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Early adopters are disappointed that the 16GB version of Samsung's latest flagship phone only has around 8GB of usable storage once the device's operating system and pre-installed apps are taken into account.
CNET, the first publication to pick up on user complaints, performed a factory reset on a Samsung Galaxy SIV to check available space and found that only 8.49GB of its 16GB memory could be used for storing additional apps or multimedia content.
When asked about this lack of space, Samsung pointed to the fact that the phone has an SD Card slot and by purchasing a card, an SIV owner could increase available storage by a further 64GB. "For the Galaxy SIV 16GB model, approximately 6.85GB occupies [the] system part of internal memory, which is 1GB bigger than that of the Galaxy S3, in order to provide [a] high resolution display and more powerful features to our consumers. To offer the ultimate mobile experience to our users, Samsung provides [a] microSD slot on Galaxy S4 for extension of memory."
However, Samsung's statement doesn't address the facts that apps cannot be saved to an SD card but need to be installed on the phone's internal memory and that with each month that passes, average app size increases.
The trend for ever-growing apps was first noted by ABI Research, which published its first report on the subject back in October 2012. It noted that between March and October the average app had grown by 16 percent in size to 23MB. However, within gaming, the average app had swollen by a massive 42 percent to 60MB. The trend was being driven by two factors -- firstly that phones were moving from small screen low-resolution to large screen HD displays; and secondly that tablets were beginning to spike in popularity, leading many developers to bundle smartphone and tablet-specific code in one app for easier discovery within Apple's App Store or on Google Play.
"Consumers with 16GB devices are likely to become more conscious about what apps to keep and what to uninstall, so the developers' bar to impress will be getting even higher than it is now. This could also speed up the adoption of the mobile cloud as a storage remedy quite significantly," said ABI senior analyst Aapo Markkanen of the findings at the time.
Fast forward to today, the trend continues. According to Markkanen the average iPhone app grew by a further 11 percent (or 30% for games) between October and January alone and similar growth has been noticed on Google Play too.
"I think that what we're witnessing is a major shift of app developers -- and especially game developers -- starting to treat the tablet as the primary form factor. The tablet's larger screen size is pushing the graphics to become richer and the games' storylines more complex -- all of which results then in larger file sizes," he says of the new data.
It is worth pointing out that the disparity between advertised and actual storage space is not a Samsung-only issue; all companies from Apple to ZTE list the unformatted size of their devices' internal storage in publicity materials. For example the 16GB iPhone 5 only has around 12BG of available storage once its operating system and built-in apps are taken into account. However, in the case of Samsung, what appears to have owners agitated is the size of the disparity, as 50 percent of available storage has been taken up with the OS and with a host of apps and features that many owners will never use but can't delete.