Nobody will ever need 16GiB, right?


Screenshot of Angus Kidman's ZDnet Australia column earlier today
Screenshot of Angus Kidman's ZDnet Australia column earlier today

Angus Kidman writes for ZDnet Australia in his Snorage [sic] column, named as such because in his words: "if everyone thinks storage is so boring, how come we always want more of it? Go on — you know size matters."

Well apparently he does think that sometimes size doesn't matter, and has gone on record to suggest that nobody would need more than 16GiB of memory in their phones. From the article:

Pronouncing that a given device doesn’t need any more storage is a near-foolproof recipe for looking stupid somewhere down the line. However, I’m sceptical that many people need a 16GB mini-SD card for their phone.

SanDisk next month will start offering a 16GB microSD card, which — unsurprisingly given the format — is aimed at the mobile phone market.

That amount of capacity inevitably leads to the question: how are you supposed to fill up that space? Pictures might be one potential answer, but 16GB will give you a hell of a lot of semi-quality phone shots. Indeed, the whole Pictures folder on my PC doesn’t take up that much space.

But if this is you, then I suggest you re-compress your movies into a more screen-friendly alternative and stop overloading your PowerPoint presentations with meaningless graphics. Save the capacity for where you really can use it — on a desktop PC where the OS will reclaim it in the blink of an eye.

At least he made one valid point in his introduction: storage ceiling predictions are almost universally wrong. I don't think I need to bring up the old Bill Gates 640KB of RAM chestnut again to demonstrate!

The fact of the matter is we used to think that the diminutive amount of space on a SIM card would be enough for mobile phone users. After all, you can store a few thousand contact numbers on one, what more could you possibly want to put on a phone? Then people started demanding the ability to store more than just numbers about their contacts, then they started demanding the ability to do calendering and other organiser like functions to replace the PDAs they had to carry in addition to their phones. Now we have GPS, mobile internet pages, conferencing, Twitter and instant messaging, streaming music and static audio files, video, photos and graphics, office productivity applications, grilled cheese sandwich makers, waffle irons, nuclear reactors and Secret Squirrel automobiles in our phones, and who knows what we'll have in another few years?

We can have a philosophical discussion on whether or not such things are useful for a phone to do or whether they're counter-productive and restrictive until the cows come home, but the fact is people are doing more with their phones now than we could have ever imagined even a decade ago let alone when the first portable phones were released.

MicroSD card size comparison
Photo I took this evening, comparing a sim card, MicroSD card and an audio CD. I still can't believe how tiny these cards are!

Mr Kidman argues he can't foresee any use for 16GiB of memory for a phone and therefore doesn't see the point of it at all. Just like how 10 years ago nobody thought you would need more storage space than what SIM cards offered. It might be true now that only a few people have oodles of data (I like the word oodles) on their phones, but that's not to say that therefore nobody does, or that nobody will in the future.

I'm fascinated by storage; it's the reason why I spend so much of my free time researching new storage technologies as well as vanilla file and multimedia compression standards, encryption, efficiency and data centres. I'm fascinated by how far we've come in storage capacity, density and size since computing began, and am excited by where we'll be going next. I thoroughly enjoy reading Angus Kidman's column because I can tell he shares the same passion, but this time he does seem a bit far off.

For what it's worth, I'm typing this post on my 16GiB iPhone 3G which is 95% full, so I know of what I speak! Then again I am weird in that way. I mean wired. I mean, wireless, this is a phone we're talking about. A mobile phone not a terrestrial phone. Terrestrial sounds like terrorist, better make sure I don't get blocked in some countries for that remark. Remark sounds like Renmark, a town in South Australia. Which is convenient, because this post went south with this last paragraph it seems. Seams, that reminds me, I need to have my slacks repaired. Or should I just buy new ones? Ones and zeros… just like file storage. See, I did come back to the point of this post, even if it was at the very end.

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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