With iPhone 4′s improved camera and HD video, should I go 32GB? (updated)

by Justin Horn on Jun 11th, 2010 @ 10:45 am

Check out the new post discussing the iPhone 4S photos & videos

UPDATE 6.18.10 Looks like my estimates below were pretty close. Leaked video comes out to 83.4 MB/ min and pictures about 2.6MB. (Read More)

One year ago today, I created a post to help those getting ready to buy the iPhone 3GS decide if going 32GB was worth the extra $100. Today I’m going to ask the same question of the upcoming iPhone 4 using the same template as last year.

The iPhone 3GS at 3MP has an average files size of about 1.3MB. The move to 5MP should make the average size about 2.7MB. So assuming you have 500 pictures on your iPhone the difference between the 3GS and 4 would be about 700 MB, not that big of a deal for that amount of photos. So just like the 3G to 3GS, the improved camera isn’t a reason to grab the 32GB model.

Video recording on the iPhone 3GS is VGA quality, 640 x 480 at 30 frames per second. This is the same as the new front facing camera on the iPhone 4. The calculations are assuming the same 24 bit depth as the previous models.

Using the same formulas as last year to calculate the size in kilobytes (KB) of one frame of uncompressed video:

Frame size K = ( [Pixel Width x Pixel Height x Bit Depth] / 8 ) / 1024

Where 8 represents an 8-bit byte, and 1024 equals the number of bytes per kilobytes.

To determine the file size of one second of uncompressed video, multiply the image size by the number of frames per second (fps).

To determine how compression affects file size, divide the file size by the compression ratio.

Me on the compression ratio last year:

Based on my research I found the compression ratio of standard MPEG-4 is about 30-40:1 and the newer H.264 (or MPEG-4 AVC) which the iPhone uses is about 1.5 – 2x better. For my cacluations below I will use a H.264 compression ratio of 60:1, just about in the middle of what I found.

This 60:1 ratio I calculated last year turns out to be a bit too high when looking at actual videos from the 3GS. Part of this might due to the fact that I’m not calculating the audio portion of the recording, but in practice a compression ratio of 40:1 is very close for the average recording.

NOTE This ratio might be off if the compression algorithm has been stepped up on the iPhone 4 with it’s speedier CPU, but this should be a pretty close estimate.

So let’s recalculate the 3GS size and compare that to the 4. This year let’s take a more moderate 250 mins of video usage vs the 500 I used last year. This would be about 50, 5 minute videos.

UPDATE A lot of comments I’m getting that 250 minutes is a crazy amount for a phone. This is just an example and assumes keeping videos on your camera roll and building them up over time. I know after 6 months or so my camera roll gets filled with hundreds of pictures and lots of videos. So yes, you can download them off the phone at any time, but I like to have videos and pics on my phone to show people. To make it easier to calculate how much you think you will use, I’ve added storage needed for 1 minute. So, for example, if you think you only need 30 mins of video on your iPhone 4 you are looking at: 89 MB * 30 mins…only 2.6 GBs.

iPhone 3GS video size for 250 mins:

( [640 x 480 x 24] / 8 ) / 1024 = 900 KB / frame

900KB/frame x 30 frames/sec = 27000 KB/sec

27000 KB/sec  / 40 compression ratio = 675 KB/sec compressed

675 KB/sec * 250 min * 60 s / min * 1 MB / 1024 KB  * 1GB / 1024 MB = 9.66 GB (39 MB / min)

This seems to be the wrong resolution, see updated version below

iPhone 4 video size for 250 mins:

( [960 x 720 x 24] / 8 ) / 1024 = 2025 KB / frame

2025 KB/frame x 30 frames/sec = 60750 KB/sec

60750 KB/sec  /  40 compression ratio = 1518.75 KB/s compressed

1,518.75 KB/sec compressed * 250 min * 60 s / min * 1 MB / 1024 KB  * 1GB / 1024 MB = 21.73 GB (89 MB / min)

UPDATE In the comments below and elsewhere people have been questioning my use 960 x 720 for the iPhone 4 HD resolution because the standard 720p is 1280×720. I was assuming Apple would stick with the same aspect ratio of the iPhone 3GS for video, 4:3. 720 in 4:3 ratio is 960. The new digital camera still shoots in this 4:3 aspect ratio as seen in the sample pictures on Apple’s website.  So really I think this could go either way, but below I present the amount of storage that would be used if the iPhone 4 were using true 720p HD quality.

UPDATE 2 Watching the demo in the keynote, it looks like the video is in 16:9 aspect ratio.  Guess all my naysayers were correct, but I’m happy to be wrong on this one…I’ll take letterboxed playback on the 1.5 aspect iPhone vs the weird 960 x 720 resolution I was thinking.

iPhone 4 video size for 250 mins if true 720p (1280 x 720):

( [1280 x 720 x 24] / 8 ) / 1024 = 2700 KB / frame

2700 KB/frame x 30 frames/sec = 81000 KB/sec

81000 KB/sec  /  40 compression ratio = 2025 KB/s compressed

2025 KB/sec compressed * 250 min * 60 s / min * 1 MB / 1024 KB  * 1GB / 1024 MB = 28.97 GB (118 MB / min)

If a higher 60:1 compression ratio is used by the more powerfull iPhone 4: 79 MB / min

So as expected more than doubling the resolution more than doubles the size of the video. So with the HD video recording even 64 GB could be a limiting factor. Hey Apple, were is our 64 GB version of the iPhone 4?

So like last year, the jump in the still camera mega pixels won’t affect your space enough for you to warrant an upgrade to 32GB if you are currently happy with your 16GB iPhone, but if you are planning on shooting a decent amount of video…that’s a different story. When you factor in all storage you’re already using for apps, music, and pictures you aren’t left with much. Even with a 32GB model most people won’t be able to hold anything near my calculated 250 mins which would take up about 60% (more like 90% with true 720p) of the total storage. So with this in mind I can’t recommend saving the $100, just go for the 32GB!

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View 24 Comments
Featured post, iPhone, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4


  1. [...] Check out the updated version comparing the 3GS to the iPhone [...]

  2. 2.
  3. [...] vidéos, il faudra choisir le modèle 32GB . Pour d’informations sur les calculs effectués rendez-vous à cette adresse. Visite : 1 Scoop it! Posté par : Chk – 13 juin 2010 – Pas de [...]

  4. 3.
  5. wanzer
    June 13th, 2010 5:17 am

    the 720p resolution is 1280*720 and not 960*720.
    it’s all wrong. and you dont know wich algoritm they use for data compression.

  6. 4.
  7. Justin Horn
    June 13th, 2010 5:47 am

    Can you link me to where it specifies 1280 vs 960 for the iPhone 4? Also, I don’t know what compression they use, that’s why I noted that I was estimating based on the iPhone 3GS compression in real world video averages.

  8. 5.
  9. wanzer
    June 13th, 2010 7:29 am

    It’s just the 720p nature.
    720p = 1280*720 progressive. Not 960*720.
    And I suppose they’ll find a better way to compress, now that with iPhone 4 we have got the same free space as 3Gs but higher needs.

  10. 6.
  11. Justin Horn
    June 13th, 2010 11:33 am

    It will be interesting to see if it records in true 720p. I still think it will record to the aspect ratio (1.33) of the phone, same as the iPhone 4 camera app samples found here http://www.apple.com/iphone/features/camera.html

  12. 7.
  13. [...] We don’t yet know exactly how big the iPhone’s 720p HD video will get, but fortunately, someone has done the calculations and the answer seems to be that you’ll want all the space you can get if you’re [...]

  14. 8.
  15. Justin Horn
    June 13th, 2010 4:18 pm

    Wanzer, updated the post, looks like you were correct after reviewing the keynote.

  16. 9.
  17. [...] camera aanwezig, die foto’s met een omvang van zo’n 2,7 MB oplevert. De website When Will Apple rekende het verder door en concludeerde dat als je 500 foto’s maakt er niet veel reden tot [...]

  18. 10.
  19. [...] Justin Horn του whenwillapple.com έκανε τους υπολογισμούς και μας [...]

  20. 11.
  21. tsak4
    June 13th, 2010 6:01 pm

    the difference: 3 MP -> 1,3 MB * 500 photos = 650 MB
    5 MP -> 2.7 MB * 500 photos = 1350 MB
    so 700 MB more…

  22. 12.
  23. Justin Horn
    June 13th, 2010 6:40 pm

    @task4 Thanks for the heads up, corrected it. That’s what I get for copy pasting from last year’s article.

  24. 13.
  25. [...] [...]

  26. 14.
  27. [...] We don’t yet know exactly how big the iPhone’s 720p HD video will get, but fortunately, someone has done the calculations and the answer seems to be that you’ll want all the space you can get if you’re [...]

  28. 15.
  29. 16GB or 32GB? « All Things Tarun
    June 15th, 2010 5:00 pm

    [...] about 1MB per picture. So, tough to say whether I made the right choice by reserving a 16GB. One guy did an analysis on the idea, and here is his conclusion: So like last year, the jump in the still camera mega pixels won’t [...]

  30. 16.
  31. [...] With iPhone 4's improved camera and HD video, should I go 32GB? (updated) [...]

  32. 17.
  33. [...] first tried to estimate the iPhone 4 HD video file size here and came up with a range of 79-118 MB / min depending on a compression ratio of 40:1 to 60:1. Then [...]

  34. 18.
  35. Ashton Johnson
    July 24th, 2010 10:15 am

    It is funny how many times I have had this debate over iPods, iPhones, and iPads. I tend to lean toward the smaller because I don’t shoot or store many videos and I do not have a music collection as big as most it seems.

  36. 19.
  37. Joe
    July 26th, 2010 7:55 am

    It’s 77 MB per minute.
    That’s exactly what I got on iPhone 4.

  38. 20.
  39. [...] Justin Horn του whenwillapple.com έκανε τους υπολογισμούς και μας [...]

  40. 21.
  41. [...] year I calculated how much space you need for taking pictures and shooting 720p HD video on the iPhone 4. Now I’m going to revisit this with the iPhone 4S, which takes the camera to the next [...]

  42. 22.
  43. iphone 16gb
    October 15th, 2011 1:02 pm

    If you really love taking pictures and recording video, you will need that much memory to enjoy the new improved camera of iPhone 4s.

  44. 23.
  45. 10 Reasons You Shouldn't Buy The iPhone 3GS
    December 12th, 2011 4:17 pm

    [...] 1 GB of storage easily. If you shoot video, the 8GB iPhone 4S would top out long before you could shoot 50, 5-minute videos. This won’t be a big deal for everyone, but it’s another reason you would be well [...]

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  47. mobi ritz
    June 30th, 2013 1:28 pm

    Full and informative details here.

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