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How Apple could make 16GB devices feel a lot roomier

Michael Simon | March 24, 2016
iOS could use the limited space a little more intelligently.

But that’s not the case with other media. When you delete a song or a movie, the file isn’t gone forever. While it may disappear from your phone, it simply returns to its home on iCloud, where it stays until you want to watch or listen to it again. That’s how it should be with photos—when tapping the trash icon, a dialog box should ask if we want to permanently delete it or just offload it to the iCloud Photo Library. Thousands of old pictures are already visible on our phones without taking up any space, but letting shutterbugs delete photos without removing them from their virtual lockers would let 16GB iPhone users enjoy their cameras (and their devices) like 128GB users do.

Low storage mode

As we all know, the 16GB space crunch isn’t a new problem. Back when iOS 8 was released, many entry-level iPhone users struggled to make the leap from iOS 7 due to capacity constraints. Due to the fact that the over-the-air upgrade needed nearly 5GB of free space, many 16GB iPhones didn’t meet the requirements, forcing users to delete photos and apps to clear out enough space—or skip the upgrade altogether.

That changed that with iOS 9. With a significantly smaller download and more efficient streaming, Apple made upgrading far less painful, but those who still didn’t have enough space for 1.3GB install weren’t out of luck; Apple developed a system that temporarily deletes apps to make space and reinstalls them once the installation is complete, saving considerable time and hand-wringing.

Expanding this idea to the iPhone’s day-to-day use would go a long way toward keeping 16GB iPhones from reaching maximum capacity. Similar to how Low Power Mode shuts off background processes and lessens performance to squeeze as many extra minutes out of the battery as it can, a Low Storage Mode could give iOS the ability to intelligently delete rarely used apps when a device’s capacity dips below a certain level. The worry over space would become a thing of the past, making phones and tablets of all sizes less dependent on gigabytes.

These changes could eliminate the need for a 256GB phone and help users make smarter decisions about the capacity they choose. But more importantly, they would make the puny 16GB iPhone SE feel just a little more giant.


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