Do you really need 16GB on your handset?

Another question, this time prompted by a story I read recently on CNET Australia.

The author of the story reckons that 16GB is far too much. ‘How,’ asks the author, ‘Are you supposed to fill up that space?’

‘I’m sceptical,’ the author continues, ‘That many people need a 16GB mini-SD card for their phone.’

Or a phone that has 16GB on board — such as the top level iPhone and an increasing array of new handsets.

What would you do with 16GB?

Well, near-DVD quality video takes up a good amount of space.

I’ve got 36GB of music and about 10GB of TV shows. Each movie I’ve downloaded from iTunes is at least 1GB.

Do I want to put 16 movies on my handset?

Probably not. Not unless I’m doing the 10 hour San Francisco-Heathrow run every week.

If your average 8 megapixel camera produces photos at, what, 2-3mb each — 16GB gives you a heck of a lot of space.

What to do?

I’m all about the cloud, myself.

I don’t hold for carrying round my data. That’s very 1991.

I want to have it all in the cloud. The moment I originate any media, I want it zapped from my device and into the cloud, tagged as appropriate.

I don’t really want it stored on my device. I’d like to be able to flick through some galleries if you and I were sat next to each other. But I’d rather the photos were streamed straight to my device as I flicked.

You can do this right now. Google’s Picasa has a brilliant iPhone version that lets you, provided you’re on WiFi — flick through your gallery as though the images were stored locally. Smart.

You can stream your music this way too. Provided it’s not iTunes DRM’ed, using MP3tunes and other such services.

Mobile networks in the West aren’t advanced enough to support this yet. If you’d like an illustration of how shit they are, take four phones on any network and try making video calls on each, whilst you’re in one area, connected to one cell mast. The signal quality is rubbish. The throughput shit.

I think I need at least 1-2mb throughput — i.e. 1-point-something meg PER SECOND to my device. At that point I’ll relax.

If I’ve got 16GB on my handset, I’ll fill it up. I’ll stick some music on it.

For others, the data capacity of their devices is hugely, hugely important. One of my friends, Tom, is a die-hard Apple fanboy. I had a good time winding him up for buying a £99 Apple iSight webcam — and then having to wait weeks for it to arrive — when he could have gone out to PC World and picked up a decent alternative for £20.

Then I too went out and bought an iSight.

Anyway. My point is that Tom has about 30gb of music. He won’t buy an iPhone until he can put ALL his music on to it — and thus render his iPod irrelevant.

Half of me thinks this is a sensible approach.

Half of me thinks Tom should get on with it and start enjoying iPhone.

How important is device attached storage to you?

Once you’ve got handsets with, say, 50gb capacities — is that going to get ridiculous? Do we actually NEED that sort of live device storage? Or can’t we begin to use the cloud?

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

14 replies on “Do you really need 16GB on your handset?”

you can never have enough storage. end of conversation.
yes some people don't need it
some people don't need a lot of things – they still have them
8 gig is easily filled with music and video
likewise 16gig. 32/48/120 etc etc.


Ah, the cloud vs. the chip. Onboard or offboard.

The thing is, the laws of physics (and that pesky Moore guy) will dictate, in the next decade, what is used.

We've seen a bunch of services launch then slowly fade, that offer MP3 locker/cloud/whatever functionality. The truth is, to sustain a seamless 160kbps stream (the minimum for ok quality) of audio, while mobile, you need serious overhead. That overhead doesn't come cheap. Networks are not dimensioned for it, and end-to-end IP transport mechanisms are not yet wide-spread enough. Result = rubbish.

What will happen much, much quicker than reliable, pervasive megabit speeds to handsets is memory card capacity. Within 3 years the *average* mobile's memory card will be circa 20GB. That's all the poxy 512MB cards given away now, becoming the equivalent of a not-too-shabby iPod. Sideloading mechanisms between handsets, PC's and stores does need a kicking along, but this is happening. DoubleTwist have invented a so-far legal way to get your AAC+ files into MP3 and on your devices, but this is a f-ugly precursor of what will be standard functionality 3 years hence.

SanDisk just announced a 16GB MicroSD card – out soon. You can buy a 32GB SD card for £70 now. Pity handsets have moved to MicroSD in the meantime, but the intent is there to deliver 32GB MicroSD within the year. So that's one card for all your music, one card for movies. Sorted.

Why faff around with the cloud and all its issues – when offline, in 2G or dodgy 3G, you are stuffed. Just carry it all, all the time. Watching on a big screen? Listening on a decent stereo, or in the car? Just bang the card into whatever slot's nearby. Or send via FM / Bluetooth / WiFi.

Keep the cloud for real-time sync of data – Contacts, SMS, email – and the cards for heavy media.


But I've been wildly wrong 9 times out of 10 😉



I’ve filled the 8Gb on my N95, the 12Gb on my N800 and both the 2Gb cards on my E71. Would I like 16Gb – well yes but only for music.

I’m with you, I’d far rather have easily and quickly accessible cloud storage.

That said Asus still haven’t come through on the 20Gb of cloud storage promised with my Eee 1000H yet.

I have a dedicated USB 150Gb hard drive, but plugging in my 4Gb phone is easier, since I always have that on me. It's not the fact that I need 4Gb for the phone itself, but that I've got 4Gb of data carrying around with me for use at various computers.

Only about 500Mb on the device is actually used from the phone (Tom Tom maps and music).

Note to self… always but micro-sd cards in future so they work in ALL my devices. Duh.

I've got the Eee 1000H too, but I thought we didn't get the cloud storage cos we'd got 80GB drives…. If they're offering it though, I'll take it!

I have a 16G iPhone and an N95 with 8G+2G card. For the most part, this is sufficient although:

1. as I use my iPhone more in favour of my 80G iPod (with 50G of content), I can see this perhaps becoming an issue unless I can easily update my content over the air whilst away from home – especially overseas, and

2. I use both handsets, especially the N95, in favour of memory stick – lack of storage used to be an issue when “cloud services” weren't available and enterprise security policies made up/ down loading files neigh on impossible

I think to answer your question, for geeks etc. you can never have enough storage space 🙂

For normobs, there will come a point where the amount of storage is irrelevant (if indeed it ever was). I'm sure this will parallel the pc world – when I had a 20G drive, I was always thinking disk space; now I have 750G, I don't pay much attention to how much of it is free! IMHO, for a phone with camera, music and video 40G will be as much as is needed.

My current ideal is about 64GB. iTunes Genius playlists have turned me from being satisfied with about 30% of my music on my iPhone to wanting it ALL on there!

The other factor is the App Store, I now have just over 2GB of app data on my phone, surely this will be 4GB by the end of the year?

So yeah, you can never have enough onboard memory. That or a stupidly fast cloud connection! ^_^

If I did not have two Cowon devices with me every day I would fill my E51’s 8GB easily. Currently I have one or two lossless albums, music sync’ed via Nokia Multimedia Transfer and a couple Divx encoded DVDs on the card. I’m hovering around 4GB. Possibly if my generic A2DP headset did not sound so terrible I’d retire my standalone devices. Lets see if that ugly little tube changes my behavior.

Memory, like the old 'roads and bookshelves' analogy, will always fill up.

The more you give me, the more data I'll carry. Simple fact. I will never be able to carry enough music, enough video or enough pictures.

Include in that space to create video/images/music etc… and you get the idea.
The dude is wrong.

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