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iPhone storage: 64GB just isn't enough anymore

Commentary: Apple's premium phones shouldn't skimp on basic storage. It's time to bump up from the 64GB minimum.

It's time for Apple to raise its storage game. 
James Martin/CNET

Apple's latest iPhones pack plenty of improvements. They're more durable, they're faster and their cameras are much more capable. At $699, the iPhone 11 is even cheaper than last year's iPhone XR, at its $749 starting price. Yet one thing hasn't changed: All new iPhones start with 64GB of storage space. 

On the surface that's … fine. Two years ago Apple bumped up the storage on the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X to a 64GB minimum -- a welcome upgrade from the prior base option of 32GB (which itself took years to reach). 

In an era when music and movies are streamed and photos are saved in the cloud, you can even argue that local storage is an antiquated system. It's a valid argument if you're constantly making sure your photos are being uploaded to Google Photos or iCloud and are always connected to the internet to stream YouTube, Netflix, Spotify or Apple Music

But most people don't do that and plenty prefer the option to have music and photos at the ready whenever they want them. Not to mention games, which are similarly growing in size as the phones they run on become more powerful. Apple Arcade will soon have a hundred games at the ready. 

Photos, in particular, are a frequent storage hog. With the new iPhone's focus on camera improvements one would expect that people will be taking even more photos and videos. Especially with the iPhone 11's new night mode and upcoming Deep Fusion tech.

Even with Apple's compression software, it remains to be seen how much space those new modes, and the improved 4K video capture, will take up. On the iPhone XS Max, a minute of 4K video at 60 frames per second uses up 400MB of space. 

And if that isn't enough, there is also a competitive argument. Not only is 128GB now the standard among iPhone 11 and 11 Pro rivals like the Samsung Galaxy S10 and Note 10 lines or OnePlus' 7 Pro, but the higher capacity has become the baseline for cheaper midrange devices. Motorola's new One Zoom, which retails for $450, starts at 128GB. 

Google's current Pixel phones start out at 64GB like iPhones, but at least the search giant throws in unlimited Google Photos storage at the original quality for free with the purchase of its premium Pixel 3 phone. Apple's iCloud starts at 99 cents per month for 50GB of storage, offering only a minuscule 5GB for free. 

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on why iPhone storage has remained at 64GB. 

Jumping up to 128GB on the iPhone 11 is such a small deal that Apple only charges $50 to do it, seemingly presenting it as a "no-brainer" for those planning to drop hundreds of dollars on a phone they'll hold onto for years. 

But it's time for Apple to remove that bar. Make 128GB the new standard.