With the increasing capabilities of mobile devices, as well as rapidly increasing mobile display resolutions, storage space on many smartphones and tablets around the world is getting tighter by the minute.
On my HTC One X, which comes with only 16GB of built-in storage and no option for expandable storage, constantly notified me that storage space was running out. Between roughly 100 apps (including the 30 or so that come pre-installed and no more than six games), no music whatsoever, maybe 100 pictures and exactly zero videos, I never had more than 1GB of storage space to play with. While I managed to get by and not complain, it was a constant struggle to have everything I needed and wanted on the device at any given time and have storage to spare.
Having to pick and choose what music, apps, games and other media stays on your phone or gets deleted is never fun. And trimming down what's already there isn't easy either. But it's necessary in many cases.
Thanks to display resolutions reaching (and even exceeding) 1080p, file sizes for various forms of media are getting larger. In the case of the third-generation iPad, which jumped to a 2,048 by 1,536 pixel display from the old1,024 by 768 pixel display of the first two iPads, the file sizes of Retina-optimized applications were up to five times larger – sometimes more – than their predecessors. Apple's iMovie, for example, was 70MB before being updated to support Retina Display graphics for the iPad. After the update, the total install file was 404MB.
The problem is that the standard built-in storage space isn't getting any larger. Despite the relative low cost of flash storage, we're still seeing devices equipped with only 8GB and 16GB of storage. 32GB is a respectable amount. And some devices now offer 64GB of inbuilt storage, yet they bear a hefty price tag. The 64GB iPhone 5 is $399 with a two-year agreement and $849 sans contract.
What's worse is many manufacturers are tossing expandable memory slots to the side for a bevy of questionable reasons. Google's own Matias Duarte explained why Google has left micro SD card slots out of their Nexus devices on Google+. Says Durate:
"Everybody likes the idea of having an SD card, but in reality it's just confusing for users. If you’re saving photos, videos or music, where does it go? Is it on your phone? Or on your card? Should there be a setting? Prompt everytime [sic]? What happens to the experience when you swap out the card? It’s just too complicated."
And on Facebook, HTC USA answered the burning question of why the DROID DNA announced earlier this week only comes with 16GB of storage and no option to expand. The answer, which has since been removed, said:
"U.S. customers have easy access to cloud storage solutions through Verizon Wireless’ 4G LTE network and ample access to Wi-Fi. This fact was balanced with the desire to make DROID DNA as slender as possible with an incredible 5-inch HD screen."
Each company has their own reason for why expandable storage isn't used, needed or wanted. But what we, the consumers, are left with is a memory bottleneck. Weeks or months into using the phone, we're forced to remove apps, pictures, videos, music and any other files that are eating up storage space.
I get where Duarte is coming from, I understand exactly what he's saying. If you've ever moved applications to external storage and removed (or accidentally formatted) the micro SD card, things can go haywire in a hurry. And while external storage isn't exactly rocket science, there can be some confusion as to where some things are stored. But why are there Nexus devices launching with only 8GB of storage? Why are there any devices with a maximum of 8GB of storage at all?
On my 8GB I/O Edition Nexus 7, only 5.92GB are available to the user. I have a total of nine games and 34 applications installed on it. Of those nine games, three have around 1GB of resource files. With only a few pictures, no videos and the apps and games installed, I have 1.65GB remaining – and that's after recently removing two very large games.
At the very least, if a manufacturer is going to skip expandable storage space, 16GB should be the bare minimum. But even 16GB can leave users high and dry when it comes to storing the essentials. If I had any say, 32GB would be a standard by now. In fact, every phone should come with at least a 32GB model. And it wouldn't hurt to have affordable, 64GB options available, too.
There is nothing worse than not having enough storage on your mobile device, save for not having a sufficient battery. With the price of flash storage declining, this shouldn't be something we have to worry about. Hopefully, we won't have to next year, so long as manufacturers shoot for Samsung's 128GB eMMC NAND chips.
For the time being, I'm going to try to avoid any devices that max out at 16GB. When a 64GB microSDXC class 10 card is only $58.84 on Amazon with free shipping, it's hard to tie myself down with a device without expandable storage. And this is exactly why I'm still on the fence about the Nexus 4 and why I'm not likely buying the DROID DNA.
Where do you stand, folks? Do you think 16GB of inbuilt storage, without the option to expand, is sufficient? Should manufacturers be looking to 32GB and beyond? Or are 8GB and 16GB devices without expandable memory still okay?