How to Live With the 16GB iPhone’s Pitiful Storage
If you’re considering a new iPhone 6S or 6S Plus, you have three pricing tiers to choose from. If your natural instinct defaults to the cheapest of these, you should be prepared to feel another kind of pinch; at just 16GB of storage, that $200 smartphone will fill up in a hurry. Here’s why, and how to deal.
Plenty of digital ink has been spilled lamenting the 16GB iPhone’s very existence, which is fair, because it gives people very little space to work with. It’s worth quickly recapping the issues that encumber Apple’s entry-price device, but not dwelling on them, because life’s too short and it’s not that bad.
The most important thing to remember about a 16GB iPhone is that it’s not really 16GB. Or rather, much of that 16GB isn’t actually yours. They’ve been claimed by Apple, both through iOS and preloaded, non-deletable apps like iBooks, Music, Photo Booth, and nearly two dozen (!) more. We won’t know how much space truly belongs to you until the iPhone 6S ships, but 10GB would be a very generous estimate.
How much room is that in practice? A single graphics-intensive game like Infinity Blade III can take up nearly 2GB on its own, a fifth of your allotted space. A single HD movie, say, Pitch Perfect 2, takes up 5GB, or half of your iPhone’s storage.
Even if high-impact games and locally stored media don’t appeal to you, the real killer will be your photo collection. The new iPhone’s 12MP shooter will take beautiful shots, but at larger file sizes than the 8MP iPhone 6 did. It also includes a “Live Photos” feature that’s on by default, turning each of your pics into a space-hogging mini-movie. And that’s before we even get to the 4K video it can shoot, which will take you through your ceiling faster than Willy Wonka’s elevator.
If none of that deters you from the 16GB iPhone, don’t worry. We’re here for you.
Turn Off Live Photos
Unless you want to turn your life into a Harry Potter tapestry, you don’t need Apple’s new Live Photos feature in your life. Videos take up much, much more space than videos, and this turns your photos into videos by default. Presumably you’ll have the option to axe it in Settings > Photos & Camera.
Tweak Your HDR
While you’re in your Camera Settings, go ahead adjust your HDR. It combines multiples pictures at different exposures to give you one great shot, which would be great if it didn’t also save the original image. Double photos take double the space. Go to Settings > Photos & Camera > Keep Normal Photo and unselect it.
4K No Way
Just because you can shoot 4K video with the new iPhone doesn’t mean you should. Even if you had unlimited storage at your disposal, it’s unlikely you have a device that can view 4K, or even if you did, that the perceptible difference from a 1080p video would make the added space worth it.
Head for Apple’s Cloud…
The sure-fire solution to your storage woes is to spend your way out. Along with its new iPhones, this week Apple slashed its iCloud pricing to be more in line with its rivals. You can now get 50GB of cloud storage for a dollar a month. Basically, if you’re comfortable keeping the bulk of your photos and music in Apple’s cloud, you can spend 24 bucks over the phone’s two-year cycle for the equivalent storage of a phone that costs $100 more. Features like iCloud Photo Library also automate the process of saving space. Just go to Settings > Photos & Camera > Optimize Storage, and your phone will store thumbnails of your photos locally instead of full, bulky files.
…Or For Someone Else’s
Apple’s not your only option. Cloud services like Dropbox, Google Photos, and Amazon Prime Photos let you auto-upload your photos the instant you take them, keeping them safe in a digital locker, meaning you can delete as you go. (You can also auto-upload to multiple services, for extra backup). Some, like Carousel, Dropbox’s photo organizer, will automatically go in and delete pics from your phone that it has already backed up. Google Photos is free, Amazon Prime Photos is included in a $99/year Prime membership, and Dropbox starts at 2GB free, up to 1TB for $99 per year.
Audit Your Apps
Download whatever apps you want. Go nuts. But check back in every few weeks, and nuke any that you haven’t used in that time. Better still, if you find yourself approaching your 16GB limit, go to Settings > General > Usage > Manage Storage to see which apps are prime offenders. You’ll find that Messages eats up more than you thought (those pics!), as does Podcasts, News, and your music or comic book apps of choice. Clean house; you can always download again when you need it.
Embrace the Upgrade
OK, so this one’s a gimme, but staying current on your OS and app upgrades will help more than it has in years past. In iOS 9, Apple has introduced “app thinning,” a combination of enhancements that amount to apps taking up only as much space as they need in the moment. As long as developers are on board, you’ll see major improvements, especially on multi-level games.
Just Go 64GB
Living happily with a 16GB iPhone is doable, I promise. It just takes a lot of active management. If that amount of time fiddling with your iPhone is worth $100 to you, then by all means, spend that money elsewhere. If you’d just as soon spend more time playing Monument Valley than deleting it, well, you might as well pay up.
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