Here's to hoping Apple can standardize 128GB

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| January 29, 2013

iPad landscape

For months now, I have been hounding virtually every mobile manufacturer about an increasingly problematic matter.

You guessed it! Storage space.

As smartphones and tablets have matured and substantially grown in capabilities over the last two years, so have graphics and the size of things we store on them. Install files for games, for instance, were merely a few hundred megabytes in size. With 1080p displays (and some far beyond), game graphics have advanced to near console-quality in some cases. And those install files have expanded from hundreds of megabytes to several gigabytes.

With many 720p displays, some 1080p displays and panels like those found in the Nexus 10 or third- and fourth-generation iPad, video files have also increased in size. A Blu-ray quality movie – which is now logical on some mobile devices – is several gigabytes in size. That is much larger than that of a 600MB 720p video file.

Day-to-day applications, pictures (from the camera and for wallpapers), documents and other various files take up their fair share of storage space, too.

The problem is that built-in storage has hardly increased over the last several generations of smartphones. And a handful of manufacturers are moving away from expandable storage for the sake of simplicity. In other words, these manufacturers are creating a bottleneck for consumers who prefer to take their mobile device usage to the extreme.

Even those who don't may also run into that very same bottleneck. Take DROID DNA users, for example. It's a device with a 1080p display and only 16GB of built-in storage with no option to expand. After only a week with the device, I managed to use 10.2GB of storage of the 16GB available to the user. For those keeping count, that was 3.83GB of applications (one game, The Amazing Spider-Man), 1.25GB of photos and video, 28.2MB of downloads and 5.06GB in the "Other" category. Not a single music file was on the device. Of the 16GB, only 11 are available to the user. Roughly 5GB are used for the system. This left only 5.83GB of free storage on a device I didn't use for all that long.

Fortunately, this gripe of mine might be resolved in months ahead. To the surprise of many, Apple started this morning off with a bang. Sort of. It was a low-key press announcement of a new configuration to an existing iPad model, one that came without all the hubbub of a full-on press event.

What the Cupertino-based firm announced is something that arguably should have happened months ago, a fourth-generation iPad with 128GB of built-in storage. That's right, an iPad with the same amount of flash storage as the solid state drive on my MacBook Air.

The major caveat here is, of course, the price. Come February 5, the largest iPad model will cost a whopping $799 before taxes. If you need more than just Wi-Fi, the cellular model will set you back a staggering $929 before taxes.

I can't imagine many people will be lining up to throw down $800 to $930 for an iPad with 128GB of built-in storage. I told my mother – who loves to have the latest and greatest and just got a 64GB fourth-gen iPad on Verizon for Christmas – of the news this morning. She said, "Wow. But I'm good."

That doesn't mean this model with a ridiculous amount of storage is in vain, however. It ups the ante, and could mean smaller models – 16GB, for one – are on their way out. Considering Apple is no longer following any particular pattern or sticking to a rough tradition, I could be way off base.

Either way, come February 5, Apple will offer a tablet with storage options that are more than double most competitors' offerings. In fact, the 128GB model has quadruple the storage as many manufacturers' best offerings. The Nexus 10, for example, only comes in a 16GB or 32GB variant. Such is the case with many high-end Android or Windows RT tablets.

And it's not terribly outlandish to think the next iPhone might see a similar spec bump. The 128GB eMMC NAND chips by Samsung are reportedly the same size as its 64GB and 32GB eMMC chips. So it's safe to say size isn't an issue.

The only hurdle is the cost of manufacturing, which should be more than covered by the additional $300 for the jump from the base model. (I hardly believe 128GB of flash storage costs anywhere near $300 for someone purchasing wholesale.)

While I have trouble believing many will go nuts over this new iPad, there's a great chance this seemingly premature move by Apple will prod the cattle and get competitors on the 128GB bandwagon. As much as I love cloud storage as an alternative, it's a poor solution to an ever-growing problem. And if microSD cards aren't the answer, more inbuilt storage has to be.

One thing is certain. My fingers are crossed for the next iPhone and next Android flagships to have at least an option of 128GB. At the very least, 64GB should suffice. But I definitely hope days of 8GB and 16GB are over.

What say you, ladies and gents? Is 16GB enough for you? 32GB? Or do 64 and 128GB sound more your speed? Is a 128GB iPad for $800 or $930 enticing to you?

Products mentioned