How Much Phone Storage Do I Need?

Smartphones serve a wide variety of functions that improve your quality of life. All of those functions need adequate phone storage to perform well, and every phone is different regarding how much space it provides.

Knowing how you use your phone and what you use it for the most will help you figure out how much phone storage you need, depending on what fits in your budget. 

It will also be helpful to know what features on your phone are taking up space and how much space they require. Photos, videos, apps, messages and other pieces of data consume your phone’s storage capacity more quickly than you may expect. However, there are many workarounds you can use to maximize the amount of storage your phone can hold.

What Is Internal Phone Storage?

Modern smartphones come with internal and external storage, which is important to note when accounting for memory specifications. The phone’s internal storage is installed by the manufacturer and normally holds 16, 32 or 64 gigabytes (GB). The internal storage is unchangeable by the user, as it is where the operating system, pre-installed apps and other system software are. This area of your phone is also where the data you download will be stored, including apps, messages, photos, music and more.

Some phones have a microSD card, which functions as external storage. Certain phones come with a microSD card already inside, while some only have a microSD card slot, allowing users to add extra storage if they need it. Other phones don’t provide users with the option to add external storage capacity at all. 

How Does Phone Storage Differ From Memory and Random Access Memory (RAM)?

RAM and phone memory are interchangeable and refer to phone storage that only holds data for a short period. RAM comes into play when you open a web browser, your camera app, a ride-sharing app or anything similar. When your device restarts or is turned off, all of that data within your phone’s memory clears out. The goal of RAM is to speed up your system by preventing your internal phone storage from processing those quick and temporary moments of data storage. 

RAM operates more quickly than your internal phone storage, but your smartphone has much less of it. It’s necessary for the convenience and speed that smartphone users have come to know and love from their mobile devices. One thing to note is that it can’t be expanded like your phone’s external storage.

What Are My Phone Storage Options?

You have several options concerning your phone’s storage capacity. With an intangible measurement like gigabytes, it can be difficult to know how much storage to get for your phone. Here is a breakdown of what your options are and what you will get out of each one. 


A 16GB phone won’t give you much freedom regarding what you can store on your phone. However, you can take steps to make this phone storage size work for you, and it will also save you money in the long run. As phones grow technologically, 16GB devices are becoming less and less popular as phones need more space just to run their operating systems. 

Despite this amount of storage being on the low end, it’s definitely possible to live with a 16GB phone. You’ll have to be minimalistic with the data you store on your phone. Cloud services will be your friend in helping you get as much data out of your phone’s memory as possible.


For the casual smartphone user, choosing a phone storage size between 32 and 64GB is advisable. These two sizes allow you to store a decent amount of photos, apps and messages on your phone while still keeping the price reasonably low. If you do tend to take more photos and videos, choosing a 64GB model over 32GB is a good idea. Leaning toward a 64GB device will also prevent you from worrying about system slowdowns when your storage gets close to being full. 


Phones now come with the ability to hold 128 and even 256GB of internal storage, and the number is only getting bigger. These phones are usually on the high end and may require you to consider your budget. However, if you can afford one, having a phone with this much storage will prevent you from ever worrying about how much storage capacity your phone has again.

What Takes up My Phone Storage?

We know that apps, messages, photos, videos and various other types of data take up space on a phone. There are also other factors you should consider that you may not have thought about in the past. 

Your screen resolution takes up space on your phone. If you’re looking to purchase a phone with incredibly high resolution, you may want to invest in more storage. 

If you are into playing video games on your phone, that alone should cause you to invest in more storage. You should also keep in mind that your game’s graphics quality will be affected by the amount of storage you have available.

Using your email on your phone can also take require considerable storage, especially if many emails you send and receive hold attachments. 

Here are specific breakdowns of how much storage certain tasks take up.


A good rule of thumb for storing photos is to save 16GB for every 4,000 photos. This suggestion applies if each photo is 4 megabytes (MB), which is considered a high-quality photo. Photos are a common source of storage troubles for people, but knowing how much storage you may need for the amount of photos you take can help save you a headache down the road.

On iPhones, you can turn on a setting that says “Optimize iPhone Storage,” which will save your full-size media to the cloud and replace it on your device with optimized versions. Using this feature will save internal storage space on your phone.


As phone cameras grow in quality, videos taken with them expand in how much storage they occupy. An hour-long video recorded at 1080p will take up 1.5GB, while the same video length filmed at 2K will take up 3GB. Video files are especially large compared to image files, so it’ll benefit you to be aware of how many videos you record and save.


Music you stream on your phone doesn’t take up space outside of the data and cache of the app you listen with, such as YouTube or Apple Music. Downloading music to your phone is how you begin to lose storage capacity. On Spotify, a popular music streaming service, premium users can choose what quality to download their songs in. If they choose high quality, a single song can take up around 10MB within a device, while a low-quality song would require around 3MB of space. 

If you are rarely without Wi-Fi or data, however, there isn’t much reason to download music, as you can stream it whenever you have a solid connection. 


Apps range vastly in how much storage they occupy, and their sizes can increase after you’ve downloaded and added data to them. This consideration is especially true of social media apps. Given the recent increase in popularity of videos on social media, those apps will only fill more storage space as they continue to advance and as you continue to use them.


If you enjoy having access to movies and episodes of your favorite shows even when you don’t have a connection, you will need to clear out a decent amount of space to accommodate these. On Netflix specifically, a one-hour episode at standard definition consumes 280MB of your phone’s capacity, while a high-definition episode requires 440MB. Keep in mind these numbers add on top of the space the app itself occupies.

How Do I Choose Phone Storage?

Using the numbers above can be helpful if you know how much of those types of data you normally store on your device. If you run out of storage often on your current phone, consider increasing the amount based on how much more data you would store if you were able to. 

The best way to begin choosing the right phone storage for your needs is by evaluating your mobile device habits. What are your favorite things to do that relate to your phone? Are you the photographer of your friend group, or do you love capturing videos of life’s precious moments? Are you a big-time gamer, a lover of movies, an avid traveler or all of the above?

Traveling, in particular, often requires you to use many different apps, including navigation platforms like Google Maps, Waze and Mapquest, and photo and video apps.

Another specific aspect to consider is whether you have another phone. If you use a work phone or some type of secondary device, your main phone will have more space, as you won’t have to use it for emails or other work responsibilities.

By knowing what applications occupy the most space on your phone, you can evaluate your habits more effectively to understand how they impact your phone’s storage capacity.

A good rule of thumb for the casual smartphone user is to choose a phone with 64GB of memory. 

If you are working with a small budget and can’t afford the amount of storage you need on your device, you can use some helpful tools and take certain steps when your phone runs out of storage.

Use a MicroSD Card

If your phone allows it, you can add a microSD card, which functions as external storage that doesn’t affect your phone’s internal storage. A microSD card allows you to transfer data on the card to other devices. If you have an iPhone, this will unfortunately not be an option for you, but this solution is available for most Android phones. 

Take Advantage of Cloud Storage

Cloud storage is a great way to keep your data safely backed up even if you’re not out of storage. If you don’t have enough storage space, backing up your data on the cloud allows you to delete that same information off your device. In turn, getting rid of some of this data will take you closer to your base storage and free up your device for other things. 

Apple devices connect to iCloud, though you could also use other cloud storage services like Google Drive. Since Apple devices don’t have a microSD card slot, using a cloud solution is a helpful option to increase your device’s storage.

Android devices have options like Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive for cloud storage. Similar to iCloud, these services allow you to get to your data from several devices without it taking up much internal storage on any of them.

Free up Space Manually

Though cleaning data out of your phone’s memory may take some time, it will help your phone’s operating system run more smoothly. In your phone’s settings, you’ll see a breakdown of how much storage different types of data use. You can then go through your device and delete what you no longer need — this could be photos, videos, messages, apps or other types of data. Doing this regularly will help your phone run more smoothly. 

You can also free up space by deleting the cache data on various apps and browsers. Do keep in mind that deleting information in your cache will clear out your internet files, but it may not make a big enough change in your storage capacity for you to notice. Deleting your cache data is often as simple as clearing your internet history. Check the settings on the apps you use to see if they have an option to clear their data.

Find the Right Phone for Your Needs With Gazelle

If you’re searching for a phone with adequate storage at an affordable price, we can help you get a good deal that’s worth your money. At Gazelle, we sell used and refurbished devices to give you cost-effective options for purchasing a new phone. We provide you with straightforward device options to fulfill your needs, making the buying process as simple and convenient as possible. 

Gazelle launched in 2007, pioneering the reCommerce industry. We functioned as an online service for the first several years of our company’s life, offering a trade-in service with instant quotes and free shipping. When our business began to grow, we opened a store in 2014 for people just like you to buy certified pre-owned devices. 

Gazelle continues to lead the charge in e-commerce and is the nation’s leading business for consumer electronics trade-ins. When you choose Gazelle, we work closely with you to get you the best outcomes and service possible. 

Ready to buy your next phone at an affordable price? We will get you a phone with certified quality at a reasonable cost. We want you to get the right phone that will work for all your needs, so we provide a 30-day return policy. Have questions about how our service works? Contact us today and we will get back to you as soon as we can with our quick and friendly service.



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