How to pick the perfect iPad storage size for you.
The iPads Pro comes with 32 GB, 128 GB, or 256 GB of storage. The iPad mini 4 comes with 16 GB, 64 GB, or 128 GB of storage. The iPad Air 2 comes with 16 GB or 64 GB of storage. The iPad mini comes with 16 GB or 32 GB of storage. Phew! Needless to say, picking between them can be tough, especially since cost increases along with size, and as apps and content get bigger, operating systems are getting more efficient. The last thing you want to do is pay for storage you don't need... aside from running out of storage when you need it most. So, how much iPad storage is enough?
Price per gigabyte breakdowns
The iPad has always been sold at different price points based on the amount of storage capacity it contains. Apple could choose to segment on any spec, but storage size is easy for everyone to understand. More buys you more.
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro breaks down as follows:
- 32 GB - $799 or $24.97 per gigabyte.
- 128 GB - $949 or $7.41 per gigabyte.
- 256 GB - $1099 or $4.39 per gigabyte.
And the 9.7-inch iPad Pro:
- 32 GB - $599 or $18.71 per gigabyte.
- 128 GB - $749 or $5.85 per gigabyte.
- 256 GB - $899 or $3.51 per gigabyte
So, while the 32 GB for iPad Pro is the least expensive, the 256 GB model is the best bang for the buck. If price is a major concern, going from 32 GB to 128 GB quadruples your storage for just $150 and going to 256 GB octuples it for only $300.
For iPad mini 4:
- 16 GB - $399 or $24.93 per gigabyte.
- 64 GB - $499 or $7.80 per gigabyte.
- 128 GB - $599 or $4.68 per gigabyte.
For iPad Air 2:
- 16 GB - $399 or $24.93 per gigabyte.
- 64 GB - $499 or $7.80 per gigabyte.
16 GB might look cheap up front, but it's terrible per gigabyte. 64 GB is the sweet spot and for $100 more, the max for the Air 2. For an extra $100, though, you can octuple your mini storage to 128 GB.
For iPad mini 2:
- 16 GB - $269 or $16.81 per gigabyte.
- 32 GB - $319 or $9.97 per gigabyte.
Here we see the cheapest price of entry isn't the cheapest price per gigabyte. If you have to go low, 32 GB is still a better option.
Local vs. Cloud storage
Apple's iCloud gives you free, unlimited storage for all your iTunes stuff. That includes iBooks, music, movies, TV shows, and apps. You also get 5 GB of additional storage for backups, data, and the new iCloud Photo Library and iCloud Music Library services that keep your personal pictures, videos, and Apple Music in the cloud. You can purchase more iCloud storage if you need it, and Apple has just dropped the prices on all the paid tiers:
- 5 GB - Free
- 50 GB - $0.99/month
- 200 GB - $2.99/month
- 1TB - $9.99/month
iCloud integrates with iOS and OS X and otherwise keeps all your stuff connected and collected. Thanks to some really intelligent nearline management, iCloud can help make sure you're recent and frequently accessed content is instantly available, and your older and infrequently accessed content is only a tap and a download away when you need it.
If you prefer other solutions, there's also built-in storage provider support for Dropbox, One Drive, Google Drive, and more.
The Cloud still can't take the place of lots of on-device storage — you can't shoot 4K video straight to the cloud, for example — but it can help you get the most of what you have.
- If you use a lot of cloud services you may be able to eek the most out of 16 GB.
- If you use a fair amount of cloud services you should be okay with 32 GB or 64 GB.
- If you don't use the cloud, you'll want to stick with 128 GB or 256 GB.
Photos and videos
The current iPhone lineup ranges from 8 megapixels (mp) to 12mp cameras, up to 63 mp panoramas, and up to 1080p 60fps or 4k 30fps video.
That means you can eat through a ton of local storage, very quickly. iCloud Photo Library can help nearline a lot of that for you, but then you have to pay for iCloud Photo Library. Even then, depending how much you capture and how often, it still might not be ideal.
- If you hardly ever shoot photos or video, 16 GB will do you.
- If you don't shoot or edit a lot of photos or video, 32 GB or 64 GB should be fine.
- If you shoot a ton of photos, and especially 4K video, you'll want to consider 128 GB or 256 GB.
iTunes movies can be 1 to 3 GB in size for standard definition. If you prefer watching HD, they can easily eat up 3 to 6 GB of storage. TV shows can be a quarter to half the size of movies, but more than make up for it by the number of episodes typically available. Music files are generally quite small but can add up as well, especially if you have lots and lots of albums you want to keep with you everywhere.
Streaming services like Apple Music, Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Spotify, etc. use some storage for local cache but nothing piles up on your iPhone long term.
- If you stream almost everything, you should be okay with 16 GB.
- If you stream a fair amount, your should be able to make do with 32 GB or 64 GB.
- If you prefer to download your movies, TV Shows, or music, you'll need 128 GB or 256 GB.
Apps and games
Thanks to new technologies like app thinning — asset slicing, on demand resources, and bitcode — Apple and developers can do a lot to keep their apps and games slim and trim. Effectively that means not downloading anything they don't need to download onto your iPhone, unless and until they need to download it.
Still, not every developer is using app thinning yet, and not every app lends itself to significant thinning. So, if you download a ton of games or apps with a lot of graphics and video, you can still use up a lot of storage.
- If you keep extremely light on apps and games, you might eke by on 16 GB.
- If you use a fair amount of apps and games, you'll want to go for at least 32 GB or 64 GB.
- If you want to have tons of apps and games on your iPhone all the time, you'll need 128 GB or 256 GB of storage.
Who should get a 16 GB iPad Air or iPad mini?
Most regular buyers shouldn't get the 16 GB iPad. If you're buying hundreds or thousands for education or enterprise and only need them to access B2B apps and web portals, this is the iPad for you and your legions. If you have an iPhone or Mac you keep most of your stuff on, don't shoot a lot of photos or videos, text rather than picture messages, and stream your videos and music rather than storing, you might be okay with 16 GB.
- If you absolutely can't or don't want to pay a dime more, get a 16 GB iPad. Otherwise, almost everyone will be you'll be much happier with 64 GB.
Who should get a 32 GB iPad Air or iPad Pro?
If you stream more than you store, if you work in an office, studio, or classroom where most of the content is kept on the network, or if your screen is otherwise just a thin client for apps and the web, you'll likely be fine with 32 GB.
- If all you need is a thin-client or light travel machine, 32 GB might well get you by.
Who should get a 64 GB iPad Air 2?
If you want a 9.7-inch iPad, don't want or need a Pro, but still want or need to keep a good amount of content available all the time, you'll want the 64 GB iPad Air 2.
- If you want a good amount of storage but don't need an extreme amount, 64 GB is likely for you.
Who should get a 128 GB iPad mini or iPad Pro?
If you don't want to have to depend on network access, if you want to keep a lot of media, apps, and games local, if you intend to work on high definition video streams or other high-capacity content, you'll at least 128 GB.
- If your workload is pretty much normal, you'll make do with the mainstream machine, and that's 128 GB.
Who should get the 256 GB iPad Pro
If you're heavy into on-the-go computing and want to make sure you have all the things available all the time, you'll need all the storage possible. Right now, that's the all-new 256 GB.
- If you want it, you likely already know it, but I'll say it anyway — if you want the most, that's 256 GB
If you're still not sure what storage size to get, jump into our iPad discussion forums and the best community in mobile will happily help you out!
Also, remember, in most places you'll have time to try out your new iPad and return it if you don't like it. So, make sure, as soon as possible, you put it through realistic paces. Load up all the apps and games you want with you, load up your movies and TV shows, go out and take some photos and shoot some video. Give it a complete and thorough workout. If it feels like you got too much storage or too little, then take your iPad back and exchange it for one that better suits your needs.
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