Apple’s new iPhone 13 and 13 Mini mark the official end of the 64GB iPhone era: the company has effectively doubled the storage capacities for its 2021 models while keeping prices the same, so the new smartphones now start with 128GB of storage with options for 256GB and 512GB. (For those who require more space, the iPhone 13 Pro models offer up to 1TB.)
While 64GB capacities will still stick around on the legacy iPhone 12, iPhone 11, and iPhone SE models, Apple’s newest hardware will come with a minimum of 128GB now.
To which I say, goodbye and good riddance. This change was long overdue. Just 64GB wasn’t enough to cut it in 2018, and the issue has only grown as apps, photos, videos, and games continue to grow in size. Though Apple has offered that capacity since 2011 (joining the then-entry-level 16GB and mid-tier 32GB models), it stubbornly stuck around even as Apple started to offer 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB options on its phones.
If it feels like history’s repeating itself, that might be because we called out the annoyingly small capacity of a 16GB iPhone in 2015, too — though that time, it only took Apple one year to turn things around with the iPhone 7, which offered 32GB by default.
Apple’s own fine print points out one reason why 64GB wasn’t enough: you weren’t even getting 64GB of usable storage space to begin with, because the company’s preinstalled apps and OS take up between 11GB to 14GB right out of the box.
“Available space is less and varies due to many factors. A standard configuration uses approximately 11GB to 14GB of space (including iOS and preinstalled apps) depending on the model and settings. Preinstalled apps use about 4GB, and you can delete these apps and restore them. Storage capacity subject to change based on software version and may vary by device.”
That’s one-fifth of your storage space gone, but even the 50GB or so of remaining storage gets eaten up pretty quickly given the size of modern apps and games. As SensorTower reported earlier this year, the top iPhone apps are nearly four times as big as they were five years ago — continuing a long-running trend of bigger apps.
Nintendo’s Fire Emblem Heroes, for example, takes up nearly 4GB of storage. Apple Arcade’s Fantasian takes up another 4GB. WhatsApp and iMessage conversations can accumulate quickly, too — a look at my phone shows those taking up 2.7GB and 4GB, respectively. And that’s not even getting into music or videos, which can quickly take up all the free space on your phone if you download a lot of locally stored content from Apple Music, Spotify, or Netflix.
And of course, there are photos and videos, which can easily take up that full 50GB on its own for prolific photographers, especially when considering the fact that improved iPhone cameras have arrived alongside more demanding photo and video formats. Apple’s ProRAW format, introduced with the iPhone 12 Pro models, can average around 25MB per picture, and 4K footage can pile up even faster — iMore notes that 30 seconds of 4K footage at 30fps will take approximately 175MB (or about 85MB using HEVC encoding). Shooting in HDR, as the newer iPhones support, balloons those file sizes even more. Apple has defaulted to 1080p video quality for years on the iPhone (which has technically been capable of shooting in 4K since the iPhone 6S), presumably to avoid complaints about running out of storage.
Because Apple’s doubling your storage while keeping the starting prices the same ($829 for the iPhone 13 and $729 for the 13 Mini) those entry-priced phones are also a better deal than before. Last year, customers looking for the cheapest new iPhone got stuck with 64GB of storage, to the point it almost made more sense to just get a $999 iPhone 12 Pro (which came with 128GB from the start) instead of paying $879 to get that same capacity in the regular iPhone 12.
Of course, none of this cleanly solves the other storage problem looming over Apple: the fact that in 2021, it still only offers customers a paltry 5GB of free iCloud storage space (essential for backing up your iPhone), something that Apple enjoys frequently reminding users about with its constant “Out of storage” notes imploring them to shell out for more cloud space. Still, the extra 64GB of internal capacity may help alleviate the issue by letting users store more photos and messages locally on their phones instead of in the cloud, leaving more space for things like device backups in the 5GB that Apple gives you for free.
Hopefully, though, the change in local storage this year is a prelude of things to come; after all, that 5GB of free iCloud storage was also introduced a decade ago, in 2011. Surely after 10 years, Apple might be able to find room in its heart (and its budget) for a similar increase of space?