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Explained: Why your new 16GB phone has just 12GB storage available!


iphones-i5New Delhi, January 3 – How much storage is there in your phone or computer? The answer to this doesn’t have to be confusing. But unfortunately, it is. You may be buying a phone with 16GB internal storage.

But you will never be able to store 16GB photos on it. In fact, you don’t know how much internal storage your phone has until you buy it, power it on and look into the settings.

Yes, it is not ideal for consumers but that is how it is. There are two reasons why you never get 16GB storage in a 16GB phone. Or 32GB storage in a 32GB phone. Phone makers count storage differently, software does it differently This is a storage problem that afflicts all computing devices.


For some reason, device manufactures count 1GB differently from how it is counted by a machine using intelligent software. This means a 320GB laptop never has 320GB internal storage. A 1TB hard disk never has usable 1TB storage. And a 16GB phone never has 16GB usable space.

This happens because phone makers count 1GB = 1000MBs. But the software treats it differently. It counts 1GB = 1024MBs. So when a phone makers gives you 1GB, you actually get only 1000MBs and not 1024MBs.

Or in other words, device manufacturers use decimal system to measure capacity. But software uses binary units to measure it. Apple explains it best on its website. It says (to avoid lawsuits),”1GB = 1 billion bytes; actual formatted capacity less.”

So how much is the actual formatted capacity of a iPhone, or for that matter any other phone, that has 16GB specified storage?

According to binary method 1GB = 1073741824 bytes. This means if a device like iPhone has 16 billion bytes internal storage, the actual capacity that software has access to is:

16,000,000,000 divided by 1073741824 = 14.9GB So, a 16GB iPhone actually has 14.9GB internal storage. But wait there is more to it. Space used by the operating system The 14.9GB internal storage that you have on your phone has to be shared with the operating system.

The Android or iOS that is installed on your phone is using the same storage. So depending on the size of the OS, you will get less storage than 14.9GB for your photos, music and apps etc.

How less depends on what kind of operating system you are using. For example, on Nexus 5 running Android Lollipop users get access to 12.5GB space so around 2.4GB is taken by the core software installed on the phone.

But because different companies use different (and modified) versions of Android, the size of the core software tends to be different. For example, on Galaxy S5 running Android 4.4 with Samsung’s Touchwiz user interface, the available space is slightly less than 9GB. On the RedMi Note with 8GB internal storage, users get a little over 6GB space.

Considering every phone nowadays uses somewhat modified or different version of core Android software, the available internal storage is different in every phone even if they all have “16GB internal storage”.

So next time you are buying a phone, don’t just go by what is printed on the specification sheet. Even with the same 16GB storage, one phone may give you 12GB of usable while other may limit you to just 9GB.