The Right iPhone 4S and Memory Amount - dummies

The Right iPhone 4S and Memory Amount

iPhones don’t come in different sizes. In fact, if you pick up an iPhone 4 and 4S, you’re not likely to be able to tell one model from another, except that some are black and some are white. (iPhone 3GS is a little longer and has slightly rounded edges, but the later phones are identical.) Their differences are primarily under the hood.


iPhone 4S models have two variations:

  • Black or white

  • Amount of built-in memory ranging from 16GB to 64GB

Your options in the first bullet point are pretty black and white, but you might be confused about the other one.

The following table gives you a quick comparison of iPhone 3GS, 4, and 4S. All costs are as of the time this article was written.

iPhone Model Comparison
Model Memory Cost (with a 2-Year Contract) Support for FaceTime Siri Carriers
3GS 8GB Free No No AT&T
4 8GB $99 Yes No AT&T, Verizon, Sprint
4S 16–64 GB $199–$399 Yes Yes AT&T, Verizon, Sprint

Memory is a measure of how much information — for example, movies, photos, and software applications (apps) — you can store on a computing device. Memory can also affect your iPhone’s performance when handling tasks such as streaming favorite TV shows from the World Wide Web or downloading music.

Streaming refers to watching video content from the web (or from other devices) rather than playing a file stored on your computing device. You can enjoy a lot of material online without ever downloading its full content to your hard drive — and given that every iPhone model has a relatively small amount of memory, that’s not a bad idea.

Your memory options with an iPhone are 8G, or 16, 32, or 64 gigabytes (GB) (new with iPhone 4S). You must choose the right amount of memory because you can’t open the unit and add memory, as you usually can with a desktop computer. However, Apple has thoughtfully provided iCloud, a new service you can use to back up content to the Internet.

So how much memory is enough for your iPhone? Here’s a rule of thumb: If you like lots of media, such as movies or TV shows, you might need 64GB.

For most people who manage a reasonable number of photos, download some music, and watch heavy-duty media such as movies online, 32GB is probably sufficient. If you simply want to check e-mail, browse the web, and write short notes to yourself, 16GB might be enough.

Do you have a clue how big a gigabyte (GB) is? Consider this: Just about any computer you buy today comes with a minimum of 250GB of storage. Computers have to tackle larger tasks than iPhones do, so that number makes sense.

The iPhone, which uses a technology called flash for memory storage, is meant (to a great extent) to help you experience online media and e-mail; it doesn’t have to store much and in fact pulls lots of content from online. In the world of memory, 16GB for any kind of storage is puny if you keep lots of content and graphics on the device.

What’s the price for larger memory? For the iPhone 4S, a 16GB unit costs $199 with a two-year contract; 32GB jumps the price to $299; and 64GB adds another $100, setting you back a whopping $399.