Why an 8GB iPhone 5C just isn't a good deal

commentary Nowadays, what can 8GB get you? One movie, a few apps and songs, and your phone is already at full capacity.

Apple's iPhone 5C now comes with an 8GB variant in Europe and some other regions. Josh Lowensohn/CNET
Please, please, please, don't buy the 8GB iPhone 5C.

Apple on Tuesday introduced a version of its new, brightly colored iPhone that comes with half the storage of the former cheapest model but also a smaller price tag. In the UK, for example, the 8GB iPhone 5C costs £429 ($712) versus £469 ($779) for the 16GB model. For now, the 8GB iPhone 5C is available only in the UK, France, Germany, Australia, and China. US customers will have to settle for the 16GB version or choose another iPhone model like the (non-4G) 4S.

The 8GB iPhone 5C may look like a great bargain, especially if you're paying full retail price for the phone. If that's the case, £40 could make a big difference. But just because you're getting a break on the price doesn't mean it's a good deal.

It all comes down to the fact that 8GB isn't really enough storage anymore. When Apple first introduced the iPhone, the device essentially was an iPod with extra communication features. Apps and photos didn't take up much space, and people had smaller music files. Now, however, the photos are higher quality, the apps and games have better graphics and are bigger, and the Retina Display screens push people to watch HD movies instead of standard definition. All of that equates to larger files, and there's no way this trend will reverse.

To put it in context, downloading Oscar winner "12 Years A Slave" on iTunes takes up 4.79GB of storage for the high-definition movie file and 2.07GB for the standard version. When first downloaded, Twitter takes up 14.7MB of storage space, Facebook 62.6MB, and Vine 12.9MB. By themselves, it may not seem like much, but together, it adds up very quickly. The apps also take up more space the more you use them.

The iOS operating system itself requires about 3GB of space to download (you get back more than 2GB of that space once the installation is finished, but you'll have to delete files to reach that threshold again once the next iOS update comes around). With an 8GB iPhone, you'll basically be able to download only one movie and a handful of songs and apps before reaching your storage limit.

Arguments can be made that those of you on strict budgets -- or children or people who prefer to keep their content in the cloud and stream music and movies rather than download them -- might find that level acceptable, but for how long? If you're on a budget, you probably won't be a buying a new iPhone every single year, and it won't take long to use up 8GB of storage. I filled up my 64GB phone in less than a year (though I admittedly own a sizeable collection of music and movies, and I also take a ton of photos). With the rise of the selfie, is 8GB really enough for anyone anymore?

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This isn't the first time Apple has released an 8GB variant of its popular iPhone. It did the same for the 4S in September, two years after the device first hit the market. Apple also made an 8GB iPhone 4 and an 8GB 3GS after the smartphones originally debuted. However, the last iPhone to have an 8GB model at launch was the 3G, and no other current Apple gadgets, besides the iPod Shuffle, come with less than 16GB of flash storage. So far, Apple's not releasing the 8GB iPhone 5C in the US.

Listen, Apple, I get why you made this phone. You know you need to find some way to address the middle and low ends of the smartphone industry, but you also don't want to sacrifice your margins. Figuring out the right balance for keeping customers happy but also making money is a tough task. I sure don't know what the magic formula is. But simply cutting the amount of flash memory in half isn't the way to do it.

Consumers aren't stupid. They may not know exactly how much space each item takes up, but they know that 8GB isn't much. That little storage may fly on a low-end Android device because most people buying really cheap Android phones have low expectations. But iPhones are different. They're supposed to be the most premium devices on the market, and consumers are supposed to have a great experience, whether they buy the highest-end iPhone 5S or the two-year old 4S. And increasingly, an 8GB iPhone does not equate to a great experience.

If this is someone's first iPhone, it may not give them the best picture of what an Apple device is really like. I would be frustrated if I got a new phone, only to find out I couldn't load it up with all the things I want. And in places like China, this could be the only computing device a person has. Can you imagine having only 8GB of storage on the sole gadget you use to connect to the Web and store your photos, videos, and music?

There are much better bargains to be had for the cost-conscious buyer. CNET called the Nokia Lumia 520, which retails for less than $200 off contract, "one of the best budget phones around." The Google Nexus 5, which costs $349 for 16GB without a contact, is "not just the best unlocked phone on the market, but the best Nexus phone by far," CNET said. And there's also the Moto G, which offers a full 16GB of storage at a far more affordable price. We can expect to see even more lower cost phones throughout the year.

I know the iPhone has a lot of allure, but do yourself a favor and pass on this one.

 

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