Apple has a terrible explanation for why the iPhone comes with a tiny amount of storage (AAPL)

Ben Gilbert

Your iPhone is running out of space, isn't it?

First and foremost, you don't need 4,000 slightly different photos of your dog Scruffles on your person at all times. Yes, even though he's super cute. Yes, even though he was doing that thing that day. Self control, people!

Anyway, my iPhone is always full. It has been since the day after I got my first iPhone – the iPhone 3G – back in 2010. Five years ago! That's back when Apple used to make an 8GB version of the iPhone, and that's the one I got. After putting a handful of music onto it, taking some pictures, and downloading some apps, I was at my limit.

I'd go to download music or to take a photo or update my iPhone and would get hit with one of the following messages:

Apple, apparently, doesn't think this is a big issue.

Here's the incredibly frustrating answer that Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller gave Apple writer John Gruber during a podcast on Tuesday night, live from Apple's annual developer conference in San Francisco, when asked about the paltry storage on the most common iPhone:

The belief is more and more as we use iCloud services for documents and our photos and videos and music, that perhaps the most price-conscious customers are able to live in an environment where they don't need gobs of local storage because these services are lightening the load.

Let's unpack that statement. 

Anyone who owns an iPhone has access to 5GB of free cloud storage – "iCloud" – where various files you'd normally store locally can be uploaded to "the cloud" (a remote computer that stores your information and allows you to access it via the internet). Beyond just settings, iCloud promises to back up your iPhone's photos, contacts, mail, and many other types of data. 

But let's say you only have an iPhone and no other Apple devices. Your 16GB iPhone better have less than 5GB of data you want to back up, otherwise you've gotta pony up for more iCloud storage. That's on top of the minimum of $200 you spent for an iPhone in the first place, not to mention the astronomic monthly payment to your service provider (mine's nearly $100/month for Verizon).

Schiller's argument is basically this: as more people use iCloud, it'll help offload the burden of locally stored content. Or, more bluntly: if you want to fix the problem, you can pay us more money.

He digs in on that argument later in his statement, when he references, "the most price-conscious customers." He means people who only spent $200 on an iPhone, instead of $300 or more on iPhones with more local storage. (The extra $100 gets you an iPhone with 64GB of storage, which is more than enough for most people.)

Apple's solution to your iPhone constantly running into storage issues? "Pay us more." And it's working! 

As Business Insider's Henry Blodget wrote in September 2014, just after the iPhone 6 was announced:

The decision-making logic for most iPhone buyers will probably go like this:

* I can get my new iPhone for $199 or $299 (depending on screen size), enjoy the bigger screen for five minutes, and then spend the next two years tearing my hair out about the tiny storage, OR

* I can shell out an extra $100 to buy four times as much storage.

The decision is easy: shell out the extra $100 for dramatically higher storage. That's $300 for an iPhone 6 or $400 for an iPhone 6 Plus, so you can avoid the hassle of running out of storage space. That's not about serving customers, that's about serving Apple's bottom line.

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