dont buy 16gb iphones and ipads

It’s a lesson many of us have learned the hard way. Yes, $100 is overpriced for a storage upgrade, but it’s still worth it. The most inexpensive models of smartphones, tablets, and laptops often have too little storage.

Manufacturers want to make their products appear as inexpensive as possible, hence these low-storage models to get customers in the door. Better to buy more storage now than deal with the frustration and micromanagement over the life of your device.

Almost Every Manufacturer Does This

Practically every company does this to some degree. Thanks to the shift to faster-and-smaller solid-state drives, this is even a concern on laptops.

Apple’s 16 GB iPhones and iPads are big offenders here. These devices actually have only about 12 GB to play with, and large apps — especially large games — could be 1 GB or more each. Add in downloaded content, music, high-resolution photos, videos, and more — that space can fill up fast.  Apple’s iOS 8 update required 5 GB of free storage space, which means you could only play with 8 GB of that space on your own or you’d have to update via iTunes or micromanage that storage space. Apple’s 8 GB iPhone 5c is even more constrained

Microsoft offers a 64 GB Surface Pro, and that only offers 37 GB of available space. That may sound like quite a bit but between all your personal data files, applications, cache files, and more, it’s not very much. The space means you may not be able to use some software. There are PC games over 37 GB in size, after all!

The same goes for other devices. Laptops with 16 GB of eMMC storage may be tempting because of how inexpensive they are, but that limited storage means you just can’t install some applications at all — you’re constantly being squeezed for space. Inexpensive Android phones with just a few gigabytes of storage may make fine feature-phone replacements, but you’ll quickly run up against the limitations if you want to use anything more.

The same goes for other devices where the more inexpensive model has a paltry amount of storage — take Nintendo’s 8 GB Wii U, for example. The 32 GB Wii U Deluxe is a better idea. Even if you don’t download any digital games at all, the extra space will give you room to grow for downloading game patches and storing save games.

The Micromanagement Is the Worst Part

The most frustrating thing is the micromanagement. Yes, you usually can live with the base model’s storage limitations. And maybe the lightest users who never install any software or download any files will be fine with that. But you’ll regularly be called upon to micromanage the space.

On an iPhone or iPad with 16 GB of storage, this means regularly having to remove games and other apps to free up space and transferring the photos of your device so they don’t take up too much space. You may not being able to store all the music you want or download videos to watch them on airplanes. When the next version of iOS hits, you may have to connect your device to your computer and update via iTunes.

The same is true for Android phone and tablets — you have to regularly watch what you install and copy to your device. You’ll need to keep a minimal set of apps and files on it and worry about freeing up space on your Android device.

Freeing up disk space on a Windows PC is even more complex. Not only does it mean watching the files you download and applications you install, you’ll probably want to regularly run software like CCleaner to obliterate all those cache files wasting precious space. You’ll want to run the Disk Cleanup wizard to reduce the space wasted by Windows Update files. You’ll need to keep an eye on the other directories on your computer, ensuring no bad programs left big, unnecessary files lying around. If you want to play the occasional PC game, you can really only have one large game installed at once. Everything will work similarly on a Mac with limited space, too.

RELATED: How to Free Up Space on an iPhone or iPad

And You Can’t Upgrade Later

The worst thing is just that you can’t upgrade later. That $100 for more storage space may seem like a pricy jump — and it is — but it’s worth it. Paying another $100 to upgrade an iPhone or iPad’s storage from 16 GB to 64 GB means you’ll have space for practically everything you want to do, and you won’t have to micromanage it.

Getting a laptop with 128 GB of storage instead of 64 GB will give you a lot of room to grow, too. Heck, even 128 GB may be too little for some people.. perhaps you should seriously consider 256 GB or more. Give it some time, and you’ll be wishing you could spend $100 to upgrade your device’s storage. That’ll result in more flexibility and less hassle.

RELATED: How to Quickly and Cheaply Upgrade a Laptop or Tablet's Storage

On some devices, you can expand the built-in storage by purchasing an SD card and popping it in. This is absolutely helpful — although it’s limited, as Apple’s iPhones and iPads don’t offer SD card expansion. Many Android devices don’t either, including Samsung’s new Galaxy S6 line of phones. You can’t always rely on this.

Even if you can get an SD card expansion for your device, this is most helpful for storing files. SD cards aren’t generally as fast as the built-in storage, so you ideally wouldn’t want to install applications to an SD card and run them from there. You’ll also have to micromanage which applications, files, and data goes where.

microsd card and android phone

Yes, it’s easy to balk at the $100 cost for a bit more storage, but that’s not what matters. What matters is that that big jump in storage is a huge quality of life improvement, and you can’t simply spend $100 for more storage later when you want it. It’s better to bite the bullet and save yourself the trouble later.

This jump is mostly extra profit margin for the manufacturer — they like keeping the base model price low so they can compete and lure people in.

Image Credit: LWYang on Flickr, K.G.23 on Flickr

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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