An iPhone experience fit for everyone

The thing about iPhones is that you won’t identify their storage size just by looking at them — that’s unless you see a 5c. With all the talk about 16GB not being enough for a decent experience, think of all the plastic-backed iPhones that only came with 8GB out in the wild. That’s horror right there.

After upgrading to a new bigger iPhone having suffered the constraints of the 16GB syndrome for the last two years, I can assure you storage size does make a huge difference. I no longer have to condition my usage of the device to storage limitations. As archaic as it may sound, I shouldn’t be forced to have all my stuff on the cloud either. David Smith, using his own data, estimates that 16GB iPhones account for roughly 43% of the users — how are these people freaking using their phones?

So I went and asked the only two iPhone 5c owners I know. Well, I didn’t really ask. I peaked at their phones when they were using them and probed them. They both use Facebook, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp to keep in touch with friends. Constantly. You could say their iPhone’s primary function is to be a messaging machine. You also have to agree there is something devilish about their three most used apps being owned by the same company.

There’s no option to keep originals on the device when you own a 5c.

How are these guys coping with the ridiculously small storage on their smartphones? They take pictures and share them using those apps, deleting them because they will be available online. There’s no option to keep originals on the device when you own a 5c. One of my friends with an iPhone 5c is really into sports — as in watching sports — and likes to keep track of fixtures and standings for different football leagues and basketball tournaments. He uses a combination of news apps and websites. No strain on storage there either. The other friend with a 5c keeps talking about changing jobs and dating, and she’s using mostly Safari and email for that. You could assume there was a dating app somewhere there, but I didn’t dare to ask. Again, no particular taxing activity for the nimble 5cs.

Mostly Facebook and WhatsApp

Are you ready to draw your quick conclusions? iPhones with small storage are not necessarily for grandmas and morons. They are not at all. My friends may not be super-tech-savvy, but they really know their stuff. They use their phones for a handful of things and they spend most of their smartphone time doing that and only that. Remember, that’s mostly Facebook and WhatsApp.

Their iPhones don’t have folders full of apps. They have the folder Apple provides called Extras. They have used the App Store to download the apps they needed and have never returned. They probably don’t remember the password of their Apple ID anyway. These are the users that get really confused when iOS changes with every update, when iMessage doesn’t work and who get error messages asking them to go on a paid iCloud subscription. For my two friends with an iPhone 5c and the majority of iPhone users, these small everyday frustrations that are, in the surface, more important than storage.

On the opposite corner of the internet, you get the people who believe iOS is capable of everything. That’s us. A small group downloading more apps than we can try and beta testing all the stuff we can get our hands on. We are the ones who are doing the first line of tech support with our friends and family — not Apple geniuses! — and I believe that’s why we care so much about everything broken with iOS and Apple’s online services.

Could it be possible that we are missing the point? Could it be that the majority of iOS users are just fine with a couple of apps? Having to cope with a 16GB device myself I understood Apple wants me to use my iPhone in combination with its iCloud offerings. I love the idea of iCloud Photo Library and iTunes Match. I want them to be great. If they are easy to explain and work as intended we will do less tech support for my friends and family and everyone will be happy. The issue is that in real life they kind of suck. The good news is that Apple is taking the steps to alleviate problems associated with limited storage in a big way with app thinning and such. You no longer need to delete half your phone to upgrade to iOS 9, for example.

As much as I love to download and try the latest app, perhaps we are too distracted to realise how other people use their devices. Stop and look around. This is not a black and white situation and nobody is wrong. As Apple turns more and more mainstream, its services and products must cater to a wider audience. It’s not only about physical storage. It’s about providing a decent experience to all type of iOS users without compromises. Instead of giving the same iPhone to everyone, give everyone an iPhone experience that is fit for all.