smartly remove apps to free up storage space on a device and perform the software upgrade, and then reinstall them as soon as the update is over.

These are all neat tricks meant to help iOS users who own 8GB and 16GB devices jump to iOS 9 as quickly as possible, and without needing a computer with iTunes to do it.

However, they also indicate that Apple might be exploring the possibility of launching new 16GB iPhones this year, or at least keeping around 16GB iPhone 6 models once the iPhone 6s launches. After all, one of Apple’s creative ways of increasing the average iPhone selling price last year was to offer the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in 16GB, 64GB and 128GB variations rather than the expected 32GB, 64GB and 128GB.

To many users, getting a 64GB iPhone 6 became a much better deal than getting a 64GB iPhone 5s a year before – in the past, Apple’s new iPhones came in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions – as the 64GB iPhone 6 model was just $100 more expensive than the 16GB iPhone 6. A year before, the 64GB iPhone 5s cost $200 more than the 16GB iPhone 5s.

Increasing the storage efficiency of iOS 9 and standalone apps basically offers Apple a way of keeping in its lineup 16GB iPhones and iPads, including newer models, rather than going to 32GB for the cheapest models, and making sure they’ll be easier to upgrade to future iOS 9.x and iOS 10 versions in the future.

Even if Apple makes the 32GB iPhone 6s the most affordable new iPhone this year, as some reports suggest, it’s likely it’ll keep around the 16GB iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and lower the entry prices. That’s something Apple does every year, and older models are also usually available with smaller storage options. For example, right now you can purchase a new 8GB iPhone 5c and 16GB iPhone 5s from Apple for $450 and $549, respectively.

Now if only Apple would match Google’s unlimited photos backup feature with iCloud, we might not even care about how much storage the cheapest new iPhone has to offer.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.