Why Indian smartphone users are complaining of low storage

Sahil Mohan Gupta
Sahil Mohan GuptaMay 12, 2016 | 18:38

Why Indian smartphone users are complaining of low storage

Smartphone users have been increasingly complaining about low storage in their devices. At the launch of the SanDisk iExpand Flash Drive for the iPhone on Thursday (May 12), the Western Digital-owned company shared some staggering figures which showed how big a problem low storage had become for the Indian smartphone user.

The figures reveal that more than 40 per cent of Indians cite low storage as the main problem they face while using their smartphones. People complain about the lack of storage more than phone-hanging or poor battery life.


More importantly, they often resort to deleting content from their phones. On the iPhone, the problem expands manifold. More than 70 per cent of the iPhone users in India have low storage issues, which is symptomatic of the fact that most Indians are using the basic 16GB variant of the iPhone. In their case, according to SanDisk, 99 per cent of the users end up deleting content from their devices to contend with these issues.

Now, these figures are a little hyperbolic and may be blown out of proportion, but they are within the realm of reality. Why? Let me explain.

1. The iPhone is the most aspirational and largely, the most widely used premium smartphone in India. Apple dominates the market for phones that cost upwards of Rs 35,000. As the cost of the iPhone is high, most users end up buying the baseline 16GB version of the phone.

More than 40 per cent of Indians cite low storage as the main problem they face while using their smartphones. 

Ideally, no one should buy a modern smartphone with just 16GB of storage. One should either get a 64GB model or look elsewhere. Samsung’s Galaxy S7 starts with a more respectable 32GB storage and so does an affordable phone like Xiaomi Mi5.


2. The iPhone has a great camera. For a long time, it has been amongst the top three in terms of image quality and ease of use. This means that people tend to use its camera even more. The new iPhone 6S, and SE add features like Live Photos, 4K recording and a higher resolution camera, which amplifies the problem of low storage even more.

3. The iPhone has also been touted as one of the best devices for multimedia consumption. Therefore, people naturally gravitate towards it and download a lot of content on the device. This is sure to add to storage issues on the device.

4. In India connectivity isn’t great which means cloud-based solutions aren’t reliable alternatives. All the big tech companies claim the cloud to be a great alternative, but in India 4G hasn’t even arrived in a big way and that’s why people, in the wake of unreliable connectivity prefer to keep all their data locally. To keep everything locally, you need more local storage.

5. If the iPhone is symptomatic of how aspirational a market India is, then even the low-end of the market is a good indicator, because people want to own smartphones at any cost. Even if that means owning a device that comes with a sickly 8GB of storage.


6. While expandable storage had been a staple of Android smartphones for years, in the recent past we have seen a trend that more and more manufacturers have stopped adding a memory card slot in their phones. Back in 2015, when Xiaomi launched the Mi 4i in India, it decided to not add a memory card slot. Its global VP Hugo Barra at the time said that a microSD card slot diminishes the experience of the phone. Some manufacturers are bringing it back, but even then, when you add a memory card to the device, the performance plummets.

The Galaxy S7 performs well without a memory card but its performance nose dives with a memory card.

7. Now companies like SanDisk are looking to make faster and heavier duty microSD cards, but they are very expensive. Often they can cost more than the phone. Even for the iPhone, its iExpand drive starts at Rs 3,999 for the 16GB model and goes all the way up to Rs 9,999 for the 128GB model. Now, that’s more expensive than a budget Android smartphone. For Rs 9,999, you can actually get a superb Android smartphone in the form of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3.

8. As the smartphone revolution have spawned the app revolution, the quality and capabilities of these apps have grown by multiple levels. This also has meant that many apps have become bigger and bigger over the years. So if you’re on an older smartphone, chances are that the app you used in 2012 is taking up much more space in 2016. The same holds true for operating system updates.

Last updated: May 12, 2016 | 19:57
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