13 September 2015

About to Buy an iPhone 6s/6s Plus? Don't Get the 16GB Model

iphone 6s 6s plus

As I'm sure you've already heard, Apple announced their two newest smartphones on Wednesday (9th Sept), the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. New upgrades to their latest phones include faster processors, a 12MP rear-facing camera with the ability to shoot 4K video and of course 3D Touch (known as Force Touch on the Apple Watch), whereby the display is able to sense different levels of pressure to allow for a number of new interactions.

If you're liking what you're seeing in these new devices and are looking to get them at launch, I don't blame you, they are very enticing and appealing. Just don't go for the base model of 16GB.

Unlike their competitors, Apple decided to forgo offering 32GB of storage as their base version (they don't even have a 32GB model), instead opting for 16GB, 64GB and 128GB of storage. You may be thinking that 16GB has served you well in the past and you'll continue to be alright with that amount of storage. However, due to the nature of a couple of the new features in the 6s/6s Plus, you'll soon find that 16GB just won't cut it.

(I've taken my figures of average file sizes from this article at Forbes Tech News which states how much space each photo and image produced by the 6s/6s Plus will take up. I'll be using their figures as reference points but follow the link if you want a more detail regarding these storage concerns.)

Finally, a 12MP camera, but...

iphone 6s camera 4K video 12MP
A bump in resolution is a welcome addition but comes at a price.

For what felt like forever, Apple had always stuck to its guns with regards to megapixel counts, sticking with 8MP for its rear camera and instead focusing on the quality of the sensor, software and experience. And they've done a darn good job with 'just' those 8MP, producing some of the best smartphone cameras since the inception of the original iPhone back in 2007. However, with rivals such as Samsung, LG, Motorola and Sony offering cameras with up to 23MP and the ability to shoot 4K video for some time now, Apple knew it had to bolster its number of megaxpiels in order to stay relevant.

4K Video

By going for 12MP (the minimum number of megapixels required for 4K), Apple is able to offer 4K video (3840x2160) recording capabilities, double the video resolution of 1080p (1920x1080) recording found in previous iPhones. Obviously, this is a great boost and will further increase the vast number of amateur and professional videographers around the world using the iPhone as a convenient means of video recording. Older iPhones were already incredibly capable video shooters; this further enhances and solidifies this and future proofs itself as 4K becomes more prominent in 2016 and beyond.

An issue, however, arises in file sizes.

One minute of 1080p recording: 190MB average
One minute of 4K recording: 380MB average.

Double the size.

Extrapolate that over ten minutes and you have:

1080p recording: 1.9GB average
4K recording: 3.8GB average

You see my point.

12MP Photos/Live Photos

A 12MP photo will be larger in size than the 8MP photos in previous iPhones due to the increased number of pixels at work (way to state the obvious John):

8MP: 2.5MB average
12MP: 4.5-5MB average

Compounding this file storage issue is Apple's new Live Photos. Similar to what HTC introduced with HTC Zoe on the HTC One M8 in 2014, the software will record 1.5seconds of video either side of taking the photo. Obviously, these Live Photos will take up more space.

8MP: 2.5MB average
12MP+Live Photos: 9-10MB average

Extrapolate over 50 photos:

8MP: 125MB average
12MP+Live Photos: 450MB-500MB average

This doesn't even take into consideration the massive bump of the front-facing camera from 1.2MP to 5MP which will again lead to larger file sizes.

Storage Hunters

Update: An 16GB iPhone 6s/6s Plus has 10.6GB of available storage out of the box which is less than estimated. 

A 16GB iPhone will come with roughly 13GB of free space with the other 3GB taken up by the operating system. If the average owner were to take 500 photos and 10 minutes of 4K video over the course of a year, you'd be looking at 8.5GB of photos and videos, with just over 4.5GB remaining and that's before installing any apps or downloading any music and videos.

Now of course, you could disable Live Photos as well as record in 1080p instead of 4K but then what's the point, you may as well stick with your 5s/6. You could backup your photos and videos to a cloud service but that's time consuming and is then dependent on an internet connection to view these photos and videos in the cloud.

It was ridiculous for Apple to start at only 16GB. But I can see why they did it, especially considering the lack of a 32GB option. They want the average consumer to realise that 16GB just won't be enough and thus spend more, taking the big jump to 64GB rather than a small, incremental jump to 32GB. Unfortunately however, in typical Apple fashion, prices for the 64/128GB models aren't exactly 'consumer-friendly', especially outside the USA.

iphone 6s UK pricing

iphone 6s plus UK pricing

If you must have 3D Touch and 4K video and 12MP/5MP cameras, then at least go for a minimum of 64GB to save yourself from a lot of deleting and uninstalling further down the line.

Otherwise, stick with your 5/5s/6: they're still perfectly capable.

Are you getting an iPhone 6s/6s Plus or sticking with what you have?

What do you think of the new features on Apple's new smartphones?

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