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Summary:

Not all smartphone storage specs are created equal. Some 16GB phones come with barely half that amount in usable storage space.

Samsung Galaxy S2 vs iPhone 4s in Samsung TV commercial
photo: Samsung

It’s hard not to feel a little cheated when you turn on a brand new smartphone and discover the amount of storage space available to you doesn’t match the number on the outside of the box. But in most cases it’s a reasonable disparity, and it’s understandable – your operating systems does need to live somewhere, after all. But when you’re buying a 16GB phone – which is often the smallest variant available – every last bit of storage counts. And not all storage specs are created equal.

UK tech site Which? posted an interesting infographic that shows the user-available storage capacities of eight popular smartphones. Although each phone technically has 16GB of storage, the results varied dramatically.

Nexus 5 apps

Apple and Google fared best, with the iPhone 5c offering 12.60GB of storage and the Nexus 5 offering 12.28GB in their 16GB models. The iPhone 5s rounds out the top three, with 12.20GB of storage. And when you think about it, this makes perfect sense. Apple, for instance, doesn’t load any “bloatware” onto its phones (by bloatware, I’m referring to anything that doesn’t come as part of the operating system, be it a manufacturer’s skin or carrier-added apps). And the Nexus 5 is a pure Google phone – it’s one of the few Android phones that ships without an overlay or additional apps.

Samsung’s popular Galaxy S4 comes in last place of the phones surveyed, with just 8.56GB of available storage. This doesn’t surprise me either. I think the Galaxy S4 is a very good Android phone, but at times Samsung’s modifications and additions to Android can feel utterly gratuitous.

There are some decent added features, like an Easy Mode for smartphone beginners. But keep in mind this takes up valuable storage space. And Easy Mode aside, the Galaxy S4 has so many buried features that you can use the phone over the course of a two-year contract and still have not tried them all. This is fine for all of the tinkerers out there, but I think most people (myself included) would rather have the additional storage space.

Galaxy S 4 setting buttons

One important thing to note, though, is that neither the iPhone nor the Nexus 5 comes with a microSD card slot. The Galaxy S4 does (along with most of the other Android phones surveyed here), and this allows you to expand your storage up to an additional 64GB. That’s an important point to consider, and I probably wouldn’t buy an Android phone that didn’t have one. That said, it’s also nice to know you’re getting you paid for. And in some cases, you’re getting far less than what you’d expect.

  1. “The Galaxy S4 does (along with most of the other Android phones surveyed here), and this allows you to expand your storage up to an additional 64GB. That’s an important point to consider, and I probably wouldn’t buy an Android phone that didn’t have one. ”

    that’s all that matters to me.. I got a 32GB SD Card.. so I basically have around 40GB total including the built in storage.

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  2. What about Older NEXUS4 which has 12.92GB?

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  3. Andrew C. Dennis Friday, January 24, 2014

    Seems very biased towards the cool-hip Apple iphones… The biggest take away is the ability to ADD Storage to your phone with the easy SD card, which you can swap out multiple ones (I have a card solely for music and movies when I travel and one for business with pictures and documents). Apple cant do that.

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  4. so what about the other phones there are more on the market then the ones you mentioned

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