With the iPhone 4S (and iPhone 5) improved camera and 1080p HD video, should I go 32GB or 64GB?

by Justin Horn on Oct 5th, 2011 @ 10:41 am

UPDATE Although the iPhone 5 camera is improved, the file sizes should be the same. So everything below should apply nicely if you are trying to decide on the iPhone 5 size

UPDATE Results confirmed for 1080p!  Also, please note that the iPhone 4S does not let you record in a 720p mode, it’s 1080p or nothing!

Last 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 level.

The iPhone 4 at 5MP has an average file size of about 1-2MB. Looking at the sample photos on the Apple website the iPhone 4S 8MP camera brings the size up to about 2-3MB. So using the same estimate as last year, storing 500 pictures on your camera roll, it would take about 500 MB more than the iPhone 4. It’s a respectable increase, but that’s based on a lot of photos, so not really worth the upgrade from 32GB to 64GB.

Here is the same formula as last year for calculating 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.

Last year I used a final estimate of 60:1 compression ratio. This turned out to be very close to actual video. My estimate for iPhone 4 720p HD video was 79MB a minute and real videos came out to about 83MB. About 1 MB of this difference could be the audio recording, so only about 3 MB off. This little amount could easily vary depending on what you are recording and how well the compression can work. So I’m going to go with the same 60:1 compression ratio for calculations this year.

iPhone 4S video size per 1 min of video at 1080p (1920 x 1080):

( [1920 x 1080 x 24] / 8 ) / 1024 = 6075 KB / frame

6075 KB/frame x 30 frames/sec = 182250 KB/sec

182250 KB/sec  /  60 compression ratio = 3037.5 KB/s compressed

3037.5 KB/sec compressed * 60 s / min * 1 MB / 1024 KB = 177.98 MB / min

Comparing the iPhone 4S 178 MB / min number to the iPhone 4 calculated number of 79MB / min, the iPhone 4S 1080p video takes up about 2.5 times as much space as the iPhone 4.  So using a more moderate estimate of keeping 60 minutes of video on your camera roll you are looking at 10.4 GB of storage vs 4.6 GB for the iPhone 4, so that can add up quick.

Just like last year, pictures aren’t going to push you over the edge, but the HD video definitely will. You can see from the title of this article, I don’t even consider the 16GB model. If you really want to take pictures and shoot video, you simply can’t get away with 16GB unless you constantly move the data from the phone to computer. Just 60 mins of video alone (no music, pictures, etc.) would take up about 65% of the 16 GB model.

If you plan on shooting a decent amount of video, then there is no doubt you should just spend the extra money and go with the 64GB model. It’s really not that much more when you divide it out over 2 years. At $4 / month, that’s a tiny percentage of your monthly phone bill.

What about iCloud you ask? Yes, you could give iTunes Match a try to save on music storage space, but so far in my testing I don’t think the 3G networks are really ready. Listening in the car the other day, songs would stop and start (almost like buffering), when it had to download songs I didn’t already have on my iPhone 4. Also, it seems once you listen to a song it is then stored on your phone, just as if you synced with iTunes, so this isn’t a streaming service (yet). Over time this could take up more and more space, although this is so new maybe the iPhone will start removing old music download to free up room and just download again when needed.

So can you get away with the 32GB model? Sure, but you’ll be a much happier camper with 64GB.


Follow me on Twitter @justin_horn

View 20 Comments
iOS 5, iPhone, iPhone 4S


  1. [...] Check out the new post discussing the iPhone 4S photos and videos [...]

  2. 2.
  3. iPhone 4S 1080p video recording size
    October 5th, 2011 1:58 pm

    [...] Here is my own blog post with the details if you aren't interested in how I got to that number: With the iPhone 4S improved camera and 1080p HD video, should I go 32GB or 64GB? | When Will Apple? Reply With [...]

  4. 3.
  5. [...] UPDATE Check out the updated version for the iPhone 4S [...]

  6. 4.
  7. [...] I recently predicted the iPhone 4S 1080p video storage “requirements”. [...]

  8. 5.
  9. Math seems a bit off
    October 13th, 2011 4:26 pm

    At 178MB per minute of video, for 60 minutes, is roughly 65% of the 16GB model. So it would stand to reason that at 30 minutes of video it is roughly 33%, not 65% as claimed, but I am sure that is just a mistype.

  10. 6.
  11. Justin Horn
    October 13th, 2011 4:31 pm

    Nice catch. Yeah, not sure why I put 30 mins in the conclusion section when I was using 60 mins everywhere else. This obviously should have also been 60 and not 30. Ooops!

  12. 7.
  13. doubting
    October 19th, 2011 9:06 pm

    excellent – this was just the info I needed to make a decision. Thanks!

  14. 8.
  15. [...] When Will Apple) Köp iPhone 4S utan bindningstid – från 5795 kr. Gratis [...]

  16. 9.
  17. What iPhone 4S Size Should I Buy?
    October 28th, 2011 1:36 pm

    [...] at about 178MB per minute, which means an hour of HD video will clock in around 10GB, based on the calculations from whenwillapple. I am seeing similar numbers on my own iPhone 4S.MusicIf you have a large music library, make note [...]

  18. 10.
  19. Tor
    December 13th, 2011 5:08 pm

    Keep in mind that IOS 5 is taking up 3.8GB of the 16GB leaving only 12.2GB available! Taking this into consideration that 10+GB per hour of 1080p vid is more like 80+% of the phone’s memory….

    Anyone here with a i7 Macbook Pro it’ll take 16GB on RAM. The Older Core 2 Duo runs the 1333MHz that they just put in the update of the Macbook.

  20. 11.
  21. PCFixerGuy
    March 29th, 2012 5:53 pm

    I record some road trips with my iphone mounted to my dash. Takes about 60 minutes worth of Video with my Navigon app loaded on the phone. Takes a little over an hour to transfer from the phone to the PC. Awesome…… But the quality of the camera is riDICULOUS! And to add, it seems there is some sort of CMOS/software steady-cam built into it because it’s still as can be even going over bumps and train tracks or whatever. Shooting myself in the foot for not having the 64GB version though…………… Would be nice to have 6-hour recording capability… along with 8-hour offloading. Blargh

  22. 12.
  23. אני, ענן. | גור טלמור
    August 21st, 2012 7:19 pm

    [...] [...]

  24. 13.
  25. What iPhone 5 Size Should I Buy?
    September 13th, 2012 10:10 am

    [...] movies from the camera app can also eat up data quickly. According to When Will Apple, one minute of 1080p video can take up about 178MB of space, so any user that takes a lot of videos [...]

  26. 14.
  27. [...] Trying to decide what size you need? Well last year I ran the numbers for photos and video size on the iPhone 4S and those still apply to the iPhone 5. Take a look: With the iPhone 4S (and iPhone 5) improved camera and 1080p HD video, should I go 32GB or 64GB? [...]

  28. 15.
  29. [...] on the other hand, can really eat into your storage space. You can assume about 180MB for each minute of HD video you shoot. If you’re an amateur Stanley Kubrick, you might need to upgrade your storage [...]

  30. 16.
  31. [...] on the other hand, can really eat into your storage space. You can assume about 180MB for each minute of HD video you shoot. If you’re an amateur Stanley Kubrick, you might need to upgrade your storage [...]

  32. 17.
  33. [...] collection.Videos, on the other hand, can really eat into your storage space. You can assume about 180MB for each minute of HD video you shoot. If you’re an amateur Stanley Kubrick, you might need to upgrade your storage [...]

  34. 18.
  35. [...] Data from WhenWillApple.com [...]

  36. 19.
  37. […] samé vás čeká při snaze natáčet 1080p video přímo foťákem. 1 minuta může mít kolem 170 MB. Tady vycházím z měření na iPhone S5, takže pro S4 se to může lišit. Ale co to udělá s […]

  38. 20.
  39. […] Some of the calculation metrics were borrowed from a similar calculation made for iPhones. […]

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