Apple reportedly considering a cheaper storage solution for larger iPhones — 1TB iPhone 16 might have a QLC NAND SSD, here's what that means

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The 1TB iPhone 16 could be exchanging the iPhone 15’s SSD for a cheaper one, suggesting the phone itself could be made more affordable, but there’s a bit of a catch. 

As reported by DigiTimes, Apple is looking into adopting Quad-Level Cell (QLC) NAND storage in models of the iPhone that go above 1TB, instead of the Triple-Level Cell (TLC) NAND we have seen in previous high-capacity iPhones.

This is a cheaper way of building storage that crams more into the same space internally but can come with its own complications like slower read/write speeds and more storage issues long-term. Apple is currently investigating how viable QLC NAND is in its higher-capacity iPhones. 

QLC vs TLC for iPhone

As of right now, this distinction is important but doesn’t tell us all that much. Though we know that QLC SSDs tend to be cheaper down to their production process and that they tend to be a little less reliable and slower, this doesn’t mean they can’t be optimized and finetuned to reach expected levels. Apple seems unlikely to put out a 1TB iPhone model that performs significantly worse than its cheaper counterparts so the exploration of this tech is largely dependent on how it performs in internal tests. 

Right now, if you were to buy Apple’s best iPhone, the iPhone 15 Pro Max, the 1TB model would cost you $400 more than the 256GB model, which is a significant fee. If Apple were to introduce a version of the iPhone 16 Pro Max or iPhone 16 Pro that had 2TB of storage, it would make sense to try and cut down that cost somewhat so this is where the QLC NAND could play a part. 

Alternatively, if Apple gets QLC storage operating close to where a TLC would, the extra savings could then be put into other components of the iPhone, like the processor or raw materials. As of right now, this is just research from Apple but QLC NAND storage is expected to reach 20% of all NAND shipments by the end of 2023 and the start of 2024 combined so it marks a broader trend in the market. We’ll have to wait for the unveiling of the iPhone 16 to find out more.

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James Bentley

James is a staff writer and general Jack of all trades at iMore. With news, features, reviews, and guides under his belt, he has always liked Apple for its unique branding and distinctive style. Originally buying a Macbook for music and video production, he has since gone on to join the Apple ecosystem with as many devices as he can fit on his person. 

With a degree in Law and Media and being a little too young to move onto the next step of his law career, James started writing from his bedroom about games, movies, tech, and anything else he could think of. Within months, this turned into a fully-fledged career as a freelance journalist. Before joining iMore, he was a staff writer at Gfinity and saw himself published at sites like TechRadar, NME, and Eurogamer. 

As his extensive portfolio implies, James was predominantly a games journalist before joining iMore and brings with him a unique perspective on Apple itself. When not working, he is trying to catch up with the movies and albums of the year, as well as finally finishing the Yakuza series. If you like Midwest emo music or pretentious indie games that will make you cry, he’ll talk your ear off.