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It is time for manufacturers to provide more detail about available storage on devices

It is time for manufacturers to provide more detail about available storage on devices
With just about every computing device purchased nowadays, it is generally accepted actual usable storage is always less than the advertised storage for a given component.

For desktop and laptop computers this is not such a serious issue, as it is becoming more common to see hard drives with capacities beyond 1TB. Indeed for the home networking guru, storage is not much of an issue, set up a NAS, connect home devices (and mobile devices) and you are good to go.

Eyebrows raised a bit last year when we finally got to see how much space was being occupied by Windows RT and Office on the then-new Surface tablet. Folks that bought a 32GB model were left with about 16GB of storage space. The Surface’s ability to accept microSD cards up to 64GB, plus the fact that there is easy, familiar access to the Windows file system made that a non-issue for most people.

There was a faux controversy about the Surface Pro, but it was quickly revealed that, at least for the 128GB model, available storage space on on-par, or better than one might find with an Apple MacBook Air. However, on the heels of the Surface RT revelations, it arguably fueled the huge demand for the 128GB Surface Pro when it launched.

MicroSD cards can be a great solution to help with storage problems, but not every device can use them for everything

MicroSD cards can be a great solution to help with storage problems, but not every device can use them for everything

On smartphones however, the realities present different problems for different users. For consumers, available storage is a matter of convenience and satisfying the “right now” attitude that exists throughout much of society today. For business users, it can mean the difference between having the ability to effectively operate a suite of applications or have instant access to important files.

Obviously with so many options and considerations in the picture, it stands to reason that a well informed consumer will make their choice and drive demand toward products that manufacturers can easily accommodate.

Then we have the newest headline maker, the Samsung Galaxy S4. The 16GB model is so feature packed that the operating system and Samsung’s S-app-goodness take up nearly half of the available storage. This realization does not seem to be hurting sales, and again, this is a fact of life.

However, maybe it is time to inform the buyer a little better than with the standard “actual formatted capacity is less” line.  Given the markup that manufactures and retailers charge for higher capacity smartphones, this should be a no brainer. The typical cost differential for a buyer from a 16GB to 32GB device is $100. We all know that increase in memory does not have a hard cost of $100. Would informing consumers of approximate formatted storage capacity provide a negative pressure against sales?   We argue it would not and we cite the tremendous success of the Samsung Galaxy S III, Apple iPhone and Nexus 4 as examples.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 16GB model is more like an 8.8GB model

The Samsung Galaxy S4 16GB model is more like an 8.8GB model

For example, the Nexus 4 has proven to be a great success for Google and LG (order fulfillment issues aside) because the price point and pure Google experience were compelling factors even in the face of only about 5.5GB of usable storage on the 8GB model.  For that device, the available storage was in line with what any group of users would expect anyway and the Nexus devices are known to not support microSD expansion.

It is fully understandable that a manufacturer could not provide an exact “actual formatted capacity” since the carriers invariably add different shovel loads of bloatware, but that does not mean they cannot provide an approximate number or percentage. The effect on consumer behavior may actually work in their favor.

For those that want to say “that is what the cloud is for,” we hear you, but there are several impeding factors to that solution. Those primary factors are cost, security and accessibility (whether due to network uptime/congestion or storage provider Ts & Cs). Moreover, even if the cellular network is available, if you are trying to move serious amounts of data when things are congested, kiss your battery goodbye and we do not need to address the constraints of some data plans.  There are also concerns about who owns that data when stored in the cloud, and not all clouds are created equal.

We are not bemoaning the fact that the Samsung Galaxy S4 16GB only has a little over half of its capacity available. What we are pointing out is that there is a threshold where people need to be informed about what they are buying. Ostensibly, the 16GB SGS4 is an 8GB SGS4. If informed ahead of time, would users pay $200 subsidized for that model? Yes. Would users pay $250-300 subsidized for a 32GB model? Absolutely.

In the final analysis, Samsung and other major manufacturers will be well served to better examine the impact of these design decisions. In all likelihood, no one would have raised an eyebrow if the 16GB SGS4 were not made at all (at least in developed economies) and Samsung rolled out a 32GB model as the bottom tier.  Again, we are not arguing the point that system resources must take up available storage, we are arguing that manufacturers are better served, and provide a better service to their customers when providing as much real information about their product as possible.

  • Options

posted on 10 May 2013, 18:08 18

1. tiara6918 (Posts: 2036; Member since: 26 Apr 2012)

Yep,they should provide real information about the product since that is what you're paying for. They should at least mention in the specs sheet of their devices the number of storage available(example:32gb-25gb user available)

posted on 10 May 2013, 18:24 5

9. night_elf (Posts: 45; Member since: 02 Apr 2013)

How can you give an information when the final firmware is put together by carriers (with their bloat ware)? I think this i really exaggerated, especially when you have the MicroSD card option (I have a 64GB Class10 card), It's just a lot of fuss about nothing, I mean its obvious that the OS will take some space.

posted on 10 May 2013, 18:34 11

13. darkkjedii (Posts: 21320; Member since: 05 Feb 2011)

If the final firmware is put together by carriers, then they can list it. All she's saying is that it should be listed.

posted on 10 May 2013, 19:31 12

17. HDShatter (Posts: 1021; Member since: 17 Jan 2013)

They need to make a manufacturing law where the device has as much storage as advertised. So instead of having 16gb storage would really be like 24gb with 16gb user usable.

posted on 10 May 2013, 21:13 2

21. Hemlocke (unregistered)


posted on 10 May 2013, 21:21 1

22. darkkjedii (Posts: 21320; Member since: 05 Feb 2011)

Yes they do.

posted on 10 May 2013, 22:02 1

24. moroninc (Posts: 193; Member since: 14 Jul 2012)

what makes you think its a she?? i bet she got more likes because people think its a she.

posted on 11 May 2013, 09:16 1

38. apple4never (Posts: 1064; Member since: 08 May 2013)

cuz there's a friggin profile pic of a girl

posted on 11 May 2013, 19:18 1

42. darkkjedii (Posts: 21320; Member since: 05 Feb 2011)

Maybe it's the profile pick. Mine is actual, so I assume hers is too. +1 apple4never.

posted on 10 May 2013, 21:36 2

23. moroninc (Posts: 193; Member since: 14 Jul 2012)

not a deal breaker.. besides a microsd card, we can also root the device and remove all the friggin bloatware thats taking up the space. dont know why people are making such a big deal out of it, the sales are still strong because people see it as a non-issue

posted on 10 May 2013, 22:23

26. sharks (Posts: 236; Member since: 16 Feb 2013)

Well, i have to agree 100%. It's already a hassle for those who aren't quite tech-savvy and it definitely feels like we're being robbed since the product states clearly a specified amount of memory space for what we're paying for but then we obviously always get less storage space on the device after formatting and additional space lost to any OS and pre-loaded software included by the manufacturer. This persistent and accentuating problem applies to any type of media storage; add an internal hard drive to your PC, buy an external USB pendrive, phone, tablet, phablet, etc. So, really, thank you, PhoneArena, for finally raising this highly controversial but persistent "dishonest" practice against unsuspecting and powerless consumers. We haven't been able to do anything as consumers, as that's the way the industry has always been functioning and we need it to change so we know exactly how much usable memory we are paying for!

posted on 10 May 2013, 23:20

29. xperiaDROID (banned) (Posts: 5629; Member since: 08 Mar 2013)

Totally agree with you! They should at least mention the number of storage available in the specs sheet since this is what we're paying for! These manufacturers need to know that we pay them money and they need to provide us a full detailed service!

posted on 10 May 2013, 23:46

30. EXkurogane (Posts: 863; Member since: 07 Mar 2013)

Never a problem to me. Lesser space is expected, and if you are well informed enough you should even know what OS takes up how much space. When i buy a new laptop i would expect 50GB already used up by OS and extra stuff the guys at the retailer installs for me (At my place, buying a new laptop, the shop sales person installs all the most commonly used software for you for free, including download accelerators, torrents, skype, extra browsers, etc).

If im buying a 16 Gb windows phone, 14.X space is only available for a 16 GB storage, and OS takes up around 3GB, not to mention preloaded apps, maps, etc. If you have brains to think and knowledge to back up yu wouldnt be ranting about these storage issues because you know in detail what is in your new tablet and phone. Those who are lacking knowledge bark louder knowing nothing.

The amount of space left for the Surface tabs and MacBook Air is not surprising to me (more like, already expected). But i do agree Galaxy S4's half used up space is kinda on the ridiculous side.

posted on 11 May 2013, 09:19

39. apple4never (Posts: 1064; Member since: 08 May 2013)

youre probably tech savvy, lets say a first time smartphone buyer gets a phone with 16gb onboard thinking itll last them a year or two, then when they open up their smartphone they see like 8.5 gb available, they have to cancel their contract or spend additional money. Im just saying it can be a nuiscence for some people

posted on 10 May 2013, 18:11 3

2. vincelongman (Posts: 4441; Member since: 10 Feb 2013)

Defiantly agree, if it says 16 GB or whatever, you get 16 GB or whatever free storage. Even with my 32GB iPod Touch 4 I get 28.5 GB which is pretty close to 32 GB, but there still 3.5 GB missing which I'd love to have.

posted on 10 May 2013, 19:23 6

16. akki20892 (Posts: 3901; Member since: 04 Feb 2013)

no u can't because it reserve by os. That's y

posted on 10 May 2013, 20:46

19. BlueForce (Posts: 25; Member since: 02 Apr 2013)

Wrong. Manufacturers of memory go by the regular standard of 1000 being a new tier. So 1000mb makes 1gb to them however to electronics it is 1024mb to make 1gb therefore you are losing excess of 24mb per gb due to bytes, and all the way up to a GB. The way the companies label their space should be changed to mention 1024 as the standard.

posted on 10 May 2013, 22:16

25. vincelongman (Posts: 4441; Member since: 10 Feb 2013)

I know, you missed my point. I think they should put extra space to make up for the space the OS uses. So in my opinion I should get an extra 4 GB so then I will have 32 GB that I can use.

posted on 11 May 2013, 06:23

35. BlueForce (Posts: 25; Member since: 02 Apr 2013)

Oh i know what you mean I was just trying to let people know why space is never all there. And they can't make memory in odd sizes I don't believe. Only in multiples of 8. And yes that would be great if you could have 16gb or 32gb usable but I don't think that'll happen. Also, I was saying wrong to that guy not you. But really, who uses that much space on apps? I have I think 12 additional apps on my phone and that's it and I remove them when I'm done with them never needing more than 1gb for app space.

posted on 10 May 2013, 18:12 5

3. vandroid (Posts: 328; Member since: 04 Sep 2012)

Manufacturers need to include 32 gbs and a memory card slot

posted on 10 May 2013, 18:13 3

4. Nathan_ingx (Posts: 3779; Member since: 07 Mar 2012)

Samsung has told people to buy an SD card for storage purposes if what's provided is not enough. Why do you have to keep whining? /s
By the way, stop taking S4's name, the fans hate it! :P

posted on 10 May 2013, 18:22

8. darkkjedii (Posts: 21320; Member since: 05 Feb 2011)

Nathan they should specify though. 16 gigs of internal storage is true, but tell the buyer how much of that is actually user available. Now that the 32 gig s4 is out, my interest has risen. Being a primary iPhone user, I'm used to gobs of internal storage on my 64 gig. You're gonna rag on me for this lol, but even my "note 2" had 10.7 available out the box and I thought that was terrible.

posted on 11 May 2013, 10:30

40. Nathan_ingx (Posts: 3779; Member since: 07 Mar 2012)

Haha...rag you, i won't. What i wrote was just a joke. I remember writting on an article in PA, which i forgot, like manufacturers should leave the 'claimed' available flash memory in the phone but reserve a separate block for the OS. They would know the size of it certainly...that won't be a hard thing to do.

posted on 11 May 2013, 19:21

43. darkkjedii (Posts: 21320; Member since: 05 Feb 2011)

True, it wouldn't. How's it going bro?

posted on 12 May 2013, 08:58

46. Nathan_ingx (Posts: 3779; Member since: 07 Mar 2012)

I'm all good bro! I'm all good!
Been hovering around PA but don't feel like commenting much...the fanboism is getting too much to bear.

posted on 10 May 2013, 18:15 2

5. Atrixboyyy (Posts: 348; Member since: 03 Nov 2011)

ive always hated the way storage was advertised.

posted on 10 May 2013, 18:16 3

6. darkkjedii (Posts: 21320; Member since: 05 Feb 2011)

Totally ridiculous is what this is. The author hit the nail on the head, when he said the 16 gig s4 is the 8 gig s4.

posted on 10 May 2013, 18:19 3

7. Nathan_ingx (Posts: 3779; Member since: 07 Mar 2012)

I think he meant that the actual free space is around 8GB and it was kind of like 8GB version instead...so you know, the number name game.

posted on 10 May 2013, 18:26

11. darkkjedii (Posts: 21320; Member since: 05 Feb 2011)

Yeah but in actuality, since you can't remove the bloat ware...it actually is an 8 gigger. The bad part comes when you want to record vids in 1080p to watch on that gorgeous screen. 1080p vids will take up hella file storage, and though you can select a lower res...isn't that defeating the point of a having a screen that pretty. And let's not even mention games. And other apps that can't be installed on sd. It can get problematic bro.

posted on 10 May 2013, 18:25 3

10. lyndon420 (Posts: 4394; Member since: 11 Jul 2012)

I agree. Anybody ever buy an external hard drive only for it to have have its advertised storage cut in half once you turn on? I'm assuming that no one would be happy with that.

posted on 10 May 2013, 18:27 1

12. darkkjedii (Posts: 21320; Member since: 05 Feb 2011)

No one at all Lyndon.

posted on 10 May 2013, 21:07

20. lyndon420 (Posts: 4394; Member since: 11 Jul 2012)

HTC did it also with my One X. Advertised as 16Gb but I only had like 9Gb available to me. I wasn't impressed, but it wasn't enough for me to jump to something else.

posted on 10 May 2013, 22:35

27. tedkord (Posts: 11700; Member since: 17 Jun 2009)

But you never have the full advertised amount on any HD. Because of the aforementioned way they advertise in base 10, but the OS users base 2.

posted on 10 May 2013, 18:44 1

14. gwuhua1984 (Posts: 1237; Member since: 06 Mar 2012)

I think manufacturers should be more transparent on the storage availability. I thought HTC One X was bad enough with 32GB having only 25GB free... I didn't think this would become a trend for other manufacturers too.

posted on 10 May 2013, 19:16 1

15. roscuthiii (Posts: 2217; Member since: 18 Jul 2010)

If it's okay for them to make changes to the advertised storage space then I should be able to make changes to the amount I pay on the bill.

"Yes Verizon, the statement does say $xxx.xx, however when you open up my enclosed check you'll only find $xx.xx. You know how it is, that money getting used up for other necessities and such. We're all good, right?"

posted on 10 May 2013, 20:20 3

18. FlushGordon (unregistered)

Premium handsets should have at least 32 gigs minimum to offset the pile of bloatwares, 16 gigs these days aren't cutting it anymore

posted on 10 May 2013, 23:05

28. docj8404 (Posts: 73; Member since: 23 Jan 2013)

Granted, you want what you paid for, ALL of it, but from a technical standpoint in regards to storage, you are getting your 16GB's or 32GB's, it's just unfortunate that unless you de-virginize your new device & either install a new bloatless ROM or find a way to remove the bloat without having to go that far, your stuck with a few GB's less than what your average consumer expected.

With the cost of storage being at an all time minimal, it's kind of rubbish that the major OEM's cant spring for 18-20GB of storage, leaving you with a full 16GB, but the only case I can really feel someones pain is when they get an advertised 16GB, a usuable 11-13GB with NO option for expandable memory. Not that I enjoy coming out of pocket more than what I deem necesarry, but a 32GB SD card runs about the price of someones Starbucks Coffee Habit for 2 or 3 days, which in context, isn't so bad if storage is such an issue.

I think it'll take another 1-2 years until we see 32GB standard options for flagships & high end devices, especially with many phone OEMs attempting to offer cloud storage options in conjunction with new device purchases to "ease the pain".

posted on 11 May 2013, 00:23

31. Topcat488 (Posts: 1396; Member since: 29 Sep 2012)

All my dealers are selling me less than what they advertise... If it's not bloatware and gimmicks, its sticks and stems... They know ya still gonna buy... Cause it's the best sh!t around.

posted on 11 May 2013, 01:30

32. gaurang (Posts: 94; Member since: 16 Nov 2012)

what is think is its time for APPLE
to tell us the real specs of the iphone
just by sayng its twice as fast does not cut it out

posted on 11 May 2013, 01:37

33. microsoftnokiawin (Posts: 1178; Member since: 30 Mar 2012)

I 100% agree too or they could put the operating system and all the features than put an extra 16gb that would make sense :p

posted on 11 May 2013, 01:57

34. Edmund (Posts: 656; Member since: 13 Jul 2012)

Smartphones are over-priced pieces of landfill

posted on 11 May 2013, 07:06

36. Even4steven (Posts: 41; Member since: 03 Aug 2012)

32GB should simply be the new 16GB. Yeah, I understand all about cloud storage, but with giant apps, video, pics, music etc. 16gb no longer is the right fit- even with SD storage. You cannot move apps to SD anymore and that is a game changer

posted on 11 May 2013, 07:48

37. Physicist (Posts: 7; Member since: 22 Nov 2011)

Wait - what if Samsung had chosen to make an 8GB variant?

posted on 11 May 2013, 11:24

41. ambrown (Posts: 33; Member since: 06 Sep 2012)

"We argue it would not and we site the tremendous success of the Samsung Galaxy S III, Apple iPhone and Nexus 4 as examples."

I think the author meant to say "cite" not "site". A "site" is a location or area. To "cite" is to reference a remark with a source, or provide supporting evidence that your position is true.

posted on 11 May 2013, 20:47

44. LiveFromMN (Posts: 17; Member since: 05 Sep 2012)

This is nothing new. I remmeber buying MP3 PLAYERS in Jr High that advertised memory that was false because even those took a little memory for software -_- bit their should say somethingabout user memory after software installation

posted on 11 May 2013, 22:32

45. mikeguy1981 (Posts: 88; Member since: 23 Jun 2012)

I was one of the very first to preorder the s4. Refreshing the webite every 60 seconds waiting for the preorder to appear and when it did i ordered the s4. But after i ordered i realized the user space is only 8.8gb so sorry sammy but i canceled my order after days of pondering if i should cancel or not. My s3 is a 32gb model and i currently have 11gb in apps that cannot be transferred to a sd card. So sadly a s4 purchase would leave me with less apps and the bad situation of not being able to download anything! The low storage memory on the s4 is a huge mistake on samsungs part. It should of only been available in 32 and 64 gb models.

posted on 12 May 2013, 09:59

47. mikeguy1981 (Posts: 88; Member since: 23 Jun 2012)

This is a actual message i sent to verizon: I know im just one voice and i don't know if this will even reach the proper eyes but i'm sure i don't stand alone on the issue I have. I currently have a galaxy s3 with 32 gb memory. I along with many want to buy a galaxy s4 but cant. Not because of finacial reasons but because of free space on the s4. Verizon only offers the 16gb model of the s4 and out of the 16gb only slighy less than 9gb is usable. Apps cannot be stored on a sd card and on my 32gb s3 i have 11gb in apps. If i buy a s4 i will not only loose apps i use but i also cant download any more. It would be a downgrade. Again i know im only one person, one voice and i dont know if the person reading this even is the correct one to make a differance but please verizon if possible sell a 32gb and/ or 64gb model of the galaxy s4. It would make me very happy and i know im not alone. Have a great day, Michael a loyal verizon wireless customer.

posted on 12 May 2013, 11:56

48. aco96 (Posts: 240; Member since: 12 Oct 2012)

I don't understand something. My tablet has about 50mb free internal storage, but when I try to download an app which is about 20mb, it can't install and get a message that there's not enough memory. That's why I hate Android on lower-end devices. Symbian is much better choice if you plan to buy a phone lower specs phone with low internal storage, because every app can be installed directly to mass memory/sd card.

posted on 13 May 2013, 00:59

49. docj8404 (Posts: 73; Member since: 23 Jan 2013)

Well I can't recall the last time I had a wonderful experience on ANYTHING labeled "low-end".

posted on 13 May 2013, 09:45

50. ChafedBanana (Posts: 381; Member since: 20 Sep 2011)

When the manufacture prints 16, 32, or 64 GB on the side of the box, it is stating the overall capacity of the device, not how much free space you're gonna have to do whatever you please with. Duh.

posted on 13 May 2013, 19:21

51. xtremesv (Posts: 297; Member since: 21 Oct 2011)

The problem with that solution is that you are not allowed to install apps in SD cards anymore, so when you have lots of +50 MB games, limited internal storage becomes an issue.

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