Apple just announced the 4-inch iPhone SE, and once again it's starting with a 16GB version — the same amount of storage space it has been offering since the iPhone 3GS in 2009. In those seven years, apps have gotten bigger, and Apple has given people reasons to fill that storage space up with huge 12-megapixel images and 4K video. We laid out the problem with offering a 16GB iPhone when Apple did it again last year, and in the interim nothing has changed to make it more palatable; at this point it's an embarrassment to offer a device that's crippled by paltry storage space, especially when most people are likely to buy the cheapest model.
So far Apple has shrugged off criticism about its 16GB iPhone models. Last June, SVP Phil Schiller said iCloud was a suitable supplement to local storage. "The belief is more and more as we use iCloud services for documents and our photos and videos and music that perhaps the most price-conscious customers are able to live in an environment where they don't need gobs of local storage because these services are lightening the load." But even if iCloud was a reasonable replacement for local storage, customers would have to rely on cellular data just to retrieve their media. That model of storage is probably especially troublesome for "price-conscious customers" who may not be able to afford speedy mobile data plans.
The 16GB iPhone SE starts at $399, and Apple will offer a 64GB version with four times the storage for $499 — that's $100 more for an increase in flash storage that really costs a very small fraction of the premium price. Maybe Apple wants to pinch a few pennies, or create a distinction in its product lineup that makes its pricier models more attractive. But whatever the reason, there's nothing good about it for Apple's customers.