The design decisions of mega-OEMs like Apple Inc. can impact everyone in the electronics industry supply chain. Apple missed an opportunity to better serve its customers and suppliers when it did not increase the storage capacity of its entry-level smartphones in the latest update announced this week. Leaving the basic iPhone 6S and 6S-Plus with a starting storage capacity of 16GB short-changed not just customers but also others in the industry who could have benefitted from Apple’s latest product update.
Apple, the world’s biggest consumer electronics company by sales and market capitalization, sells hundreds of millions of iPhones annually. Most buyers opt for the 16GB version of the iPhone because the 64GB and 128GB versions cost a lot more. And yet, recent reports indicate 16GB of storage is not sufficient for high-end smartphones like the iPhone.
Critics have noted this omission in the past and did quickly again this week but Apple fans retorted quite as swiftly that consumers can upload their excess data to the cloud. They are missing an important point of significance to Apple’s customers and its component suppliers. Let’s take the supply chain angle first.
The simple act of doubling the storage capacity of the entry-level iPhone, for example, would have definitely boosted sales of Apple’s memory suppliers. It could also have forced rivals to increase the storage capacity of their devices in order to remain competitive against the company. Merely setting this baseline standard higher might also result in the expansion of storage capacities in other electronic products.
I should know what it’s like to be in a memory squeeze. My smartphone has been running rather sluggishly in recent weeks. The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is barely one year old but two weeks ago the “Contacts” page froze for two days before a savvy T-Mobile employee cleared my data cache. I never thought the phone could so quickly develop a memory challenge but apparently that was the problem I had created due to the massive amount of data, pictures, video, contacts, apps and music I have on the phone.
Admittedly, I am an extreme consumer of storage. My Samsung phone has 518 music tracks, about 800 pictures, dozens of short video clips, tens of downloaded documents, 80 or so apps, three different e-mail accounts – and hundreds of e-mail messages – as well as countless text messages, video and photo messages. These have all taken a big chunk of space on my phone memory and SD card storage.
I will also confess to not fully using the option of putting some of my data in the Cloud. I prefer the easy accessibility local storage gives me without network connection. I can share my data quickly and locally or just open them to watch home movies, listen to music or review stored documents. These are great options that I don’t want to compromise.
With 32-GB of built-in memory and another 32-GB in an SD card, I assumed I had enough capacity for anything I wanted to store in the phone. Once it started freezing I had to adjust. I took fewer pictures, removed many video clips, moved all transferable data – pictures, video, and apps – to the SD card and dumped some apps that required installation in the phone memory. I also thought of getting a new phone, one with a minimum of 64GB of internal storage. Apple announced its new smartphones days after I began searching for a replacement of the Note 4.
But my next phone will not be from Apple. 16GB of storage space is simply not enough anymore as Samuel Gibbs of the Guardian newspaper explained in an article in which he made a strong case for larger storage on smartphones.
“Running out of storage makes the smartphone behave poorly and provides a very unsatisfactory user experience,” Gibbs wrote. “Users are forced to delete precious memories, tracks they might want to listen to or apps and games that they can no longer afford to keep on your phone, and that might just be to install an update.”
I won’t be replacing my Note 4 with the Note 5 either. Samsung has followed Apple down the dubious path of sealing up the Note 5: I can’t open the battery compartment and I can’t add an SD card. Being able to add a storage device is important to some of us and as long as some manufacturers make this possible neither the iPhone nor the Note 5 will get my money.
In an industry that thrives on the concepts of faster, larger and cheaper, higher storage could boost consumption of semiconductor memory and sales at chipmakers. Apple, in this case, is more concerned with maximizing its profits than satisfying one of the more basic needs of its customers. That’s why I will continue to steer clear of its smartphone.
Storage is cheap, available and really needed by consumers. Why Apple doesn’t get this is a mystery.