[Streaming Isn't The Solution]

So, a lot of people have been complaining about the small(-ish) amount of storage on the Nexus 4 and lack of a memory card slot. Other people subsequently argue that streaming is the answer and nobody should be complaining about the storage size. I wanted to explain a perspective that too few people seem to be able to communicate. Hopefully this gets re-shared a bit and people can see why there are valid and legitimate reasons some people care about something that seems pretty trivial.

Most people insist that they want more space for Music, TV, and Movies. Often they cite tight data caps with expensive overages, and still others bring up the poor cellular coverage on highways and rural areas which become prohibitive to streaming. Some will also bring up special cases like long airplane flights where they've got no data connection. Counter arguments usually call for people to rely on Wifi or simply that people are expecting to do too much with their phones. Rather than focus on the arguments commonly used and easily dismissed by others, let's talk about the other common activities that are reasonable for our phones and streaming isn't the solution.

No, I'm not talking about the latest thing you scooped off of a torrent site, I'm talking about the high def videos you've taken with that wonderful new camera. It's counterintuitive to advertise a great camera and then cripple it's usefulness by limiting the space people have available to store images and video. I've got a few videos from a conference last month, one of them is 2.67 gb for just over 30 minutes (remember, our phones don't do much in the way of live compression). The new Photo Sphere feature is also known to take up a fairly significant amount of space. That 8 MP camera, set to fine detail, is going to eat up a lot of space when every picture taken is about 4 megabytes.

Sure, most games aren't 2-3 gb each, but some are and many are becoming increasingly larger. If you're into racing games, first person shooters, or anything from Gameloft, you're lucky when they come in under a gig. Put two very graphical games onto a phone and the storage will easily drop 3 gb. Add a very common situation that many parents also install a couple of games on their phones for their kids. Most kids games aren't crossing in to the multiple gig territory yet, but 2-3 games that often weigh in at 250-400 mb a piece will add up very fast.

As a bonus point, we should remember that Google recently added the ability to include large data files in the downloads from the Play Store. In full, applications can be as large as 4 gb. I may be talking about the maximum capacity of an app as opposed to real life examples, but companies like Square Enix are famous for pushing capacity and performance limits with their games. Clearly, even Google is anticipating that very large games will become a component of the Android ecosystem.

Hacking and Development
I wouldn't say this is a common use case. As we all know, modding is an activity for the 1% and Google is not particularly concerned with targeting the minority, such as we are. Having said that, there is a compelling argument that needs to be made. App developers actually do need significant amounts of space. Let me explain:

As a developer, one of the things I strive for is to ensure my software functions on as many hardware variants and software versions as possible. It's not an easy thing to cover all of the hardware in the Android ecosystem. Even in the world of iPhone and iPad development, many developers acquire a collection of devices to test on. Most of the major software houses don't bother testing on more than a handful of devices due to the costs of buying so many. One of the reasons the Nexus program was first conceived was to give developers a canonical platform to work on with a device that could easily be flashed with multiple versions of the OS as necessary. A common practice for many developers is to set up multiple images on a phone with different versions and configurations to test their apps. These images often amount to 150 mb; small enough by themselves, but they add up very quickly.

One thing that the smartphone movement has inspired was the uprising of the independent developer. Google and Apple have done very well thanks to independent developers, and the relative failure of WIndows Phone 7, WebOS, and the Blackberry Storm can be attributed, in part, to a failure to attract independent developers to their platforms. Android developers are drawn to Nexus devices because of the promise of access to the latest version of the OS and the ability to easily revert to older versions (as far back as the hardware originally supported). Since the Galaxy Nexus, none of the devices in the Nexus program have included slots for expandable storage. The catch to all of this is that most independent developers are required to use their phone to do double duty, both as a primary phone and as a development device. All of the storage demands I listed above are compounded when they have to do multiple backups for every version and configuration they intend to support.

These are just a few of the points that are easy to argue for and don't have a pre-packaged argument to dismiss them. Streaming does nothing to solve these situations, and they are all perfectly reasonable demands for our smartphones.

Why Does Everybody Keep Talking About It?
Nobody is arguing that everybody needs phones with 32 or 64 gb of storage, or that there aren't people who will be perfectly happy with 8 gb phones. The complaints are from people who know that 16 gb of storage is not enough for them. A lot of people really want this exact phone; great hardware, carrier unlocked, zero carrier or OEM branding and bloat, fast updates...The only thing missing is that there is no possible way to achieve more than 16 gb of storage space.

Any other complaint, like the lack of LTE, has reasonable explanations that make sense to most people (once they've thought through it). The thing about built-in storage is that there is no technical reason that 32 gb should be unavailable. A 32 gb model is realistic financially and it's clearly in demand; that has already been demonstrated with the launch of the 32 gb Nexus 7 and the discontinuation of the 8 gb model after just 4 months. The cause for many people's confusion (and resulting complaints) stems from an inconsistency; there is only a single Nexus device sold without a 32 gb version.

The thing that strikes up so much ire for some people is that this is the only phone in the lineup. Unlike the tablets, this is the single device that people consider a necessary part of their lives and business. Thanks to this miniature computer, we can leave our house with nothing more than a set of keys and a wallet and remain completely connected and capable throughout the day. Our smartphone will even replace the wallet and keys soon enough. For the one device that has become so necessary, it's not hard to imagine that people want to make sure that everything they need to carry with them is truly available, imune of wireless interruption.

The persistent questions and complaints don't happen because everybody is angry at Google. People just can't see why a product they want isn't being offered. They know it's no mystery to Google that the product is desired and Google isn't responding. I think it's fair to say, a lot of people would stop asking if somebody from Google stepped out and said, "We want you to pay to stream stuff from us, end of story". It might anger some people, but that would end most of the discussion, forgotten a day later. If that's not the reason, then so be it, let there be another reason. People just want a story for the inconsistencies so they don't feel like they were an oversight.

Given the fervor with which many people have spoken out, it could be said that a lot of people are just trying to give product feedback. Imagine if you owned a company, would you want people to quietly buy somebody else's product, or would you want them to tell you that they will happily pay more to buy your product with a single (cheap) modification? Most companies have to spend a fortune in customer satisfaction surveys and market research to get what people are (overly) happy to share with Google for free.

My Personal Comments and Why I'm Writing This
I'm not writing this to explain my own feelings. I really wrote this whole thing because I can see a lot of other people are trying to say it, but most of them don't know how to make their argument compelling. It frustrates me to see a lot of other people insist that everybody stop complaining and "get over it", especially since so many of those people are the ones who proudly state that they will buy the smallest storage they can get. It's like demanding that all of the homes on the same block be painted the same color when you're color-blind.

I will be ordering a 16 gb Nexus 4, of that I'm certain. I waited through the Galaxy Nexus because of it's shortcomings and my current phone is too old to really push through another year. I rarely fill up the storage on my phone, but it does happen from time to time. I will probably not be one of those people who is constantly at odds with the 14 gb of usable space on the Nexus 4...However, let me be clear, I would have happily paid $50 more to avoid having to worry about something as trivial as storage space in the future.
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