16GB vs 32GB vs 64GB: Which new iPad storage capacity should you get?

So you've decided to take the plunge and get the new iPad and you've chosen both the carrier and the color you want, but you aren't sure which storage capacity size to go with? The difference between 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB isn't just how much stuff you can put on it, but $100-$200 in up front costs, so it's worth thinking about.

Here's the breakdown.

Price for storage

The current US prices for the new iPad are (not counting the $130 surcharge for 3G + 4G models):

  • 16GB: $499 or $31.19/GB
  • 32GB: $599 or $18.72/GB
  • 64GB: $699 or $10.92/GB

It looks like you can pay $200 more (20% more) the price for 4x the storage, which makes the price per GB fall really fast. Still, Apple is getting you to pay $100 for an extra 16GB of storage and $200 for an extra 48GB of storage. That's not a great deal, given what SD cards go for these days. That's probably where Apple helps increase their margins.

So if giving Apple an extra dime irks you, the 16GB baseline model could be the way to go. But there are other things to consider first.

iCloud and other online storage options

iCloud gives us unlimited online storage for iTunes purchased content -- iBooks, music, movies, TV shows, and apps, and 5GB of additional storage for backups, data, etc. If that's not enough, you can pay for more.

  • 10GB: $20/year
  • 20GB: $40/year
  • 50GB: $100/year

This might make it tempting to save some $$$ up front on onboard storage and make up for it with the free 5GB iCloud, with the option to buy more storage as a safety blanket.

It's not a crazy idea but it's important to remember that online storage isn't always as available, fast, and convenient as onboard storage. For example, you can't just play a movie from iCloud, you have to download it at the same time you watch it, which means you have to have enough space available on your iPad to handle the download. If you want to watch a lot of movies, you may have to watch, delete, watch, delete, over and over again.

iCloud also doesn't give you a file system like Dropbox or Box.net, so you can only really store what Apple lets you. If your movies and videos don't come from iTunes, iCloud is no help to you. Also, in our tests iCloud's free 5GB could get filled up pretty quickly by photos and especially videos.

So iCloud means you can get away with storing less content on your device, but you still want to have enough local storage for what you need, when you need it.

5 megapixel photos and 1080p video

iPhoto for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch

The new iPad actually has a good camera on it, and that means it takes good 5 megapixel photos and 1080p video. That also means you need room to store 5 megapixel photos and 1080p video.

For example, I take a ton of photos and videos on my iPhone 4S and with 16GB I'd quickly run out of space. Since it's a pain in the butt to have to go through and figure out what to delete if I'm not near my computer, I opted for more storage.

Unlike an iPhone, however, an iPad probably isn't your go-to camera, and isn't the camera you always have with you. In other words, I don't think most people will take and store as many photos or as much video with their iPads as they would their iPhones (or other smartphones).

That being said, I store a ton of photos and video on my iPad. It's just a great way to show and share those special moments with friends and family. If you want to keep a lot of home movies and photos available, you'll need space for them.


The other thing that can fill up our iPad quickly is content.

  • Games can be big, and with the new iPad's 2048x1536 Retina display and Apple A5X processor, we might see even bigger ones with more textures and richer environments. Some games were already getting close to 1GB, how big will the Retina iPad games be?
  • iTunes movies can be 1-3GB in size for SD depending on the length. If you prefer watching HD, they can be 3-5GB. If you want to take advantage of the Retina display to watch 1080p movies... Watch out.
  • iTunes TV shows can be a quarter to half the size of movies, but more than make up for it by the number of episodes typically available.
  • If you get your movies and TV shows from somewhere other than iTunes, you're still looking at about 400MB an hour for SD and over 1GB (sometimes way over) an hour for HD.
  • Music files are generally quite small but can add up as well, especially if you have lots and lots of albums you want to keep with you everywhere.

Who should get 16GB

If you don't use a lot of apps, if you don't want to have a lot of movies and TV shows, or a huge amount of music, if you don't intend to shoot and keep very much 5 megapixel photos or 1080p video on your iPad, you'll probably be okay with 16GB.

Some people like to keep their iPads light and either stream or surf the web for content, and some people manage their photos and videos very well, transferring them to their computers regularly and reliably.

If you keep your iPad lean, you can probably save yourself some cash and get by on 16GB.

Who should get 32GB

If the iPad is your primary device, if you play games on it and watch movies and TV shows on it, if you have a decent sized music collection you want to keep with you, and if you shoot an average amount of photos and videos, 32GB is probably your sweet spot.

Some people like to have one device that, while it doesn't do everything all the time, is capable enough to do most things most of the time. As long as there's some extra space to give extra time to managing apps and content, it's a great compromise.

If you do a fair but not overwhelming amount of stuff on your iPad, your probably better off going for 32GB.

Who should get 64GB

If you're a power user who wants to keep as much as possible for as long as possible, if you have a large amount of apps and games, TV and movies, and a huge music collection you simply have to have with you all the time, or you shoot photos and video almost non stop and don't want to have to bother transferring it all the time... we'll, you've probably already ordered a 64GB iPad and cursed Apple for not giving you a 128GB option!

Some people really do want their iPad to do everything, all of the time, and never (or rarely) have to worry about running out of space. If you really feel like you need it, you probably didn't need me to tell you so, and you've already decided you're getting 64GB. Enjoy!

What if you choose the wrong size?

Remember, in most places you have time to try out your new iPad and return it if you don't like it. Make sure, as soon as possible, you put your new iPad to realistic use. Load up all the apps and games you want with you, load up your movies and TV shows, go out and take some photos and shoot some video. Give it a complete and thorough workout and see.

If it feels like you got too much storage, say 64GB and you haven't even gone past 2GB, or if you got too little, say you're already at 15GB of 16GB, then take your iPad back and exchange it for one that better suits your needs.

If you come to this realization too late, after the exchange period is over, remember you can buy additional iCloud storage, or look at other options like Dropbox which will let you keep your stuff available online and potentially free up some much needed space on your iPad.

Any questions?

If you've already decided which storage capacity is perfect for you, 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB, leave a comment and let me know!

If you're still not sure, if you want advice or more opinions, just ask!


Senior Editor at iMore and a practicing therapist specializing in stress and anxiety. She speaks everywhere from conferences to corporations, co-host of Vector and Isometric podcasts, follow her on Twitter @Georgia_Dow and check out her series at anxiety-videos.com.

  • 32gb is a good size as my iPhone is 32 GB and that has music movies and apps and still have a little extra left. I dont have as much on my iPad usually. No Music for sure
  • Little space left, wait a few months or years and watch you needing more, and it makes the phone slow, for example i got the itouch 32 gb before and had about 15 gb left, i was happy but then i ha to delete 1/2 of my apps because i ran out of space, now just my music is 27 gb -__- but everyone is different so its your choice :)
  • 16gig is always my size because I can manage what I have. No need to have bigger nor pay more for it. My iPad 2 is great.
  • Well depends on how much video you will shoot using the new iPad.
    I went with a 64G cause with the HD videos you can easily fill out the space,, plus I always like to have couple of movies for the kids on it , so for $200 more I think it was better value for me to go with 64
  • I bought the original iPad with 16GB of storage. For almost two years, I never used more than about 10GB of space.
    I just ordered the new iPad, and this time I went with the 32GB. The reason being that with the retina display capability, I expect apps to increase in size. And with iPhoto, I expect to keep more photos on this iPad than my previous one.
    For me, 64GB seemed like overkill, and while I might never top out the 32GB model, it'll be nice to know I have some breathing room.
    Oh, and as an aside, I went with the 3G model with my first iPad. But in almost 2 years, I never used it once -- there are so many wifi hotspots around town (Chicago) that I never had the need.
    So, while the 4G LTE was tempting, my experience said that I just never used it, so I spent that extra money on more storage.
  • I was going to say exactly what Matt said. The 16GB 1st Gen was perfect for me, I usually had about 11GB of stuff on it (out of 13.8GB avail)
    The apps will be larger and I'll want to load HD movies onto it now, now just DVD rips.
  • Exactly how is not written well? What makes the article dumb?
    I chose the 32GB because I keep all my music on my iPad, and keep my iPhone free. Music, photos and apps on the iPad. Everyday use apps on my iphone. I'm usually never without either one.
    Good article Georgia.
  • I'm with you James... music/photos, movies, books, fun apps/games on the iPad - it's a great way to share and entertain. And iPhone for daily use apps.
    Useful article Georgia, well done.
  • My iPad 2 was 64gb and I had 5.4gb of space left. I hadn't unloaded videos and pictures I took in a while.
  • I ordered a 64GB iPad as my first iPad. My first iPhone (3GS) was 32GB and I'd regularly fill it up to capacity, so when I bought my iPhone 4S I made sure it was 64GB, and I usually keep it 2/3 full. I don't like to have to choose what content I put on my device, and I have a lot of content to pull from. With my iPad I'm hoping to bring it traveling instead of my MBP to put pictures onto. The 64GB will get filled up quickly until I can unload them at home into Aperture.
  • I went with 32GB. I did have a 64 iPad 1 and kept it almost full with movies for our 3 year old. The only issue was that if I wasn't watching movies on it, I really had no need for the extra storage especially using streaming apps like Air Video and Plex for most of my media files.
    I also bought the Seagate GoFlex Wireless 500GB hard drive which works great because we can use it in the car and up to five devices can listen to music, videos, or read documents from it.
  • Seems like I have a ton of stuff on my iPhone 32gb, and have 18gb left. It just works for me. $600.00 plus a case was closer to my budget for the iPad.
  • I am in the exact same boat. I have 9gb left of my 32 Iphone and thats not dumping all my photos and video to my PC.....I am going to do that soon. I also ordered the 32 because I just dont want to worry about space. So psyched....This is my first Ipad and I am so glad I waited.
  • Damn you Apple no 128GB option! :)
    256GB Will take years at this rate.
  • Thanks for this article. Ordered a 16GB yesterday but after some reading last night and finally this, I just cancelled that one and ordered a 32GB just now.
  • ipad has "god" camera or "good" camera?
  • IF I were going to get the NEW iPad, I'd go with the 16GB because it would be an add on devices and not any sort of Macbook Pro or desktop replacement. I definitely am not interested in a second data plan bill and besides, Sprint isn't one of the carriers that will deploy it, so a capped second data plan wouldn't help me at all.
  • Go Big or Go Home, iCloud will cost you every single year where as the bigger storage is a one time fee
  • It's like you just copied this article from the iPad2 release days and pasted it here making just a few changes for the camera, etc. lol Must be a slow day or something.
  • 16GB is the best size because the iPad does not need to have all the content I am going to stream music with Google play music and my games on the iPhone are about 10GB but I want include all games/apps.
  • Typo - "The new iPad actually has a god camera on it,"
  • It's inconceivable that I buy a 16GB iPad.
  • This is my first ipad and I ordered the 64gb. I'm an Instructor at a college, and I will use the ipad for grading papers, and other types of work related stuff. I will also store all of my music, photos, videos and documents on here. I have about 16 gb of music on my ipod. I also have a 2 year old, and she loves watching mickey mouse and Dora, so I will be downloading alot of movies for her. The guy at the Apple store told me that 16 gb will be enough, but I think he was just trying to get a quick sale on a busy Saturday night, as the store was closing..... Like my dad says....Go Hard or Go Home: just get the 64gb!!!!!
  • 16GB: $499 or $31.19/GB
    32GB: $599 or $18.72/GB
    64GB: $699 or $10.92/GB
    It looks like you can pay $200 more (20% more) the price for 4x the storage
    Incorrect and therefore misleading. You have to pay 40% more to get 4x the storage. 500 * .40 = 699-499. #Corrections #Correction
  • I like your logic except that deviding the cost of the iPad by Gb does not take into account the iPad itself. You are not paying $499 just for memory.
  • I have a 16gb wifi iPad 1 and with relatively few apps and video podcasts struggle for space. I went for a 64gb 4G version because I missed the GPS function missing on the wifi only and it avoids the need for a separate gps receiver. 128gb or 256gb version would have been nice as my music almost fills a 160gb classic iPod (and as there isn't a suitablely sized touch) and would have reduced my device count.
  • I spent two hours on March 7 preordering the new iPad. It was delivered March 15 at 9:30am. I chose the 64G in anticipation of increasingly complex apps.
    A wi-fi-only user, I am now wondering if I should be downloading movies via 4G. Discussion about whether to "save money" with 16G or 32g is moot compared to the $30-$80 per month of carrier charges. The real question is do you need 4G to better download movies, and if you do, is it worth $360 - $960 a year to do so.
  • 64GB I play alot of games and have over 300 songs and 125 photos 50 videos + i download like 20 song or more a month and i am a huge gamer.
  • You'll be surprised how little that takes up lol. 300 songs is very little. You could probably do with a 32GB version. I doubt any iPad will ever satisfy my needs. My 2TB MacBook can't hold my 20k+ songs and 1.3TB+ of videos.
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  • I have a 32 gb iPad 2. I don't store music in it, I use Spotify. I also have a couple of videos, but I could erase them since I don't really need them. I have a lot of comics in it... I have like 10gb free
    I'm not sure if buying the new iPad 16 or 32 gb :(
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  • I'm not exactly sure if I should get 16gb or 32gb. I think I'll use it for college, but not for everything, because I can still back it up on my laptop. But, i have a iPod 8gb and I have only used up about 5gb on it because I have a pretty small music library, but I still take quite a few notes on it. A little guidance??
  • If you get a 64 gb wifi+3g model, you're dumb because you could get a MacBook air for 100$ more
  • I'm getting the 32GB. Thanks for all the info... It helped!
  • I think I'm going to get the 16gb based on friends recomendations. Figure I could add storage to my phone for cheap if I need extra room and just transfer it when I have to have more. Plus with dropbox and cloud out there I think I'll have options. I'm not a big gamer though and I use slackers and specify for music.
  • Hi. i am 12 years old and am buying an iPad for the first time, and i could really use some of your advice. i am not sure if i should get the iPad 2 or the new iPad, (if i get the new ipad i can only get the 16GB) which would you suggest?
    Also, i would like to know which amount of storage would do me best. (iPad 2) i won't have more than 30 or 40 songs, and maybe 100 photos, 2-3 movies and lot's and lot's of apps. (games) what do you think?
    My options are: 16GB iPad 2, 32GB ipad 2, or 16GB iPad 3rd gen. (wi-fi)
    help please?
  • Your cost per GB calculation is way off. If you assume that the device itself is worth $400 not including the storage, you are paying $100 for 16 GB or $6.25 per GB, $200 for 32 GB - also $6.25 per GB and then $300 for 64 GB, so that is only $4.25 per GB. I am going to go with 32 GB for a little insurance even though I use my PC for the major amount of work I do including photo storage. I will probably get something like the seagate GoFlex for additional storage capacity rather than give Apple another $100 for onboard storage I don't need.
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  • I'm confused. I am trying to update some apps but my 16G IPad says I!m low on storage. So I purchased 10G ofstorage and now I show that I have14.6G of available storage but I still cannot access it. What am I doing wrong?
  • Going with the 32GB. I have young children so I know it will have lots of apps to keep them occupied when needed. Also, back in college so I know it will be handy and light to carry on campus. I don't want to limit myself with a 16 nor do I want over kill with a 64. I'm not one to update my electronics too often. My Ipod was taken over by my 12 yr. old. So I know in the future this will be taken over by another one of my children- then I can get an update again in a few years.
  • Thank you for all the info. This article was VERY helpful in deciding which size to get, especially since I wanted to know how space certain things (movies, apps, music, etc) took up. :)
  • I am on the edge of purchasing an IPad 3 for use in my high school art classes, mainly for Prezi. Although, I will use the camera and other apps for graphics and art history. After spending a week at a college where we were treated to hands-on digital arts information, I have come to the decision to buy this device (no way to get visuals in my classroom, as my desktop is in an office-like space). Would I be ok with 16GB, or should I invest in more?
    Thanks in advance to anyone who might want to offer an opinion!
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  • Hi there, I'm a college student and I want an ipad for homework, notes (using Notebooks) and writing articles for my blog. (I keep my music on my iphone.) I guess I'd pretty much like my ipad to take over my laptop. I don't need it for movies or music, just study and writing and research and organizing. Which GB should be okay for me? Thanks in advance!
  • Hi all. If I'm mainly going to use for educational purposes with my son and in my classroom, would 16GB be better than 32GB??? I would also do some photos and movie or two.