It seems a few people have decided to sue Apple over their new iOS 8 devices. The claim is that customers are not getting the storage space advertised. The conspiracy is that Apple does this on purpose to get people to pay for cloud storage. The plaintiffs are about to get a hard lesson in how computers work and waste a lot of money doing it.
The thing is every electronic device with storage does this. The reason? Some nice marketers wanted to make things easier for you and me.
Humans think in a base 10 number system. That is to say, our numbers only contain 10 possible digits. 0-9. After 9, things reset. 10, 11, 12, and so on.
Computers are binary. They consist of on/off switches for electrical signals. As a result, they only know two digits. 0 and 1. Instead of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. They count 0, 1, 11, 100, 101.
But, due to computers thinking in powers of two, a KB is 1024 bytes (2^10). 1MB is 1,048,576 bytes (1024^2). 1GB is 1,073,741,824 bytes (1024^3).
The solution to these odd numbers was to round things down. 1KB is 1,000 bytes (10^3). 1MB is 1,000,000 (1,000^2) bytes. 1GB is 1,000,000,000 (1000^3). It’s like switching from the imperial system to the metric.
(In reality, 1,000 bytes is a KiB and 1,024 bytes is a KB, but let’s not complicate things.)
The larger a hard drive gets, the bigger the difference you’ll see between them.
Because hard drives follow the base 10 system, you lose a bit of extra space per KB. Manufacturers get rid of those exact numbers on purpose. So you can make easier decisions on storage options. Any hard drive will show a disclaimer for this. (Including the one inside your iPhone.)
Of course, this isn’t the only problem with storage. When it comes to individual manufacturers, each are going to use a different amount. The Apple operating system uses a different amount of space than Android. A phone bought from Verizon will use a different amount of storage than Sprint.
So what does this mean if manufacturers want to give an exact amount of space? First, hard drive creators like SanDisk, WD and others have to switch to a binary system. Something most of their consumers are not familiar with and don’t understand. 16KB would turn to 16.38KB.
Hard drives can’t contain any arbitrary amount of space. They will always contain powers of two due to how the drives work. This means that when Apple chooses a drive for its phones, they have to get the exact storage their OS uses and deduct it
This is impossible out of the gate. The problem is when users choose to update to a new OS. They get to choose which apps they want installed. Such as iTunes or Over-The-Air services. So for every update, Apple needs to calculate the space on the phone and warn the user that it will no longer be available. (Something they already do.)
Ignoring even this, we can take a minimum of 3.1GB. This means that a 16.38GB phone should say it has 13.28GB. Of course, this is only what the service providers should see.
A new Verizon phone uses at least 6.662MB out of the box. Converted to binary, that’s 6.3534MB. That’s not including default apps such as NFL Mobile. So now our 16.38GB phone should say it has 13.274GB.
Keep in mind that the Verizon phone I looked at is an Android. Android and Apple use different programming languages. The storage will vary between the two.
Also, note that as you use your phone, saved data from apps start to build up. The Facebook app, for example may advertise that it’s 130MB (on Android) but it collects data. One day of use can mean up to 10MB.
Should app stores make apps advertise the most data they’ll hold? What about voice recording software that has no limit?
This Is a Mess
We’re getting away from the point. This lawsuit says Apple should advertise in a more direct way. They should say what’s available to the customer. The question is, “Which customer?”
Customers who install the greatest amount of options and use the most Apple services? Customers that use the service provider that requires the most storage?
If they were to advertise worst case scenario, isn’t that dishonest to the average? Better yet, are they being dishonest now?
As I’ve shown, hard drives are clear about the conversion from a base two system to a base ten. When you update your phone, it’s clear about how much space you’ll need. And it’s near impossible to get an exact number for every phone.
Do the plaintiffs expect stores to go through their entire stock? Checking and re-labeling how much space is on each phone? What happens when Apple updates while you’re shopping? Is there legal responsibility then?
In fact, are the plaintiffs sure that this is what they want? Advertised storages like 13.274GB? Which wouldn’t even then be exact?
Or can we agree that when a device advertised as 16GB will only have around that? Nobody complains that a 16oz bag of doesn’t Doritos hold the same amount of chips. So why complain when a 16GB hard drive doesn’t give you the user the same amount of bytes? (Pun intended.)
Advertised storage is to tell what the size of the hard drive is. It’s not to tell how much storage the end user gets. If you buy a 16GB device over an 8GB one, you’ll be sure to be getting more. Know what you need with the easy numbers provided. There’s no point in trying to find out the exact amount of storage you need. I guarantee you’ll never be able to figure it out.
If you need photo storage, Amazon CloudDrive offers free unlimited storage for all photos for prime members. CloudDrive, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and iCloud all offer reasonable amounts of free storage.
If you have Office 365, SkyDrive provides unlimited storage period.
If you’re a heavy user, Amazon AWS provides great options at industrial prices. You won’t find anything cheaper than S3’s $0.03/GB.
As for Apple advertising paid cloud services. Just because Verizon offers a GPS service, that doesn’t mean you can’t download Google Maps. There’s no conspiracy, just different services.