Sorry Apple, 64 GB of fixed storage is not enough in 2022

iPhone SE back crop

Remember when Apple upgraded the base storage of its iPhone 13 series to 128GB? The mood around the internet was one of, “Thanks, Cupertino, it’s about time.” Well, Apple seems to have unlearned that lesson – or at least decided there are limits to who deserves enough storage to get by. This week it launched an all-new iPhone SE and M1-powered iPad Air, but kept 64GB of storage on the base model each.

Sorry, Apple, that’s just not good enough anymore. In fact, it hasn’t been enough for a while. A quick look at the competition is more than enough to tell you that.

What does a dollar get you?

Pixel 5a 64GB storage

Jimmy Westenberg/Android Authority

The iPhone SE is unique in Apple’s ecosystem. It’s smaller, more affordable, and sports a familiar, if very dated, design. However, it is slowly but surely becoming less appealing, especially in the face of improving budget and mid-range markets. You can get a lot for $429 these days — the base price of the iPhone SE — and even more if you’re willing to spend closer to the $579 maximum charge.

Google’s Pixel 5a is a perfect example. It costs $449, just a little more than the iPhone SE, but it offers 128GB of base storage and 6GB of RAM. The budget Pixel also adds a second rear camera to the mix. Apple didn’t bring an IP rating to its budget phone, but the Pixel 5a offers a durable IP67 certification.

You can get plenty of these for around $429, but not in the Apple ecosystem.

If you want to compare a device closer to the high-end iPhone SE, the base Pixel 6 model is just $20 more. Google’s affordable flagship starts at $599 but offers a full flagship experience rather than a dated design crowned by a 4.7-inch screen. It packs a 6.4-inch screen, an upgraded rear camera (with Google’s image processing prowess), and Gorilla Glass Victus all around. Yes, you get Apple’s premium A15 Bionic chip on the iPhone SE, but is 256GB of storage worth the extra $150?

I need to clarify – I’m not saying 64GB of storage is unacceptable on all phones. However, it has nothing to do around an asking price of $429. Samsung’s Galaxy A13, for example, is a budget device, offering 64GB of storage and 5G speeds for just $249. In this case, storage seems more appropriate for what you’re paying. Even better, the Galaxy A13 offers expandable storage thanks to the built-in microSD slot – something the iPhone SE can’t match.

It’s hard for us to say exactly what Apple is paying to put 64GB of storage on its iPhone SE versus what 128GB would cost. However, we can look at the cost difference of microSD cards for a little clue. A basic 64GB microSD from SanDisk would set you back around $14, while the jump to 128GB is just $21. Granted, these are retail prices, so Apple would likely pay even less given the massive volume. Either way, if an extra $7 upgrade is too much on a phone that costs $429, then Apple probably has bigger issues to deal with. The company may charge $19 for a cleaning cloth, they can probably find a way to cover the expense.

See also: The best budget phones you can buy

Saved by cloud storage?

iPhone SE 64GB storage

If you’re worried about limited on-board storage, throw things in the cloud, right? Well, of course you can. However, the cloud doesn’t always work as a one-size-fits-all solution. Apple is happy to give you a small 5GB chunk of iCloud when you sign up, but it’s pretty easy to fill it up and more. After all, many phones, including the iPhone SE, are capable of recording 4K or sharper video, which eats up storage space quickly.

Once you run out of storage space, you will have to pay a monthly fee to save more of your own stuff. Apple’s costs aren’t unreasonable, starting at around $1 a month for 50GB, but you have to remember that there are things you can’t save to the cloud. Some of the most popular apps like WhatsApp or Facebook start out relatively small but can quickly swell to over 1GB before you know it.

The cloud is great for photos and videos, but games and operating systems still eat up your precious storage.

If you’re hoping to add games like Call of Duty Mobile, it’s 2.4GB right off the bat. You can delete it when you’re not playing, but then you have to deal with another huge download to bring it back to your phone. Add other games like Hello, Neighbor (1.7GB) or Asphalt 9 (2.6GB), and your 64GB of storage really starts to evaporate.

There’s another important part of your iPhone that you can’t just add to the cloud: iOS itself. My iPhone 12 Pro saves around 8.5GB for the system, and that’s with a few more updates.

All told, an awesome cloud setup can’t save you from limited fixed storage. The SE might not quite have the creative chops of its iPhone 13 siblings, but it’s got the A15 Bionic heart to stay in the game. It’s ready to capture crisp photos and power games phones, but low storage forces you to play favorites and choose carefully what you want to use your phone for.

Looking for cheap cloud storage? These providers offer the most space

And the iPad?

iPad Mini iPadOS 15 Home Screen

Nick Fernandez/Android Authority

So, the iPhone SE was launched with 64GB of base storage, but Apple is just limiting its budget phone, right? Well no. The new iPad Air is powered by the acclaimed M1 chip and has the makings of a productivity beast, with 5G support, Apple Pencil support, a gorgeous 10-inch Liquid Retina display, 9 inches and… 64 GB of basic storage.

Granted, the iPad family launched with just 32GB of built-in storage, so Apple has already raised the ground once. Unfortunately, it only increased from basement to basement. 64GB of storage is still the default for almost all iPads except the iPad Pro.

The M1 iPad Air is touted as a capable machine, but its base storage suggests otherwise.

This basic storage, much like on the iPhone SE, gives the powerful processor a very flimsy base to stand on. What use is the awesome M1 to you if you have to carefully calculate how much storage each new app will take? Apple wants you to edit your photos and videos into even more impressive works of art, but that also consumes storage. The 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display should be great for games and movies, but you might spend too much time playing Tetris trying to keep all your favorites within easy reach. And let’s not forget that you will probably keep your iPad for many years. 64 GB may be on the manageable limit now, but what about in 2025 or 2026?

Apple’s powerful new tablet also costs $599. By comparison, you can get Samsung’s base Galaxy Tab S8 model with 128GB of storage and an included S Pen for $699. If you wanted to add an Apple Pencil to your new iPad, you’re looking at about an additional $120. Once you start adding things up, a high-end iPad Air with 256GB of storage and an Apple Pencil will set you back around $879. The same configuration of a Galaxy Tab S8 costs $779, and Samsung offers a much more generous exchange policy, regardless of where your device comes from.

Of course, you already know that Apple’s 64GB storage policy is not enough. We asked you right at the end of the announcement, and you were more than happy to tell us (by a two-thirds margin) that it’s just not good enough – at least not without a microSD slot.

Ultimately, Apple seems pretty confident that 64GB of storage is enough in 2022. If you’re planning on using your new device to the max, you already know that’s not the case. Hopefully the microSD slot will make a triumphant return, but until then I’ll spend my money elsewhere.

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