Some people really want a 128GB iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad, so whenever there's a new product refresh coming up, like the presumed iPhone 5S, rumors of higher storage capacities come with them. This time, however, it's the news that iOS 6.1 beta 5 provides support for larger storage capacities that's sent the rumors running. Neal on Twitter posted:
We should be seeing 128GB iDevices soon. iOS 6.1 beta 5 has 128G system partition key in BuildManifest.
Apple has historically increased storage sizes as a product differentiator, and when the cost of the required NAND flash storage made it cost effective to do so. Going from 64GB to 128GB and keeping the same size device means double density flash.
So, going in reverse order, component prices for high density flash would have to be cheap enough for Apple to maintain current prices and margins. And, Apple would have to be in the right place in their product cycle that it's a feature and not a throw-away. From my iPhone 5 preview:
When it comes to storage, Apple has doubled the maximum available capacity every two years. While the original iPhone shipped with an 8GB maximum, a 16GB version was introduced half a year later. The iPhone 3G also had a 16GB maximum. Both the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 have 32GB maximums. Last year, Apple doubled that again with the iPhone 4S, hitting 64GB. History, never mind pricing and NAND flash chip density, suggests we'll stay at 64GB for the iPhone 5 and for this year. What happens with a supposed iPhone 5S in another year is another story.
Well, it's that year now, so it's safe to add 128GB to your iPhone 5S, iPod touch 5 mark II, iPad 5, and iPad mini 2 speculation lists.
Whether cloud storage, either Apple's own iCloud or service like Dropbox mitigate the product pressure for 128GB remains to be seen. There will always be some people who want as much as they can have locally on their device -- witness the continued existence of the iPod classic. (And, as Mark Gurman once again points out on Twitter, the former could finally send the latter off to outdated iPod retirement land, presumably somewhere in Florida...)
Heck, Apple could probably offer a 256GB device at $999 and find some segment of the market still asking for more.
The only question is how much storage hits the price and sales sweet spot for Apple in 2013. Do you still need or want more, or has the cloud changed your mind?