Just say no to 16 gigabytes of storage in 2015

The Christmas holiday meant taking a lot of photos from several different devices for me. My youngest daughter ran around all day with my HTC RE Camera, and between grabbing 4K video on my 2014 Moto X and importing photos from the RE and the Olympus Image Share app connected to the Pen E-P5 my phone got quite the workout. By the end of the day we had managed to consume nearly 10GB of the 26GB that Motorola allows me access to on this 32GB phone. I recognized that I had done this to myself, and after dumping everything to my Desktop it became even less of a problem for me, but I couldn't help but wonder how little I'd have been able to do if I had opted for the 16GB version of this phone.

Our smartphones continue to consume more and more storage every generation, which is what happens when every part of your mobile experience gets bigger and better. While Google's plan to have everything in the cloud is nice on paper, there has to be enough local storage to actually get that content to the cloud in the first place. The 16GB version of the 2014 Moto X takes 6GB for the system, leaving you with 10GB to more or less use however you want. After all of my apps are installed and cache for things like Google+ and Chrome have been established, I'd have about 4GB left to do whatever I want with. The average photo on this camera takes up around 3MB, and in 4K mode the video consumes a little over 6.5MB every second. Lets not even get started on the storage consumed by the photo and video editing features that are built into almost every OEM-flavored Android phone nowadays. The bottom line is the same — 16GB of storage really just doesn't cut it long term.

It's right around this point that those of you with removable storage feel pretty good about your purchases this year, and rightly so. Removable storage puts the user in control of exactly how much storage is available, and you can spend as much or as little as you like to get the storage amount that is right for you. With the improvements to removable storage support seen in Android 5.0 it's possible more manufacturers will swing back to offering microSD card slots on some devices — and the Saygus V2 and its potential for 320GB of total storage is downright ridiculous — but it's unlikely that we'll return to a point anytime soon where that removable storage slot is the default. For one, most of the devices we'll see this year have been in development before Android 5.0 was announced. What's more is there's still a huge perception problem to be addressed with cheap removable storage, since most of the time it's the manufacturer of the phone and not the cheap microSD card that gets blamed when performance takes a hit.

And then there's the fact that SD cards by nature are not really means for secure storage. (But that's another column for another time.)

The best all-around solution is for manufacturers to ditch 16GB of storage as their cheapest model for flagship phones in 2015. HTC, LG, Motorola, Samsung, and anyone else who makes a phone whose unlocked or off contract price is above $500 should make 32GB the standard and work up from there.

This doesn't just stop at our phones, either. The laughably small 8GB included with the Nexus Player and the 16GB base model for tablets needs to go as well, since these are both devices that are way more likely to actually need more local storage for games or offline mode. With 32GB of storage you guarantee all of your "average" users don't run in to storage issues after six months of use, and then either offer 64GB to 128GB or removable storage to those of us who prefer to store a bunch of music locally or want to try and shoot half and hour of video in 4K (that's over 11GB of storage for those keeping score).

Whatever the solution for you this new year, even if it means just avoiding the 16GB version of a new phone and shelling out for the larger storage options

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

312 Comments
  • I agree - 32GB should be the minimum storage capacity especially with some devices not having a SD Card option. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Maybe now OEMs will listen since AC has a specific post on this issue. Galaxy Note 4 Galaxy S III
    LG G2
  • Nope. They don't care. There is too much money to be made by axing SD cards and cashing in on cloud storage and data charges and limiting device storage size. Why do you think its happening in the first place!? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Totally agree that they don't care. People are still paying 2x to 3x what a mid to upper-end full notebook computer costs for a 5 inch phone. To have any effect over what features are included in a product, the consumer has to be far, far more willing to exert pressure by NOT buying the product. Way too many people are still blindly throwing their money at the same OEMs year after year.
  • 2x to 3x the price of a high end notebook? How do you figure that?
  • Well, it is not because all the money OEMs are making off of cloud storage. Is anyone making money off of cloud storage? The carriers certainly wouldn't mind more data charges and I am sure they are both fine with the premium higher capacity phones get. You may have something there. I would guess Google doesn't like SD cards because they require licensing from Microsoft. They are also slower and a hassle for most people compared to on device storage. In a few years they will go the way of the CD and the floppy before it. On device storage will become huge and it will no longer be an issue at all.
  • I get that Google doesn't like sd cards and why. What I really dislike and don't understand is their refusal to make more onboard storage options available. I love my Nexus 7 tablet, but the biggest disappointment to me is that a 64 gb version wasn't made. I need extra capacity for those times I want to download movies, magazines, etc. for offline use. It's pretty easy to fill up even 32 gb on tablets these days. Posted via Android Central App
  • Samsung has already started doing this with Note 3, and the Galaxy S6 is suppose to start at 32GB. This really won't change until Apple, changes things, which they are starting to.
  • At least Apple has offered higher onboard capacity options for their devices for quite some time, unlike Google/Nexus. One reason I bought an iPad instead of the Nexus 9 is that I could get 64 or 128 gb of onboard storage. I grant that their sd storage options are overpriced, but at least they're available. The 32 gb HTC phone went from "that's nice" to "must have" for me when they included an sd slot in the m8 version. I am very happy with being able to store my music and pictures on my phone's 32 gb sd card while keeping my apps in native storage. Posted via Android Central App
  • Totally agree Posted via the Android Central App on my Nexus 7 2013 w/ Lollipop !!
  • This x1000. Definitely make 32 the low model in all new phones with options of 64 and 128. Posted via Android Central App
  • After making room on my HTC One M8 and on it's SD card hehe maybe 64 should be the norm for the flagship phones at this stage.. Posted via the Android Central App
  • By next year we'll be saying the same thing about 32gb. The average size of apps, pictures, and videos keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger. At least in 2014 a lot of manufacturers brought back SD cards so that helped a lot, but the options for what you can use external storage for are not the same as it was years ago.
    I know people complain about the issues that come with SD cards, but IMO it beats having to use otg USB, and they're especially better the damned cloud that needs internet access and usually caches everything to your internal storage anyways. Posted via Android Central App
  • Completely agree. I love my Z3C but i f*cking hate that Sony put miserable 16GB in it. I play no games on the phone because I can't. The SD card is useless thanks to Google and the games are really heavy. Posted via the Android Central App
  • When Lollipop is out for the Xperias next month the SD card will no longer be useless for 3rd party apps writing to the SD card. On phones with an SD slot, 16GB storage really isn't a huge issue.
  • Thas the thing, app devs can fix it now (getExternalDirs() and get index 1 of the resulting array). The lollipop update won't fix KOTOR which takes up 3gb of internal memory. If devs update it to on lollipop, they could have fixed it in Kitkat
  • Most phones only have 1GB of memory, 2 if you are lucky.
  • Internal Storage is what should have been said, not internal memory. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I shouldn't need to update to Lollipop to have this. Specially since Sony has put back the move to SD card on all their KitKat phones EXCEPT the flagships for some f*cked up reason. Also, "On phones with an SD slot, 16GB storage really isn't a huge issue." Yes. Yes it is. Can't you read? I've just said 16GB isn't enough for me. That I don't play games because I simply can't for lack of storage. As I can't move apps to the SD card, I've to choose: I either have apps or games. I shouldn't have to make a choice like that on a f*cking 500€ flagship phone. Period.
  • Devs can add SDCard support NOW, just are just too lazy to implement it. Look at apps like PocketCasts or Play Music/Movies as an example. All three give the users the ability to move the data to the SDcard. I don't care about the 20MB apks, that's nothing. Every app that stores over 100MB internally SHOULD give the users the option to save their data folder to the sdcard.
  • That's so frustrating. I LOVE the Z3C, and I would have one in my pocket right now if there were a 32 or 64GB option. I understand maxing at out 16GB for budget phones (I mean, if you want to play enough heavy games and take enough pictures to fill up 32GB, a Moto G's probably not for you), but the Z3 is Sony's flagship. There's no good reason for it.
  • Totally agree. I waited for the 2014 Moto X and they launched only a 16GB variant in India.... and I bought it :( . Now I have to manage every tiny amount of space I can Posted via the Android Central App
  • "Now I have to manage every tiny amount of space I can" Aren't you glad Google removed the hassle of file management with their trend away from SD cards? I mean, just think of how much MORE of a hassle it'd be to have to choose between internal or external storage for your files. Constantly removing or deleting files to free up space is WAY easier! /sarcasim
  • Same here. I am still loving my Xperia Z1 but I don't want to worry about which apps should I remove just because I only have a few gigabytes left in my internal storage. Posted via Android Central App
  • While I've been fine with my 16GB Nexus 5, definitely glad Google stepped the Nexus 6 up to 32GB for the base model. Posted via Android Central App
  • Really is most of your data in the cloud? I have the 32GB and my apps alone have only left me with 10-12 GB. Posted via Android Central App
  • Everyone's app usage is different. Not everyone installs huge games, nor nearly every app they've ever downloaded and rarely use. I've found that if I do not use an app at least a few times a month I typically delete it since it's easy to quickly reinstall if I do. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yep the standard should be 32 Posted via the Android Central App
  • Note 3 cheapest model has 32 gig Posted using my note 3 via the AC App
  • The Note 3's only model is 32GB. And, if there was a 64GB model, it definitely wasn't widely available to make any sort of difference.
  • Probably because there's a micro SD slot. Posted via Android Central App
  • I disagree with this. Here in Hong Kong, Samsung massively f.....ed us over by releasing a 16GB version; I was left with around 10-11GBs to play with. After all my important apps were installed, I had around 5-6GBs left. That's not even including the caches and media that WhatsApp takes up!
  • Amazing. Straight off a factory reset, the VZW Galaxy S5 gave you around 8 or 9GBs, which was BS.
  • 32gb and an SD slot have been perfect for me. The phone holds app data and the card holds all my media, however much I choose to have. Posted via the AC App on my LG G3
  • This is exactly how I run all my devices that are fortunate enough to have expandable storage. Posted via AC App from my S4 mini WITH an LED CrackLight ;-)
  • I agree! I currently have 1.44GB's available on my 16GB Galaxy S4, I alsi have a 64GB microsd card in it. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Good article. Damnit, you're right. I still want a Sony Xperia Z3 Compact, though. Posted via Samsung Galaxy Alpha
  • You know, I have the 16 GB Moto X, and if you are upgrading from a pitiful 8 GB iPhone... Well, 16 seems like a dream. If I take pictures, I end up uploading the ones I like to my Google drive or some other cloud service. Saves me the trouble if i lose my phone, it breaks, etc. (I'm a photographer) So yeah, I don't think people need so many pictures on their phones.... that space can be used for other things, but who am I to judge? anyway, I can't argue with the desire to have 32GB as the base option, it would be nice.
  • To be fair, iOS takes much less space compared to some OEM Androids. I've seen half of 16 being taken up by certain manufacts.
    But yeah, tech's advancing. I'm all for the 32, at least for phones without SD expansion.
  • True. iPhone models for the past 2 years usually give you 12-13GB usable space versus Android phones that give you 8-12GB usable space (varies according to how thick the OEM skin is, especially Asian OEMs). Posted via Android Central App
  • Gotta love unnecessary bloatware and skins! Killing performance and space. Nexus 6 FTW Posted via the Android Central App
  • Until you download a shit ton of apps to get the same features. "I'm da Blur boys!" - Me with 1200 ping. Yes. My Internet got worse.
  • Nope. Can definitely live without gimmicky apps. Some people like cheesy crappy running apps, some don't. I like Android like Google intends it too be. Posted via the Android Central App
  • This was the first thing that jumped out at me when the latest iPhones were introduced; in 2014/2015, 16GB is a joke. But in addition to 16GB being cheaper for the manufacturers, I'm sure it's also done because they're afraid that making 32 the starting point will cannibalize sales for the more expensive 64GB devices. It's always about money.
  • My coworker is actually ditching her iPhone 5s to move to the G3,and one of her cheap complaints was the pitiful 16GB of storage. She also said the Apple kept pressuring her to purchase more iCloud storage to make up for it. She was shocked when I told her how much default storage Google gives you and then that I get 100Gb for only $1.99 per month.
  • I went with the 64 gb iPhone 6 and haven't bee happier. The extra storage is awesome. I have the M8 which came with 32 gb and a 32 gb sd card installed. But with the way Android handles memory my memory card isn't nearly as helpful. Once that is resolved then as long as Android devices come with SD slots memory isn't an issue
  • It isn't about 1s and 0s. It's about $s and 0s.
  • 16Gb is still more than enough for me.
  • Same here. When I was buying my Nexus 5 I had a tough time deciding if I wanted 16gb or 32gb. I saved $50 and went with 16 and I'm glad I did. The only thing that takes up a lot of space for me is photos, but I make it a habit to unload all my photos once a month. Posted via Android Central App
  • Yeah me too, on my Moto G, I use less than 3GB's Posted via the Android Central App
  • Same here! Heck, I never even filled up the 8GB storage when I had the HTC Thunderbolt. Then again I'm not a data hoarder. For me less is more. I like to keep things lean and mean. :D
  • Me too. I have the Moto X 2014 and the 2013 model before that. When buying these phones I struggled with 32 or 16 and decided on 16Gb both times. I am happy I saved my money because I mainly stream everything. Also, the music and photos I don't stream are on a flash drive I connect with an OTG cable. To assist in this. All the photos and videos I take get automatically uploaded to Google Drive. I pay for 1tb and got 1exra terabyte free for 2 years with my Chromebook. Posted via the Android Central App on the 2nd Gen. Moto X
  • Until drive goes down, which it seems to be doing quite alot, your fine. Not so much after that though Posted by my soon to be retired Note 3
  • Ah but you're missing the greater point, article author. 16GB is a business decision. It politely shoves the consumer towards purchasing additional memory via the clouds. Posted via Android Central App
  • Not likey. Cloud storage is very cheap and some cases it's free. I have 75 gigs for free with Dropbox. Posted via HTC One on Sprint
  • Or just going to the cloud in general and giving Google more information about yourself that was offline external memory before Posted via the Android Central App
  • Dropbox and Google both have very reasonably priced cloud storage. I really doubt that facing consumers to purchase cloud storage and send their money to other companies is the way to go. Posted on my Galaxy S5
  • They do mention that. The problem is apps don't like being installed in the cloud.
  • Not just purchasing more cloud space, also paying your carrier to move all your data back and forth.
  • There is a more important business decision that leads to 16gb storage, it is that the carriers want to advertise cheaper contracts with that new free phone and skimping on storage is one way to do that. In the UK all the carriers skipped the 3gb/32gb version of the G3 entirely and only offered the 2gb/16gb model.
  • Amen! And go RAVENS! Posted via AC app by way of my right thumb.
  • Amen to the Go Ravens! Posted via Android Central App
  • Indeed, having SD card ability changes everything for me.
    So much so, I hardly touch my Nexus5 anymore since getting a tablet with SD slot.
    Its not just size or battery life, its that my stuff is on hand an instant versus cloud delay.
  • It's been many years since I had a phone with under 32gb. I couldn't make it with any less. Posted via the Android Central App
  • 32 gb is fine for me right now, but I can easily see the time that it won't be. Posted from my Nexus 7 2013 via Android Central App
  • I can handle having 32GB on my Nexus 7 2013. I can manage that. But all my Samsung device have 64 cards in them, as well as my Dell Venue 8 Pro. Although the Nexus is the better performer all around by far, when it comes to where I store most of my movies and other media, I'm using a device with SD card support. But the Nexus is where my streaming and gaming lives supreme. Posted via AC App from my S4 mini WITH an LED CrackLight ;-)
  • The problem becomes when OEM's and carriers only offer the 16gb model. I know a lot of us on this site use prepaid service, but a lot of folks still get their phones with a contract and subsidy, and 16gb is the only option in that case. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Agreed. In UK I would say 90% of people buy their phone on a monthly contract with carrier subsidies. It's pretty much standard. And very rarely is an option for 32 or 64GB offered. So most people end up with 16GB. Posted via Android Central App
  • I wanted this phone to last two years when I bought it - so I went for the 64GB option. Can't say I regret my decision in the slightest. Posted via the AC App on my Nexus 6
  • This is the main reason that I did not consider at Galaxy S5. They are all 16GB, at least in the US. And the external card slot is meaningless since it was crippled with Kit Kat.
  • Exactly why I glanced over the S4 and gave away my S5, and kept my 32 GB S3 chugging along for 2.5 years almost!
  • "You do know Samsung made 32 and 64GB versions of the S4 and S5 right?" That's kind of a moot point, considering that those version were not widely available. Not denying that they exist, but they were almost impossible to get. So, yeah, his/her comment still stands.
  • Root + SD card fix resolved that issue for me. And even if you don't root, having an SD card for media comes in handy.
  • Same for me which is why I swapped my 16gb gs4 for a 32gb gs4 as soon as one became available on att. I have to wonder if the lack of 32 and 64gb models is a part of why gs5 sales were disappointing for Samsung. I certainly wouldn't consider a 16gb version.
  • Better idea: make the damned phone with enough storage for the OS and a margin for future updates, then let me put 100% of everything else on a microSD card. Anyone tempted to reply with something about the speed of microSD cards, please sit down and stop saying dumb things.
  • That's actually not a horrible idea... it would certainly make swapping phones easier. Actually, I can think of many reasons why that would be a great idea. But the SD card is and always has been a 2nd class citizen on phones.
  • SD cards being 2nd class is Google's intention... Androids Achilles heel imo. It's not that it couldn't have been programmed to use it... It's just ridiculous. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Installing apps out of the box on SD cards would be great. Posted via AC App from my S4 mini WITH an LED CrackLight ;-)
  • I completely disagree with this article. Last time I checked Android was still about choice. I have a Droid Turbo. For me the phone is pretty much perfect. The only problem is 32GB was the minimum storage. I wish there would have been a version that was cheaper that had 16GB of storage. That's all I need, but I was forced to pay for more than I'll ever use.
    There should always be an option for those who need more storage, but there should also be an option for those who use less. If I'm paying more than $500 for a flagship, I should be able to get a little bit of a discount if I want less storage. I shouldn't have to settle for a lesser phone just because I need less local storage than others. There should always be options.
  • You wouldn't get much of a discount though; flash memory bought in bulk is really cheap. A 32 GB phone only costs maybe $5 more to make than a 16 GB version. Posted via Android Central App
  • Odds are if a 16gb version existed, it would cost as much as the 32gb you paid for and the option to increase storage would be more expensive. These OEMs don't every really cut us a break when it comes to money. Posted via the Android Central App
  • While I understand your sentiment I am the exact opposite. I don't particularly fill my phone up with media but I want the option to do so. So in my case the 50.00 extra to get the 64 GB Turbo was worth it. I also think that SD cards should be totally functional in all phones. As far as cloud storage, I have 165 GB from Google for free, 25 GB free from Verizon and another 50 GB from various other companies. I already see the writing on the wall from all of them. After you get all your stuff up there the free offer is going to stop and it will cost you. I agree it's all about the money. Get everyone hooked on the cloud that BAM right up the Wazoo!
  • Flagships are just that though, Flagships. If you want less there's many many other companies out there. Companies try to cater to the most customers they think they'll attract, if they feel most customers want more memory, then they will cater to that. Besides based on current OS sizes many people will then biotch about how the OS takes up most/half of the 16 GB space.....
  • A SD Card and a removable battery are a must for me when buying any device. I also agree that 32 GB should be the standard for every high end device Posted Via AT&T Note 3
  • I agree. After owning iPhones for many years and switching 32g is minimum removable battery is a must. Try using 3rd party apps for sd card control. Comes in handy. Posted via Android Central App from Samsung Note 3 or Surface Pro 3
  • A removable battery so removes the lack of battery life from a device. Get a spare and pop it in for a full charge.
  • My biggest reason for going with Samsung year after year (except with the pointless S4 and I gave the crappy 16GB S5 away), It just works and it keeps working. I just retired my 32GB S3 and it has served me quite well, never a single complaint. Now I have a Note 4 (OMG my hand had to adjust), wireless charging and spare batteries with microSD storage (very important to me). I also love the Gear S with it's Battery Cradle thing, pain in the ass to snap on, but I so love having an extra days charge in my pocket, for those times I sleep with the watch on (almost every day).
  • I will be picking up my Note 4 in February :) Posted Via AT&T Note 3
  • 16GB is not much, but for most consumers it's still livable. Most people just like to store their photos and videos on their SD card if they had that choice. However, as this article points out it's a security risk because we're forced to use the severely ancient FAT file system as that's the only universally adopted file system that isn't incumbered by patents and license fees. We need to make a secure file system that is universally adopted that has none of these restrictions, that'll fix the expendable storage issue. However, it won't fix the performance issue though since SD cards are magnitudes slower than internal storage, that's why they're so cheap...
  • My mom is probably the least techy person in the world and even she's managed to fill up a 16gb iPhone with pictures. Sure, she could back them up somewhere else, but she's not exactly up to learning about things like that and I'm sure that many people like her are out there. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Same case for my mother. So I got her a S5 with a 64gig SD card to replace her iPhone 4S 16GB. She is more than happy. Plus dropping AT&T with shared 10GB/month for unlimited Sprint LTE has her set. Posted via AC App from my S4 mini WITH an LED CrackLight ;-)
  • There're a good few file systems that are widely used. Android typically has Ext3 and/or Ext4 somewhere. The bigger issue, rather than licencing costs, is the ability to take those cards out of your phone and plug them into your PC. Until Microsoft makes it easier to mount them in Windows (and people upgrade to that version), we'll probably be stuck with FAT.