It’s an exciting time for Apple fans, and the community here at the iPhone 5 News Blog is buzzing with great questions and comments about the debate between Verizon and AT&T service, as well as all of the exciting rumors surrounding the release date and features for the iPhone 5. The questions and ideas of our readers here are inspiration enough to write new iPhone 5-related posts.
For example, a commenter to one of my recent blog posts asks:
What about a 64GB iPhone 5? What had been heard about that? My main reason for not getting an iPhone 4, even on Verizon, is the 32gb limit. I have a third generation iPod Touch with 64gb, which has met my needs to store my audio and video files. But 32gb is too limiting for me.
iPhone 5 definitely needs to be faster, but am I the only one who wants a larger capacity? You can own an iPod Touch and store 64GB of audio on it, but then you cannot store the same audio, etc. on your iPhone.
I think that’s a conundrum many are pondering as we wait for the iPhone 5. The short answer is that I think 64 GB iPhones, and even 128 GB iPhones, will be inevitable at some point – the operative question is: “When?”
Will the iPhone 5 Have 64 GBs of Storage?
While a definitive answer to this question will not likely come until the day Apple unveils the iPhone 5, I don’t think an iPhone 5 with 64 GB capacity is a terribly unlikely expectation for an extra cost option, although I don’t believe it’s a slam dunk at this point, either.
Possible impediments to 64 GB capacity being offered might include: 1) a physical space limitation inside the iPhone 5 enclosure, and 2) Flash memory supply availability.
Diminishment of the size of flash memory modules is ongoing, so that one is probably not a major roadblock. However, world NAND Flash memory production capacity is pretty much running at capacity limits these days, and Apple will not want to promise a 64 GB capacity version of a high-volume product like the iPhone 5 will be and then have problems satisfying demand.
A recent Seagate Point of View white paper on the topic of Flash memory notes that in 2010 the entire NAND flash memory industry had only enough installed capacity to produce just over 11 exabytes of storage, with more than 10 exabytes (93%) of that installed in consumer devices like smartphones, tablets and SD cards.
The good news is that capacity is being ramped up, with NAND flash memory production capacity forecast to nearly double to 21exabytes in 2011 (an impressive 82% increase), with some 91% destined for use in smartphones and other consumer devices — most of the the rest to laptop computers. Increased production capacity should also ease pricing somewhat.
However, the Seagate paper cautions that that the cost to build a facility capable of producing 3.75 exabytes of non- volatile NAND flash memory is $10 billion, and that the minimum commitment for any significant increase in NAND production will take two to three years to ramp to full production, and that with the rapid expansion of the came-out-of-nowhere tablet computer sector and also nowhere near saturated smartphone market, the vast majority of new NAND production capacity will go to these consumer devices, the yawning gulf between NAND flash memory production capacity and demand mobile storage will continue to widen in Seagate’s estimation, although it should be noted that Seagate specializes in manufacture of conventional hard disk drives.
The Bottom Line for 64 GB Storage in the iPhone 5
It’s always easy for us consumers to simply “wish” for increased storage, memory, speed, and other performance-related features to be included in the iPhone 5. And if we don’t get them, that will be an easy and obvious source of consternation for us all: commenters and tech writers alike will freely and loudly complain about what we see as “missing ingredients” for the iPhone 5.
But as you can see, there’s more to this decision than Steve Jobs simply saying, “beef up the storage for the iPhone 5.” Cost, production, manufacturing, and technological considerations all have to be considered before adding components like increased NAND flash memory production.
That being said, Apple may be able to conjure up some magic and grant people’s wish for more storage. We’ll just have to wait and see on this one, but don’t give up hope.
Charles W. Moore is a columnist for PBCentral and Applelinks, Appletell, and LowEndMac, and an exclusive iPhone news contributor for the iPhone 5 News Blog.