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How Many GB Do I Need On My Phone?

Phones are getting bigger in more than one sense. Today's cell phone screens are larger than ever, and most smartphones now come with significantly more internal storage, measured in gigabytes (GBs for short). That sounds great – until you realize your storage needs have probably grown as well. Nowadays, we store songs, photos, videos, chunky apps, and more on our phones.

Naturally, this leads to the question, “How many GB do I need on my phone?” 

The short answer is that your phone probably has all the storage you need. If you have a newer model, you likely have at least 128GB. That’s plenty for a casual phone user, but you may need more phone storage if you love to take photos and videos, have lots of different apps, or are a big mobile gamer.

One quick clarification: gigabytes aren’t just a measure of your phone’s internal data; they also measure cellular data. If you’re wondering how much data you need on your wireless plan, we have an article that covers that, too.

In the meantime, we’ll focus on helping you figure out how many gigabytes you need on your new phone — and once you’ve got that decided, we can help you find the best phone deals with our free, unbiased Phone Deal Finder

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What is Phone Storage?

Phone storage means the internal storage capacity available on your smartphone. Gigabytes are the units used to calculate phone storage capacity. More gigabytes mean more room on your phone for apps, photos, videos, music, files, and more. 

If you start running out of storage space, you may not be able to save your favorite memories or important files on your phone. Running out of storage space also can take up too much of your phone's memory, which can make it run slowly.

The amount of gigabytes built into a cell phone ranges from 16GB to 1TB, depending on the brand and model. Premium, top-of-the-line models like the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, for example, come with 512GB out of the box.

Smartphone Storage Space Options

In the good old days of smartphones, like way back in 2009, internal data was considerably limited compared to today’s storage capacity. Cell phones typically came with 16GB or 32GB. 

Today, most standard mobile phones from Apple, Samsung, and Google come with a base storage of at least 128GB. Even budget-friendly phones offer that amount and sometimes more. Manufacturers are increasing storage capacity into newer models boasting up to 512GB, and even 1 terabyte (TB) of internal data. That being said, most people don’t need anywhere near that many gigabytes of phone storage.

How Much Phone Storage Do I Need?

When considering how much storage you need on your cell phone, it’s important to understand what uses up internal data and to what degree. For the average user, somewhere between 128GB and 256GB should be plenty. 

However, if you use your phone for heavy video streaming, saving your own HD videos, or downloading data-sensitive apps, especially high-definition resource-intensive mobile games, something in the 512GB to 1TB range might be a better fit.

Want to know exactly how many photos, videos, apps, and songs you can store with 128GB or 256GB of storage? When we were researching this article, we couldn’t get a definitive answer beyond “it depends.” For example, if you store a photo as a jpeg, that takes less space than raw photo files. Likewise, songs vary in storage size if they’re .wavs, .mp3s, and so on. It’s also worth remembering that the OS will take up storage space on your phone, too.

But we do have the advantage of working in the wireless industry. To get our best guess, we crowdsourced info from our team of employee experts. 

Based on a sampling of phones from Navi team members, we estimate that a smartphone with 128GB of internal storage can hold an average of about:

  • Somewhere between 4,000 and 20,000 photos, depending on their resolution
  • Around 40 hours of HD video at 720p resolution – less at a higher resolution
  • Over 10,000 songs, depending on the format you store them in

Of course, most people don’t only store one kind of media on their phones. A typical breakdown might be something like:

  • 3,000 photos
  • 20 hours of videos
  • A few thousand downloaded songs
  • 20-30 apps
  • With some space left over

A smartphone with 256GB of internal storage can hold about double that since 256GB gives you roughly twice as much storage space as 128GB.

Internal Phone Storage vs External Phone Storage

When trying to figure out how many GB you really need on your phone, it’s helpful to understand the role of internal storage compared to external storage. 

No matter if you’re considering an iPhone or Android device, like a Samsung Galaxy, a mobile phone with more internal storage runs more smoothly, loads apps faster, and can handle multitasking better, like when you’re texting and streaming videos at the same time. Internal storage is also where apps are installed. 

Many apps can only be installed internally, and some require a minimum amount of free space to operate. Without enough internal storage, regardless of the device, you won’t be able to install new apps or update existing ones.

Another part of internal storage that you need to keep in mind is operating system updates. These updates are designed to enhance your phone's functionality, fix bugs, and improve security features. 

However, these updates usually come with a hefty amount of data. If your phone lacks the necessary amount of internal storage, it can run into difficulties when attempting to install these updates. This can end up leading to incomplete installations, system errors, or even failed updates altogether. If your phone has enough internal storage, you’ll never have any issues keeping your phone up to date. 

If you want to save money on a new phone by purchasing a model with less internal storage, you can consider adding external storage, otherwise known as expandable storage.  Expandable storage means that the phone has room for a microSD card, so you can increase the storage space. Not all phones have expandable storage.

External storage allows you to increase your phone’s storage capacity as needed, helping you store photos, videos, music, files, and more so you can free up internal storage space for items that cannot be stored externally like operating system updates.

Both Android and iOS devices come with access to cloud-based storage options. For an Android phone user, Google Cloud storage provides plenty of backup space. For iPhone users, iCloud provides the same kind of storage relief, ensuring that you have the amount of storage you need for photos, videos, and more. These types of expandable external storage options are available for a monthly fee from various providers. 

The benefit of storing media in the cloud is that you can access it from anywhere, on any device – microSD card storage is only accessible on the phone itself unless you remove the card and install it elsewhere.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, how many GB you need on your phone comes down to making sure you understand how your usage habits impact storage capacity. 

If you want to be able to store a gazillion photos, videos, apps, and files locally on your device, or if you’re a serious gamer, you’ll need to consider going with a higher storage amount. Of course, one important factor when deciding how many GB you need on your phone will be the price. That’s where our Phone Deal Finder can help. Answer a few quick questions, and it can show you the best phone deals from top carriers based on your needs – including storage options.

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