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What iPhone 5 Size Should I Buy?



When buying the iPhone 5 there are a lot of options to consider. After you figure out which carrier to use you have to decide how much storage space the new iPhone will need, and the answer will vary by person.

Like the iPhone 4S before it, the iPhone 5 comes in three different storage models: a 16GB model for $199, a 32GB model for $299, and a 64GB model for $399. The prices are the same as last year.

The size is important to consider largely because there’s no Micro SD card slot or any other way to expand the storage space on the iPhone.

iphone 5 front and back

What Takes Up Space?

A lot of the space of your iPhone 5 is taken up by media, whether it be music, movies, apps, or photos.

iPhone 5 Size Apps

Apps take up significant space.


Apple lists the size of apps in the App Store, but some apps are actually larger once they’re installed. Games like Horn are big offenders in this, the App Store lists Horn as 871MB, but the game actually takes up 1.8GB of storage space on the iPhone. With a few more games like Infinity Blade II or the upcoming Real Racing 3, apps can end up taking up a lot of space if you’re not careful.


Movies, especially HD movies, also take up a lot of space. This goes for movies from iTunes as well as movies shot with the camera. A two-hour movie can take up several gigabytes of space some as much as 4.1GB, while a 30-minute TV show can take up more than 500MB.

HD movies from the camera app can also eat up data quickly. According to When Will Apple, one minute of 1080p video can take up about 178MB of space, so any user that takes a lot of videos on their phone will use up space quickly.


Individual songs don’t take up nearly as much space as other media, assuming the files aren’t lossless music files, but it adds up quickly. Many users have huge music collections and want their music with them at all times. There are streaming options, but with expensive data plans and their small caps, it’s easier to just store the files locally unless you have a grandfathered unlimited plan, or you choose Sprint.


Photos also don’t take up as much space, but add up relatively quickly. Photos taken with the iPhone 5 can take up about 2 or 3MB each. Users that take a lot of photos for Facebook of Instagram might find that troubling. Over the lifetime of my iPhone 4S I’ve taken a total of 906 photos which adds up to 1.16GB, which is a significant portion of the smaller 16GB model. GottaBeMobile Editor Josh Smith is carrying around over 3,000 photos and videos that use 19.5GB of space, illustrating how different usage scenarios are.

Which Size iPhone 5 Should I Buy?

Based on how much media users store on their device the iPhone 5 size they need will vary. Hopefully these use cases will help you determine what size iPhone 5 you need.

What size iPhone 5 should i Buy

How to pick the right iPhone 5 Size.

Basic User: 16GB

Although Apple says the average user has 100 apps on their iPhone, we doubt those apps are huge 3D games that require a lot of space. The average user who only has a few apps, or a number of small apps, and rarely listens to music on their iPhone won’t need that much space. The perfect example is an older user who uses the iPhone mostly as a feature phone with few extra bells and whistles (and maybe some apps).

Heavy Streamer: 16GB

This is the person who uses Spotify or Rdio as their main source of music, or who stores all their music in iTunes Match instead of on the phone. They use Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu Plus for video. This user probably also has an unlimited data plan, or doesn’t care about data caps. They can use what storage space they have for apps, photos, and video from the camera and they likely won’t have to worry about space.

Moderate User: 32GB

The moderate user doesn’t like to stream media, or is very conscious about their data caps. They might have a few movies and games on their phone, as well as significant portion of their music library. They need 32GB to have the extra space for photos, videos, and more apps.

With a few games and 15GB of music, a moderate user will still have plenty of space left for photos, videos, and just more media in general.

Power User/User Who Wants Everything Local: 64GB

This is the user who wants most, if not all of their iTunes music library on their device, along with a number of movies, TV shows, and 3D games. This user doesn’t want to run the risk on not having something when they want it, and they probably prefer to have media local instead of streaming.

A power user is also someone who will take a lot of photos and video with their iPhone 5. This is for amateur photographers and videographers who use their iPhone for their work/hobby.

Which iPhone 5 Sizes Am I Buying?

I will likely purchase either a 32GB or 64GB iPhone 5 for myself. I currently use a 16GB iPhone 4S, but even with music streaming services I’m finding I want more storage space for what music I do store on my iPhone. Apple will finally stream music via iTunes Match in iOS 6, but that’s not helpful while I’m in a subway or somewhere else where I can’t get data connection.

I also need the extra storage space for apps and games. My 139 apps take up 6.7GB of space on my iPhone, and it’d be nice if that represented a lower percentage of the overall space.

Read: iPhone 5 Which Carrier is Best AT&T, Verizon or Sprint?

My fiancée will likely get the 32GB model which is what she has with the iPhone 4. She needs the space to store about 15GB of her music collection as well as a few apps and photos. She also has a number of video podcasts on her iPhone, which take up a lot of space. For her, the 16GB model is too small, but 64GB is simply too large.

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  1. tufuygh

    09/13/2012 at 2:00 pm

    no sd card buhahaha
    pay a lot if you want to have an apple ;P

  2. paul

    09/14/2012 at 10:21 am

    You are way off on your storage estimate for 1080 video. Try 10.4 GB for 1 hour. This blog has much better recommendation on what size iPhone 4S or 5 to buy:

  3. Maria

    12/03/2012 at 5:49 am

    When your fiancee becomes your wife, and then a mother (?) she may find she needs 64GB to video and photograph her little darling’s every move….that’s why I’m getting an iphone!

  4. Annonymus

    12/12/2012 at 5:47 am


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