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

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
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.

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.

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.

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47 Comments

1. tiara6918

Posts: 2263; Member since: Apr 26, 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)

9. night_elf

Posts: 51; Member since: Apr 02, 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.

13. darkkjedii

Posts: 31293; Member since: Feb 05, 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.

17. HDShatter

Posts: 1021; Member since: Jan 17, 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.

21. Hemlocke unregistered

THIS.

22. darkkjedii

Posts: 31293; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Yes they do.

24. moroninc

Posts: 193; Member since: Jul 14, 2012

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

38. apple4never

Posts: 1064; Member since: May 08, 2013

cuz there's a friggin profile pic of a girl

42. darkkjedii

Posts: 31293; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

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

23. moroninc

Posts: 193; Member since: Jul 14, 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

26. sharks

Posts: 236; Member since: Feb 16, 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!

29. xperiaDROID

Posts: 5629; Member since: Mar 08, 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!

30. EXkurogane

Posts: 863; Member since: Mar 07, 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.

39. apple4never

Posts: 1064; Member since: May 08, 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

2. vincelongman

Posts: 5723; Member since: Feb 10, 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.

16. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

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

19. BlueForce

Posts: 26; Member since: Apr 02, 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.

25. vincelongman

Posts: 5723; Member since: Feb 10, 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.

35. BlueForce

Posts: 26; Member since: Apr 02, 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.

3. vandroid

Posts: 405; Member since: Sep 04, 2012

Manufacturers need to include 32 gbs and a memory card slot

4. Nathan_ingx

Posts: 4769; Member since: Mar 07, 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

8. darkkjedii

Posts: 31293; Member since: Feb 05, 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.

40. Nathan_ingx

Posts: 4769; Member since: Mar 07, 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.

43. darkkjedii

Posts: 31293; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

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

46. Nathan_ingx

Posts: 4769; Member since: Mar 07, 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.

5. Atrixboyyy

Posts: 605; Member since: Nov 03, 2011

ive always hated the way storage was advertised.

6. darkkjedii

Posts: 31293; Member since: Feb 05, 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.

7. Nathan_ingx

Posts: 4769; Member since: Mar 07, 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.

11. darkkjedii

Posts: 31293; Member since: Feb 05, 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.

14. gwuhua1984

Posts: 1237; Member since: Mar 06, 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.

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