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How Much Smartphone Storage Do You Really Need?

It's one of the most important decisions you have to make because more storage costs a lot more money.

tech roundup
Tucker Bowe

When shopping for a smartphone — be it an iPhone or Android — one of the most important decisions you'll make is how much storage capacity to configure it with. It's a big deal because, along with the model of smartphone you actually buy, storage capacity can drastically impact price.

Let's use the iPhone 13 as an example. Apple is currently selling the base model, which comes with 128GB of storage, for $799. You can get double that storage (to 256GB) for an extra $100, or quadruple the base storage (to 512GB) for an extra $400. This means that you can almost double the price of the iPhone 13 if you max out the storage.

Of course, the decision of how much storage to get is complicated by the fact that we're in the golden age of cloud-based storage. By paying a few bucks a month, people can free up (or just back up) a lot of things (such as photos, videos and music) that normally take up a huge chuck of their smartphone's internal storage. This means that, if you're ok with storing things on the cloud, the amount of storage you have on your smartphone isn't as important.

So it begs the question: how much internal storage does your smartphone actually need? Well, the answer really depends on you and how you plan on using your smartphone.

How often do you upgrade your smartphone?

Fact: new smartphones come with more base storage than old smartphones. For example, when Apple released the iPhone 8 in 2017, it increased the minimum base storage from 32GB to 64GB. And that was the base storage through 2020 and the iPhone 12. Then this year (2021), Apple increased the minimum base storage of the iPhone 13 to 128GB. If the trend continues, this means that the base storage of future iPhones will be 128GB at least for the next few years.

So if you're somebody who gets a new smartphone every year (or every other year), the amount of storage capacity isn't as important because the smartphone you currently have likely already has a lot of base storage (or you're about to get a new smartphone with a lot of base storage).

However, if you don't upgrade your smartphones for several years (which a lot of people do) it's more problematic because older smartphones tend to have less base storage capacity. Throw in the fact that older smartphones have to deal with more software updates (which take up a lot of valuable storage space) and that smaller storage capacity tends to fill up real quick.

Basically, if you tend to to hold on a smartphone for several years, it's more likely that you're going to what more than the base storage option.

Do you download photos, videos, movies and music?

The three things that tend to take up a huge chuck of your smartphone's internal storage are photos, videos, movies and music.

If you're somebody who takes a lot of photos and videos — specifically high-resolution photos and videos, which take up a lot more space — and you don't offload them to a cloud-based storage solution like Dropbox, Google Photos or IDrive, you're going to want a smartphone with a higher storage capacity.

Streaming content — like music, movies and shows — is a little more complicated because it doesn't affect your smartphone storage capacity unless you download them for offline streaming or watching. If you're somebody who owns a lot music or movies, say you've ripped a lot of CDs and vinyl or bought a lot of movies or shows, those things are definitely going to take up a lot of storage space.

How much of your current smartphone's internal storage are you using?

The real barometer of how smartphone storage you actually need is to go to your current smartphone and check how much internal storage you're actually using. Here's how to find out:

If you have an iPhone:

Open the Settings app > select "General" > select "[Device] Storage."

If you have an Android:

• Open the Settings app > select "System" > select "Storage" > select "Device Storage."

From this screen, you'll see how much of your current smartphone's storage you're using as well as how much available storage you have left. If you're maxed out (or close to maxing out), then your next smartphone should have more storage. If you're not close to maxing it out, then getting the base storage option for your next smartphone is likely fine.

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