Editor's Note: Sometimes our debates in the TUAW newsroom get a bit heated. That was the case when Erica Sadun and Mike Wehner faced off about the merits -- or lack thereof -- of 16 GB devices. Hopefully you just finished reading Erica's post, which took the pro side of Apple continuing to sell devices with "only" 16 GB of storage. Now here's Mike's response...
Apple products are all about evolution. From the many incremental upgrades made to Macs each year to the off-year "s" additions that grace the iPhone, the company is typically good about making sure its products are current in every sense of the word (we'll give them a pass on the Mac Pro, just because the final product was so damn gorgeous). But if there's one area where Apple needs a reality check, it's in storage.
No, I'm not going to argue that we need removable storage on the iPad, iPhone, or iPod -- at this point the monolithic nature of each iDevice is part of the appeal -- but for the love of all that is shiny, 2014 needs to be the year that kills 16 GB storage options.
In 2007, the iPhone launched in 4 GB, 8 GB, and 16 GB varieties. The 4 GB version was arguably useless (OK, that's not true, but it was pretty close, especially if you wanted to put music on it), but the 8 GB and 16GB models were fine for the time. Fast forward to 2011, and Apple was still offering 8 GB of storage on the iPhone 4s.
I always thought this was a strange move, as by that time the phone had an extremely capable camera and was playing host to massive games like Infinity Blade. Apple should have made 32 GB the default storage amount as soon as it decided to make "Retina" a household term. The 8 GB option died with the launch of the iPhone 5, but by that point it had already outlived its usefulness, and I think Apple is letting the same thing happen now with the 16 GB tier.
16 GB of storage may be enough for very casual iPhone and iPad users, but as soon as it took over the default crown from the 8 GB option, it was already nearing its twilight days. Now, 16 GB -- which is really more like 12 GB of usable space -- doesn't do much for anyone interested in music, movies, photography, or (especially) apps.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas takes up 1.63 GB of space on its own. A single HD movie can take up 5 GB. If I were adding items to a new iPad right now as I type, it would already be halfway full, and I haven't taken a single photo or shot a single HD video. Yikes.
In 2007, flash-based memory was expensive, and jumping up from 16 GB to 32 GB warranted a healthy bump in price, but storage prices have plummeted in recent years. In fact, 32 GB of storage is cheaper now than 16 GB was when it became the default option.
There's really no reason for Apple to launch a single iPhone or iPad in 2014 with anything less than 32 GB of flash storage. The only case in which I can see smaller storage options is in the iPod line, especially the nano and shuffle, but anything with an HD screen really needs to be given the room to shine.