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16 GB of storage is just enough

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Editor's Note: Sometimes our debates in the TUAW newsroom get a bit heated. That was the case when Erica Sadun and Mike Wehner faced off about the merits -- or lack thereof -- of 16 GB devices. We decided that the best way to resolve the debate was to let them each write a post. Here's Erica's entry; Mike's will be posted in 30 minutes here on TUAW.

On Friday, I placed an order for my latest new device: a refurbished silver iPad. Shipped, it cost $399 plus tax. Like my previous iPads, I opted for the 16 GB device.

I can't defend the 16 GB line on its merits. It takes a lot of work and overhead to maintain one. You must constantly weed through apps and documents to keep the device streamlined and ready for upgrades. But for many of us, the 16 GB option is the one that allows us to watch our pocketbooks while remaining in the iOS ecosystem.

As anyone who owns a 16 GB unit, I've been subjected to many day-to-day space indignities. Not enough space to sync. Not enough space to update the firmware. Too many photos synced to my stream. Too much music in my library so I cherry-pick my play lists.

Using a space-limited iPad certainly has its downsides but, that said, I use it differently than my iPhone. I read books on my tablet; I listen to music on my phone. I play a lot more games on my iPad; I place phone calls on the iPhone. I spend most of my Twitter time on the iPad and interact nearly exclusively with notes and reminders on my phone.

This difference in usage is reflected in the number of apps I have installed at any time (many on my iPhone, very few on the iPad), as well as the media libraries I have established. Settings > General > Usage tells me that I am using almost 3 GB of precious tablet space just for books compared to just 1 GB for music. On my iPhone, I carry almost no books at all but over 13 GB of music.

Where the 16 GB unit really hurts is with movies. Each movie requires about 1-2 GB of storage on average. That means to watch movies, I have to load them over to the iPad, then watch and delete to make more room for the next one. It's not convenient, but it's doable.

As much as I'd love more onboard storage, the price-to-value ratio just doesn't work out for my family. I'm really glad that Apple continues to offer relatively inexpensive entry models because its space-limited options allow us to be part of this system. We may not be dreaming of the extra management overhead but we're happy to have some really cool Apple kit to take home with us.

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