Thoughts on paying for larger iPhone storage sizes

With the iPhone 7, the iPhone’s storage options have become large enough to significantly improve some of the important things I want out of a device, and I’m really excited. If you’ve ever felt limited by the storage space on your phone, or not sure what you could do with a 128GB or now 256GB iPhone, maybe some of my use cases can give you ideas.

In short: larger sizes mean liberation from the cloud.

No more ‘Optimized’ photo storage

Nearly every photo I’ve shot has been digital since around 2001, and I started scanning old family photos into what used to be iPhoto. Now I use iCloud Photo Library, and it’s over 110GB (I’ve paid for 200GB of space for a while, and recently upgraded to 1TB to try and switch away from Dropboxcompletely).

I currently have a 128GB iPhone 6S Plus, but because of all the apps and media I like to keep around (more on that in a minute), I’ve always had to use iCloud Photo Library’s option to ‘Optimize’ my library. It keeps all originals in the cloud, but on device it becomes a mix of a few originals of my most recent and frequently used shots, and small previews for everything else. It generally works great, but when I get stuck with a weak or lack of signal, attempting to use photos in apps or just show something to friends and family can often fall apart. I’ve waited for enough little download progress indicators, and said “ah well, I can share them with you when I get home” enough times to still prefer keeping as much as I can synced locally.

Last night I preordered a 256GB iPhone 7 Plus. That extra 128GB puts me very comfortably past the tipping point of being able to keep my entire iCloud Photo Library—a lot of important memories and aspiring photography—synced offline, on my device (well, for a while anyway). That’s just great.

Buffering-be-gone

I know most people never enjoyed “managing” their iTunes libraries, and streaming is the modern answer. But I still run into too many situations where the stream fails, gets choppy, or has to buffer for an indeterminate amount of time before I can enjoy something, and frankly I’m sick of it. Pile on the reality of data caps and sheer network congestion, and I really feel streaming is for the birds, at least until our infrastructure improves dramatically.

Plus, with iOS 9 and 10, Apple has really polished the experience of downloading music you bought from the store, or subscribe to with Apple Music, to the point where you don’t have to think about it much anymore. It’s easy to download a song, album, movie, or entire playlist, remove them later if you need the space, then grab it again. Settings > Music even has the option to remove all local downloads with a tap, but it all stays in your library in the cloud.

Like my photo library, 256GB gives me a lot of breathing room to stop having to do this dance; to stop having to think about doing this dance. I can keep all my favorite playlists around, as well as a few movies for traveling, and a few episodes of those TV series we want to catch up on. I don’t have to worry about bandwidth, I don’t have to figure out which apps to delete and reinstall, and I never have to see “buffering.”

Work offline

It feels like more apps are offering the option to keep all your stuff synced offline. Evernote comes to mind, as I’ve been a user since 2008. I recently began archiving entire articles and webpages in it, and with a 256GB iPhone I feel comfortable checking the (premium) option to keep everything copied offline on my device.

Productivity apps that adopted the cloud are good examples, like Quip and Microsoft Office. They usually have some kind of mechanism to mark files for keeping offline, but I’d love to see them give us the choice to keep everything synced offline.

The idea here is the same though—with 256GB, it’s very likely that I’ll won’t have to run into that situation where I want to show something to a coworker, a friend, or family, and I can’t because one cloud or another got in the way.