2013 iPhone buyers guide: How to choose between the 16GB or 32GB iPhone 5c and the 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB iPhone 5s
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
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
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:
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.