Phil Schiller explains 16GB iPhones, MacBooks with one USB port, design vs. battery life

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Phil Schiller answers some of our biggest questions about Apple products.
Phil Schiller answers some of our biggest questions about Apple products.
Photo: Apple

Why does the latest iPhone still ship with just 16GB of storage as standard? Why does the new MacBook have only one USB port? Why does Apple make devices thinner and thinner rather than adding bigger batteries?

At Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco this week, marketing chief Phil Schiller sat down with The Talk Show to address some of these questions.

During the live episode of The Talk Show, which is hosted by Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, Schiller was answered one of the questions we’ve all been asking every September for the past couple of years: Why does the base model iPhone still have just 16GB of storage?

With Retina displays now commonplace alongside cutting-edge processors that can push even greater graphics, everyone wants to pack high-end games, HD video, and all their favorite albums onto their iPhone. But that’s not possible with a 16GB device.

Schiller believes, however, that we no longer need vast amounts of local storage as everything moves to the cloud.

“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,” he said.

Schiller added that the savings made on storage can go toward improving the iPhone’s camera and other features.

It’s certainly true that cloud-based storage services are becoming increasingly popular, and we’re sending more data to the cloud. But there are certain things we can’t send to the cloud yet, like movies we want to watch on a plane, or apps and games — which can now be up to 4GB in size.

Rumor has it, however, that Apple will finally ditch 16GB of storage with the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus this year and make 32GB the minimum. But will it make the iPhone thicker to make room for a bigger battery?

No. Although some fans criticized Apple for making the latest iPhones even thinner and not making big improvements to battery life, Schiller says it isn’t all about creating a pretty product; it’s about finding the right balance.

“If you want a product that’s thicker with a bigger battery it’s also heavier, more costly, takes longer to charge,” he said. “We model every thickness, every size, every weight and try to figure out what the tradeoffs are. I think we’ve made great choices there.”

This is also the reason why the new, ultraportable MacBook has only one USB-C port, Schiller said. He also acknowledged that the device isn’t for everyone, but noted that Apple has “to take risks,” and deliver innovative products that push us forward.

“If all we do is an incremental, slight change, where’s the excitement?”

The latest episode of The Talk Show podcast hasn’t been posted yet — but The Verge was there to document the interview as it was recorded, and they say it’s well worth tuning into, so be on the lookout for it.