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Is 128GB of Storage Enough for an iPhone in 2023?

As an Apple technology expert who‘s been through many iPhone upgrade cycles, I often get asked – is buying the 128GB version enough? Or should you pay extra for 256GB or more?

With camera sensors continuing to gain megapixels, 4K video recording now standard, and app file sizes steadily increasing, that logistical question is only getting harder to answer.

In this in-depth guide, I’ll cover how storage needs are evolving long-term and equip you with the knowledge needed to make the right iPhone storage capacity decision now and years down the road.

Average Photo Sizes Are Ballooning

Today‘s phones capture photos with way more detail than those from, say, a decade ago when Apple‘s devices topped out at 8MP. Fast forward to now with 48MP quad camera arrays.

iPhone Generation Main Camera MP Avg Photo Size (JPG)
iPhone 4/4S 8MP 2MB
iPhone 6/6S 12MP 3MB
iPhone 12 Pro 12MP 4MB
iPhone 14 Pro 48MP 8-10MB*

*Smart HDR increases average JPG size on 48MP shots

While megapixels have increased 6X from early iPhones, average photo sizes have ballooned nearly 5X! And that‘s just with JPG compression enabled.

Apple‘s new ProRAW capture format which stores full uncompressed image data can result in truly colossal 75-80MB files from 48MP cameras!

Clearly as megapixels and advanced camera processing continue improving, photos will just keep occupying more and more of our iPhones‘ precious flash memory.

4K Rules Video Recording

Similarly on the video side, 1080p HD used to be perfectly satisfactory. But now everyone‘s recording in stunning 4K which quadruple the pixels and file sizes:

Video Format Avg. Bitrate Storage per Hour
720p HD 2.8 Mbps 1.05GB
1080p HD 8 Mbps 3GB
4K 47 Mbps 17GB
4K HDR 135 Mbps 50GB

Based on these numbers, you can see how a 128GB iPhone that could hold over 40 hours of 720p video can now only store a paltry 2.5 hours of top quality 4K HDR footage!

App File Sizes Increasing Too

It‘s not just your personal media gobbling up extra gigabytes. Apps themselves are getting bloated. Top games like Call of Duty or Genshin Impact can easily occupy over 10GB now.

And the core apps pre-installed by Apple like Messages, Mail, Safari and the system firmware/libraries all steadily grow larger with beefier features added year over year:

iOS Version System Storage Used
iOS 10 7GB
iOS 12 10GB
iOS 14 14GB
iOS 16 18GB

Notice how the operating system itself is eating over 2.5X as much storage as 5 years back! Combined with everything else, this really compounds the crunch on your total available space.

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The Verdict on 128GB iPhones

Given how quickly average photo, video, app, and operating system file sizes are expanding, my recommendation is:

Casual Users – 128GB remains sufficient for light capture and gaming needs as long as you regularly back up photos/videos to the cloud and stream media rather than downloading extensively.

Power Users – Consider 256GB minimum if you record high resolution video, capture in ProRAW format, play immersive high end games, and still want ample future proofing headroom.

Pro Creators – Splurge for 512GB or 1TB models allowing you flexibility to record ProRes video, shoot massive 48MP photos and process them across multiple large creative apps without compromise.

The key is factoring in both your current and anticipated future storage requirements. I hope breaking down those file size growth trends here equips you to make the smartest iPhone capacity investment. Let me know if any other questions!