16GB vs. 32GB vs. 64GB: Which iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s storage size should you get?

2014 iPhone buyers guide: How to choose the perfect 16GB or 32GB iPhone 5c, or 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB iPhone 5s for you!

One of the biggest decisions you have to make - literally! - when it comes to buying your new iPhone is how much storage capacity you get. The way Apple's pricing works, you get double the storage for every extra $100 your spend, which isn't really as straightforward a deal as it seems. While the iPhone 5c only has 16GB and 32GB options, the iPhone 5s has a 64GB option as well. Get more capacity than you need and you'll waste some money. Get too little and you'll experience no end of frustration. So, it's really important to weigh all the options and figure out the best price/storage ratio. Here's how it works!

Price per gigabyte breakdowns

Price per gigabyte breakdowns

The iPhone is sold at different price points based on the amount of storage capacity it contains. While it may seem like the price per gigabyte gets cheaper once you start going up, that's not always the case. Here are the U.S. prices:

iPhone 5c on-contract with carrier subsidy

  • 16GB: $99 or $6.19 a GB
  • 32GB: $199 or $6.21 a GB

iPhone 5c off-contract at full price

  • 16GB: $549 or $34.31 a GB
  • 32GB: $649 or $20.28 a GB

iPhone 5s on-contract with carrier subsidy

  • 16GB: $199 or $12.44 a GB
  • 32GB: $299 or $9.34 a GB
  • 64GB: $399 or $6.23 a GB

iPhone 5s off contract at full price

  • 16GB: $649 or $40.56 a GB
  • 32GB: $749 or $23.41 a GB
  • 64GB: $849 or $13.27 a GB

On-contract and at first glance it may look like the 64GB iPhone 5s is four times the storage for only twice the price. In other words, a really sweet deal. However, 16GB for $199 (or $649 unlocked) is Apple's lowest margin device. After that, Apple is getting you to pay a pretty premium for every additional doubling of storage. Think of it this way, going from 16GB to 32GB costs you $100. Go look at the cost of a 16GB SD card and you'll see how much more you're paying for that bump. Now the $200 premium for an additional 48GB of iPhone 5s storage is more interesting, but it's still not $200 more interesting. Hey, that's why Apple has over $100 billion in the bank.

If your goal is to pay Apple absolutely the least amount of money as possible, the 16GB iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s might tempt you. But hold on, there's a lot more to consider than just the cost of storage!

Local vs. Cloud storage

Local vs. Cloud storage

Apple's iCloud gives you free, unlimited storage for all your iTunes stuff. That includes iBooks, music, movies, TV shows, and apps, as well as 30 days or 1000 Photo Stream photos. You also get 5GB of additional storage for backups, data, etc. In many countries, you can use iTunes in the Cloud to download your media only when, and as needed. You can even purchase more iCloud storage for the following yearly fees:

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

Beyond iCloud, there are also other options like Dropbox, Box.net, Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive, and more. All of these cloud storage services might make the 16GB iPhone all the more tempting. You might think iCloud can let you keep most of your apps and media nearline, and re-download them only when you need to, so they don't take up precious storage on your device. You might also think Dropbox can let you keep documents and photos similarly available just-in-time rather than all-the-time.

It's not a crazy idea but it's important to remember that online/nearline storage isn't always as available, fast, or convenient as onboard storage. For starters, you can't really play a movie from iCloud, you have to download it before hand watch it, which means it takes a lot of time and you have to have enough space available on your iPhone 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. Annoying. The same goes for any large download - like 1GB+ games! - or many small downloads, like podcasts and music.

So cloud storage means you can get away with managing more content on your device than you could otherwise, but it also means you still want to have enough local storage for what you need, when you need it.

Photos and videos

Photos and videos

The iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c can both take 8 megapixel photos and 28 megapixel panoramas, and shoot 1080p video at 30fps. The iPhone 5s can also shoot 720p and 120fps. Those can be some big files. About an hour of 1080p video can take up roughly 10GB of storage. 16GB doesn't seem so roomy now, does it?

I take a ton of photos and videos on my iPhone and back when I had a 16GB iPhone, I ran out of space all the time. And that was just 5 megapixels and 720p. And it's a huge pain in the butt to have to go through and figure out which memories and special moments you have to delete in order to capture more. So if you're really into the camera, 16GB might not work.

Apps, games, and media

Apps, games, and media

As I mentioned above, apps and especially games can also take up a lot of space on your iPhone. It's not uncommon for some console-quality games to be well over 1GB in size these days. Even basic apps might include interface assets for iPhone and iPad, 3.5- and 4-inch (and now call up frameworks that might be 32- and 64-bits!). Those are some super-fat binaries!

iTunes movies can be 1-3GB in size for SD depending on the length. If you prefer watching HD, they can be 3-6GB. 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. Even with something like iTunes Match or a similar music locker service, or a streaming service, you need local storage for offline playback. Again, it all adds up.

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 8mp photos or 1080p video on your iPhone, you'll probably be okay with 16GB.

Some people like to keep their iPhones light and do all their gaming and media on their iPad, and some people just don't do a lot with their phones period. If that's you, you can save yourself some cash and get a 16GB iPhone 5c or iPhone 5s.

Who should get 32GB?

If the iPhone 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 your sweet spot.

Some people like to have one device that, while it doesn't do everything all the time, it's capable enough to do most things most of the time. If you do a fair but not overwhelming amount of stuff on your iPhone 5c or iPhone 5s, you're better off going for 32GB.

Who should get 64GB?

This option is only available for iPhone 5s. However, 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 shows 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... well, you've probably already decided on 64GB, haven't you?

Some people really do want their iPhone to do everything, all of the time, and never (or rarely) have to worry about running out of space. They probably want 128GB -- or even 256GB if they could get it! -- but they'll use the most they can, whenever they can. That's the iPhone 5s with 64GB.

Still undecided?

If you're still not sure about 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB, jump into our iPhone discussion forums and the best community in mobile will happily help you out.

Also, remember, in most places you have time to try out your new iPhone 5c or iPhone 5s and return it if you don't like it. So, make sure, as soon as possible, you put your new iPhone 5 through realistic paces. 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 iPhone 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 iPhone.

Once you've decided, let me know - which iPhone, and which size, did you go with and why?


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.

  • Thanks for this! I am having trouble deciding which 5s model to get in terms of memory. Definitely gave me some good variables to consider!
  • I've never used more than 20GB on my 64GB iPhone 5, so I'm going to do the sensible thing and pick up the 32GB iPhone 5s.
  • I don't know if this applies due to the new size models, but I remember when they had the 8GB, 16GB, 32GB tiers with the iPhone 4, when it came to reselling through a company like Gazelle, I got more for my 16GB than my friends got for their 32GB. Both were in the same condition and quoted on the same day.
    I might be wrong but it seems that the middle model size is usually best when you think of resale. I imagine it has something to do with it being harder for Gazelle to get rid of the high tier models.
  • That's likely because of timing. The value of a used phone can change with time. A 32 is definitely more valuable on the used market that a 16 - I'd estimate $50-$75 depending on device vintage.
  • I own several high end Android devices and I refused to buy any phone unless it had a minimum of 32gb internal storage + sd-card support. Without sd-card support I refuse to buy anything without 64gb of internal storage. That removes many phones from the list. I want & need all my files with me, I always get the most internal storage that is available. I was hoping the new 5S was available with 128gb. I sold my iPhone 5 in white with 64gb of internal storage just to buy the new 5S with 128gb, looks like I'll be buying the 5S with 64gb and be happy about it.
    PS- just hope the new finger print scanner isn't alag on the phone. The home button is the most used feature on the phone, hopit doesn't have maintenance issues.
  • That's what I'm worried about, I want to go out and get the iPhone ASAP but don't want that decision to come back to haunt me if there is trouble with the scanner!
  • Just to correct you on the point about not being able to play movies without downloading them - you can now on iOS 7.
  • My wife and I have 32GB iPhones and have to be very selective about what music, photos and apps to keep on them. Next time I'll get the 64GB phones. The situation is different with Android (I have a Galaxy Nexus too). Android is a poor choice for local music storage and has far fewer large apps (aka games). I've never run out of space on my 32GB Galaxy Nexus. But then again, I found the GNex to be much less useful than my 4S.
  • I have 32gb on my 4S, and I've never run into an issue, so I'll stick with that for my 5S - 16gb would definitely not be enough. I tried to go to a 32gb iPad, but that wasn't enough for me. So I have 64gb on my iPad mini, and have never had to juggle storage. I think I've found my sweet spot with both devices!
  • I've learned my lesson from the Mac: The more storage the better (long-term). Bring on the 128GB :)
  • Hello, I am Inigo Montoya, you took my iPhone 5s, prepare to die!!!
  • Inconceivable!
  • You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
  • I will be getting the 32gb GOLD iPhone 5s. ---- I usually have around 16-20gb of storage on my device so the 32GB will be the best suited for me. I have chose the Gold simply because its different color of the phone that has never been available before. I understand that the Space Grey is technically a new color but not really in my opinion. I think the Gold will be like a work of art. its historic. you look at it and you're amazed!
  • ' Go look at the cost of a 16GB SD card and you'll see how much more you're paying for that bump.'
    These aren't SanDisk's SD card special of the week. It's NAND storage more comparable to the pricing we see with high end storage options ala CF cards, and quick (Class 10+) read/write access speeds. Just take a peak at what a good 64 or 128GB fast CF card will set you back. Not saying Apple isn't profiting from the storage price increases....but it's definitely not a good comparison to the latest Best Buy SD card special of the week.
    I've purchased 64GB models now the last three iterations and was sorely hoping for the 128GB option. The price of LTE bandwidth is still extremely costly...and when you bump a GB over on AT&T or Verizon, those extra $15/GB charges add up. Only takes a couple times to equal that 'next tier' pricing @ purchase. We take a lot of pics and video...games as mentioned are closing in on the 2GB mark....and with 120fps 720p slow mo recording and 'burst'/panoramic 28Mpxl files, these guys can fill up quick
    As an aside...I also own a Galaxy Note 2 specifically for our business and Square transactions as well as google Calendar and doc collaboration between employees. For me...and as always, ymmv....the extra Micro SD card has been an exercise in futility. Other than media...I've found the rare app that will allow you to let it reside on the 'extra storage' and have three times In a year of ownership had to 're' format said card after an OS update or another anomaly I'm not smart enough to figure out. While a cool idea in theory, access to that card is significantly slower than the built in NAND. I'm agnostic when it comes to Android and iOS. I own several devices of each variety. I understand why Google is making the push to eliminate those extra SD slots. To me, they've been next to worthless.
  • I've been using the 16 GB iPhone 4S and it simply is not enough space for me. My data is balanced between all aspects of media - music, video, photos, apps, games, etc. My next iPhone will need to be a 32 GB minimum. ...I'd rather have the 64 GB, but price is a very large issue for my currently diminished budget. The absolute biggest disappointing aspect of the iPhone's storage isn't really its physical limitations but more the electronic/data bulking that nearly every app I use daily exhibits. The "Documents and Data" of these apps gets bigger and bigger each and every time I use them - My belief is that these apps constantly reference data from a server out in the world and cache some of that data transaction. That's fine, but these apps should also be self-cleaning and remove the older cached data. For example, I offer the current data sizes of just a few of my frequently used apps, of which I never save data for later use (I simple open the apps, read the information, and close): [Yahoo] Weather• - 15.3 MB app w/53.1+ MB Documents & Data. (Do I really need cached data here?)
    Netflix - 27.9 MB app w/64.3+ MB Documents & Data. (Clean up on isle 7)
    [Apple] Remote - 21.6 MB app w/7.6+ MB Documents & Data. (Really? For an app remote?)
    iMore - 3.9 MB app w/27.5+ MB Documents & Data. (oh no! Not you too?!) [weeps] I could go on, but the point is the cumulative effects of multiple apps gobbling up space and holding it hostage is a very inhospitable act... I have invited these "guests" [apps] into my "home" [iOS device] and I expect them to clean up after themselves when they make a mess... I want my space back without the archaic routine of deleting and re-installing the apps so I can continue to use them. The apps "Google earth" and "WallpapersHD" at least provide me with an option to clear the cache and history with the tap of a button in their Settings... Hint, hint... Although, in today's technological setting, I don't see why this type of feature isn't auto-selectable like with Apple's Mail app. Delete data after 1week, 1 month, or on a daily basis (for weather & news apps). This is "INCONCEIVABLE", ... "Oh, what I wouldn't give for a holocaust cloak."...
  • My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father prepare to die.
  • 32GB is my Comfort Zone.
  • I'll be going for the 16gb 5s. I've a 64gb wi-drive and a 64 gb iTouch that I use for music and games. The 16gb will be quite enough for me and I'll save money getting it, so win-win for me.
  • getting a 5s -32 or 64 off contract because I have a 1 year in contract left and don't want to use it for an upgrade this year ! Next year I will get the full renew contract with I hope to be a larger screen and full upgrade ! getting the gold but covering it up with my favorite case the otterbox defender custom colors !
  • While this gets rehashed every iPhone and iPad release, it is still a valid concern. My question is, where do you see apps going in the next year or so, specifically games? If 1+ gig games will be the norm then I have no option but the 64.
  • I have 64. I wanted 128, so I will be waiting for iPhone 6.
  • When I got my 4S I was somewhere between needing the 32GB option and the 64GB option, but could only afford 32. This time I'm definitely in line for the 64GB option, and had assumed the pattern would hold and I could now get that for $300, on contract. Looks like I was wrong, and even though I now so desperately need the 64GB option it's going to cost me $400 on contract which I don't have to spend on an iPhone again, 2 years later.
  • Sell your 4s to offset some of the price. Not a perfect solution but not horrible. Either that or get less storage and keep the 4s as your music and movie device.
  • You also have to remember 16G is not really what you get. Same with 32, and 64. I have a 32G 4S, and when I first turned it on, it showed 28.1G. I am not a gamer, but have 292 apps, 1,400 photos, 179 songs, 14, videos, and still have 10G left. I could clean up photos, and apps I do not really use to increase memory, but 32G, or should I say 28.1G works for me for the phone. iPad, I need more memory. I like to do music, and have Auria DAW, and running a lot if tracks on a 33G is taxing on the CPU, and memory. It all depends on your needs. The 128G iPad is nice. I am also surprised they did not offer a 128G 5S. Great article Georgia. Sent from the iMore App
  • 32gb is always my preferred so I don't have to keep checking I'm running out of space. I'm on iTunes Match so don't need much for music put pictures seem to take up a ridiculous amount.
  • I have the 16g 4s now and I always run out of room! So I will definitely be getting the 5S with 32g this time. Still not sure on the color since I would like to see them in person before deciding but leaning towards the gold.
  • Epic picture :)
  • I don't know how anyone can use less than the full memory of their device at any time? I have 64GB but wanted a 128GB option so I am disappointed. All my music is already on iTunes Match, I keep 6 months of photos on device. The rest of the space is used by lots of apps
  • I have a 16gb 4S now... I think i'll be getting a 32gb 5S. i'm starting to feel the pinch of lots of pics/podcasts on my 4S LOL, i need more room. 64 would be nice, but for me, its probably too much.
  • The photo reminds me of the S4 the Note 3 and the Samsung galaxy mega lol Anyway would get a 64 GB iphone 5s due to lots of pics and movies and music
  • Disappointed that they didn't move on the memory/price thing. For the same price, most people would derive more utility from increased memory than increased processor power.
  • My wife and I went 16GB on our 3GS's and 4S's. 3GS we never got close to the limit, but 4S, we are in the MB's when it comes to available space because we capture so many pictures and video with them. Definitely going 32GB this time around, even though we use the camera alot I am sure 64GB would be overkill.
  • Not to nitpick but she mentions console quality games being 1GB+ on the app store. I routinely download games on console and PC and most of them are anywhere from 8GB to 25GB. If they were really console quality games they wouldn't be around 1GB. Now if they are going to get closer to the hi res textures console and PC games have with the iPhone 5S you will see game file sizes increase drastically making another point for higher capacity iPhones. I don't think this will be an issue this year though. The people who call iPhone games console quality probably don't play very many console games.
  • Lol yeah console games are now fully loaded on the ps4 and can be over 40gb. Let's see the iPhone handle that.
  • I usually get the 32 GB sweet spot for my iPhone but this year my concern is with the new 64 bit Code Apps coming out and if they will be larger or more bloated and thus take up more space. Does anyone know if this is a valid concern? This was barely touched on in the article.Anyway, for this reason, 64 bit apps, I may go for the 64 GB phone. And I can't see or understand anyone doing 16 GB unless they just make phone calls. And that burst mode for the camera may help fill up memory even faster. Anyway, 64 bit code so I make go for the 64 GB phone. I wish Apple would finally relent and manufacture a phone with SD card options I mean really it is about time. Lastly, does anyone know how big IOS 7 is or in other words how much memory the OS takes up as compared to IOS 6? Thanks.
  • Great stuff, thanks so much for the detailed info, but I think reading this article is going to make me spend another 100 bucks. Although, having an iPad I could leave most of my games there, specially the big ones, and get the 16 GB phone to take pictures and some light apps and games of course. I'm not worried about the videos, I don't see myself watching many of them on such tiny screen. Cloud storage might help with media but it won't help if you have lots of apps and games. Still can't decide myself, time will tell... and money too.
  • Dear Georgia,
    I have read your article, but I still could not solve my prblem.
    I need you kindly to suggest me which memory is suitable for me according to my needs:
    - I shoot high quality photos and each time I maybe shoot between 300-400 photos.
    - I do not shoot film longer than 15 mins.
    - I do not play games
    - I do not store more than 2 or 3 gigs of music. I usually listen to radio
    - I am interested to try different apps but at the end I will keep only the good ones and delete the other and I do not store lots of applications
    - I usually do not store my datas locally. Only those datas which I need daily
    - I usually want to have 1 or 2 movies on my device to watch but I will substitute them after watching and I do not store the previous ones Regarding these conditions which storage size you suggest me. I am too worried about lack of space when I am taking photos because I am going to use my device both for daily life and my research. With so thanks,
  • You can watch a movie without downloading it. On ios 7 all my movies and tv shows are already on my ipad. They don't take up any space and I can stream them without downloading. This works perfectly for me as I hardly use the 4g on my ipad air. That's why I only chose 16gb. Had the ipad 2 for two years and I never got below 3gb. Plus I have a lot of games too.
    I use icloud for all my game data too. So if I delete a game I can come back and play where I left off.
  • Isn't the only issue that to stream you need to have a data connection. So if you're on wifi all the time, its probably not an issue. But if you're wanting to listen to your music in the car or watch a movie at the park, you may want it on your device. Sadly Apple is overcharging so much for storage but then they overcharge for pretty much everything and people buy it
  • Can you please kindly suggest to me how much storage I should get
    I have 62GB of TV Shows, 15GB of Movies, 5GB of Music all in iTunes. I am about to upgrade from my iPhone 4S 16GB and I was wondering whether to get the 32GB or 64GB.
    I have no desire to fit ALL of my videos on there, but at least some of them.
  • Well you have to decide what you want to keep on your phone. I don't think anyone can tell you that. You don't have to keep everything on your device and can switch them out. (or you can order a phone with a SIM card where you can put in a 64gb cheap card in addition to the on board storage ala Samsung Galaxy) Do you want to keep 32gb or 64gb worth of stuff? DO you need all those TV shows on your phone all the time? You probably don't if you've watched them.
  • The other issue is data. If you have items in the cloud, don't you have to be attached to data to use them? If you're not near wifi, that could be a problem for most people who don't have unlimited data. Apple though gouges on storage; Google is only charging $50 for 16 to 32gb on their Nexus 5. Im trying to figure out…I may try an iPhone in 2014-15 if they make some changes (bigger screen, design, 3rd party keyboard like Swiftkey) but right now planning on a Nexus to go with my $45 ATT LTE prepaid plan. Ive never had my music on my phone as I have it on a separate iPad classic so I don't have to stream. I just checked; I have 30gb of music…But don't know if photos with an 8mp camera vs the 5mp Ive been using will take up a lot of space. I don't download movies or anything to watch on a phone