D'oh! Apple's New iCloud and iPhoto Will Cost Me Big Bucks
I just had a disappointing palm-to-forehead realization: Apple's iCloud investments will reduce the pressure for Apple to increase the storage space on the iPhone 6. I no longer have hope that the next entry-level iPhone 6 will start at US$199 for 32 GB of storage.
I'm afraid we'll be stuck yet another year with an entry-model iPhone 6 that will start at the $199 price point -- with a carrier contract -- offering just a paltry 16 GB of storage. To get 32 GB, you'll need to shell out another $100 -- $299 with a carrier contract.
There are all sorts of reasons why I find this realization both irritating and disappointing.
For starters, the iPhone is the world's most popular camera. It's changed how people take photos and changed how people store photos. Apple's innovations with iCloud and its Photo app and photo management are giving the company an excuse to deliver millions of iPhones with dinky storage capacities. The new basic mantra is to start encouraging people to "fill their library, not their device."
Of course, that's not all bad. A lot of people don't back up their precious photos -- they live on their iPhone. If they back up their iPhone regularly, that helps, but a lot of people don't back up their iPhones often enough.
Apple has an answer in iOS 8 coming this fall: iCloud and the new iPhoto app. They work together to let you store your photos on Apple's cloud, seamlessly moving your library of photos to your iPhone and other devices. Instead of holding a full-size image on your iPhone 6, your iPhone could store a smaller photo while leaving the original full-size image in iCloud.
Right. I'm very excited about it. Except now that same innovation is another excuse to keep the storage capacities the same -- and charge a premium for anyone who realizes they need more.
A Long History of 16 GB
As it turns out, Apple moved its standard starting storage capacity to 16 GB with the iPhone 3GS. That's right -- and you read that correctly: iPhone 3GS. When did the 3GS come out? 2009. So, for five iPhone models, the base storage capacity has remained the same, at 16 GB.
IHS has been tracking the cost of components in devices for years. Last year, it pegged the bill of materials (BOM) and manufacturing cost for the 16-GB iPhone 5s at $199. The 32-GB model? A staggering $9 more -- it has a $208 BOM and manufacturing cost estimate.
At the same time, the base storage capacity has remained at 16 GB, the iPhone camera has been producing larger, more detailed images and video, while consumers are using it more frequently.
Plus, there are apps. Graphically intensive games take up the most space, it turns out, but some apps gobble up space, too. Once you start editing video and building new home movies, you can run out of 16 GB mighty fast.
Why Not Trust Apple's iOS 8 iCloud Solution?
iCloud requires decent WiFi connectivity to work. If you take your iPhone on a weekend excursion with just one movie loaded on it, suddenly you're likely to be in a photo/video management state paying attention to how little storage you have left.
Then try taking a video of your family playing on the beach -- but lose the opportunity for the footage because you're out of space. The moment is gone while you frantically delete stuff to free up space.
If you can use the carriers for data as you upload full-size images and video to iCloud, you'll blow through your data plans, ultimately spending more yet again.
Or, you're stuck offloading your photos and video to your Mac, PC or iPad -- basically, now you have to plan to bring extra devices just to manage the data. This is the opposite of enjoying an experience and using your iPhone to capture and share it. Which, I think is anti-Apple. The device should enable greatness, not end up requiring tons of thought and planning.
It gets worse, though. After the free 5 GB of iCloud storage, you'll get yourself into a cycle of paying Apple at least $0.99 a month for more iCloud storage, easily charged to your iTunes credit card-connected account.
Who's Verse? That's Apple's Verse
Meanwhile, Apple is promoting iPads and iPhones with its "Your Verse" marketing program that shows people capturing cool stuff with their iOS devices, often in far-off places in the world. Really? You get WiFi underwater? On the side of a mountain? So Apple isn't delivering the best possible product here -- Apple is delivering the least common denominator to consumers, mostly so Apple can retain higher profit margins.
In order to get enough storage, you have to be a really smart consumer at the time of purchase. While standing in line, you've got to imagine your needs not only at the moment, but also a year or two ahead.
If you've ever trod off the beaten path for more than a day or two, you won't be able to count on your 16-GB iPhone to handle your photo and video needs.
What that means for me is that 16 GB would lead to a pain-in-the-ass experience rather than a delightful one, so I'll have to spend another $100, minimum, to get into a 32-GB iPhone 6 when I sign another contract with my carrier.
Is that really such a big deal? Giving power users the option of spending more to get more storage? Not exactly. Except when a whole new set of consumers start finding themselves managing storage rather than enjoying their experiences.
Back in 2009, did anyone believe that we'd still be stuck with a base of 16 GB in 2014?
Yet, here we are.
Of course, come September or so, when the iPhone 6 likely will be revealed to the world, the base storage for the flagship iPhone 6 might actually be 32 GB. I certainly hope it is.
If you like to take photos and video on your iPhone now -- and you think you might spend more time editing home video on a larger iPhone 6 screen -- plan on spending more money on it. If we're lucky, we'll be happily surprised -- but I'm not holding my breath.