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Why Apple’s 16GB iPhone might not be such a bad thing

September 3, 2015, 6:26 PM UTC
Apple Starts iPhone 6 Sales In Germany
A shopper ltries out the new Apple iPhone 6 at the Apple Store on the first day of sales of the new phone in Germany on September 19, 2014 in Berlin, Germany.
Photograph by Sean Gallup — Getty Images

Apple (AAPL) will stay the course and keep the entry-level version of its upcoming iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus at 16GB, according to recent reports.

At the end of the day, is a paltry 13GB—the amount leftover after factoring in its operating system—enough for all of your apps, photos, videos, and music? For most, it’s not enough, while others consider it worth fighting over.

Last year two Miami residents filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging it misrepresented the amount of storage capacity available on its smartphones and tablets. Apple later responded asking that the suit be dismissed.

Tech critics, including yours truly, believe that 16GB smartphones should be banished from existence; replaced with a more spacious 32GB model at the same price.

However, with the impending release of iOS 9—which will likely accompany Apple’s latest wares—a 16GB iPhone might not be that bad after all. Here’s why.

At its developer conference in June, Apple introduced one of iOS 9’s new features called app thinning. Without getting into too much detail, app thinning helps developers create apps that take up less space on your iOS device by only installing essential information.

On-demand resources, a key part of app thinning, essentially slice an app into smaller pieces, separating the different components that make up an app. These components can include artwork, sound effects, or in-app assets only required in limited use cases. Using a game as an example, iOS 9 will download levels in the background as the user progresses, removing previous levels as storage space gets low. The end result is a much smaller app without sacrificing the user experience.

Outside of app thinning, which should help with storage issues, Apple’s iCloud Drive storage plans go a long way in helping free up space. Each iCloud account is given 5GB of free iCloud storage (a number it would be nice to see rise to 20GB). iCloud storage is where your device backups, photos, videos, and iCloud Drive documents are stored.

I use Apple’s iCloud Photo Library to store all 53,000 of my photos and videos. The library takes up 409GB of space on my computer’s hard drive, but a low 8.8GB on my iPhone thanks to the “optimize iPhone storage” setting in the iOS photos app. When enabled, iOS stores full-resolution photos and videos in your iCloud account, displaying lower-resolution versions for browsing. When you need the full photo or video, iOS downloads it on demand. The optimization gets more aggressive as the amount of storage on the device gets lower.

Granted I pay Apple $10 a month for 500GB of iCloud storage, but the upside is I no longer have to worry about offloading photos and videos to free up space on a regular basis on my 64GB iPhone.

If reports are correct and Apple sticks to its 16GB entry-level option, at least the company isn’t simply sitting idle while counting the added revenue derived from its cloud storage options. App thinning will help with app sizes, and Apple’s cloud solutions are geared towards freeing up space, as you need it.

Either way, Apple ends up with more of your money.

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