16GB vs. 32GB vs. 64GB vs. 128GB: Which new iPad Air or Retina iPad mini storage capacity should you get?


One important, but often overlooked factor when buying an iPad is capacity. Many consumers look at the price tag and go with the cheapest iPad model. This type of purchasing decision is especially prevalent with the iPads, which are higher priced than the iPhone. Customers may enjoy the upfront savings that the base 16GB iPad model offers, but this bliss rapidly disappears when they hit their storage limit after a few months of usage. If you are not sure which size iPad you should buy, here’s a guide to help you decide which storage capacity to choose.

Capacity and Pricing

There’s no getting around the fact that if you want additional storage, you have to pay more for that extra space. How much more does this extra capacity cost? Let’s look at the iPad Air as an example. The base 16GB  iPad WiFi-only model will cost you $499. The next tier doubles that storage to 32GB and bumps up the price by $100 to $599. Add another $100 to boost the price to $699 and you can grab a 64GB model. If you really need a lot of space, you can pay $799 for a 128GB model. You can see the pricing on all the iPad Air and Retina iPad mini models below.

Model 16GB 32GB 64GB 128GB
iPad Air (WiFi) $499 $599 $699 $799
iPad Air (WiFi+4G) $629 $729 $829 $929
Retina iPad Mini (WiFi) $399 $499 $599 $699
Retina iPad Mini (WiFi+4G) $529 $629 $729 $829

Though it hurts your wallet, it makes financial sense to spend that extra cash to double your capacity, as long as you need the space. “Do you need that space?” is the critical question that we will attempt to answer below.


Are you a storage hog?

Yes, I’m looking you — you customers who can blow through a GB of storage without blinking an eye. Do you download a lot of music, watch a lot of movies, try out a lot of apps or use your iPad for offline navigation? If you answered yes to one or more of those questions, then you could use the extra capacity afforded in a 32GB or bigger device.

When considering capacity, be realistic about how you will use your iPad. Don’t underestimate your usage when deciding what storage capacity to buy. If you are on the fence, always buy the higher model. I opted for the 16GB version to save money on my previous iPad, and I am always running out of space, especially as time has gone by and apps have gotten larger in size. If you can afford it, spend the money upfront now to get the largest amount of storage that you think you will need. It will save you a lot of headache later on.

Also, don’t forget the iPad is not the iPhone. Unlike the iPhone which is designed to always connect to the Internet via a cellular network, the iPad is often used via WiFi. Most customers buy a WiFi-only model of the iPad because it is cheaper and does not incur a monthly cellular connection fee. If you buy a WiFi-only model, you may need ample storage space to store all your media files. Yes, you can stream music and videos if you are always near a WiFi Internet connection, but those files disappear when you lose that connection and go offline. Buy the storage capacity that’ll allow you to store your music and movie files, so you can enjoy your media library no matter where you are.


Who should buy the 16GB model?

The 16GB iPad is the model that I least recommend as it is easy to reach maximum capacity if you really start using the device. That being said, there are three users who may be able to get by with this lower capacity device.

The 16GB model is good for the casual user who doesn’t store a lot of data on their device. They either don’t download a lot of apps or rely on the cloud to store their music or photos. These customers use the iPad for a few lightweight activities and are not interested in storing half their life in their pocket. They are not avid gamers. The 16GB also is a great starter model for the person who is new to the iOS platform and doesn’t want to spend a lot of money up front. These folks can get by with a smaller device as they typically don’t have a lot of music in iTunes and they don’t have a ton of apps they must have on their device. Just be careful that you aren’t selling yourself short with 16GB. Think about the file sizes of the movies, music and apps that you find interesting and do some quick math.

Besides the casual user and the new user, there is the cloud user. These folks may have a lot of data, but they don’t store it on their device, they store it online. Because most of their data is in the cloud, they may be able to squeeze only the critical files they need on a 16GB model and access the rest over the internet. It’s a gamble to go with the low capacity model, though. These cloud users may still want that extra space to store important items on the iPad for those times when they are not connected to the Internet.


Who should buy the 32GB model?

The 32GB iPad version is the one I recommend for most users. It gives you plenty of space for photos, music,  and apps. Space for games is also available as long as you prefer casual games like Where’s My Water over 3D games like Infinity Blade III.

Besides offering a decent amount of storage, the 32GB is also reasonably priced, it’s only a $100 more than the 16GB, which well worth the extra cash to avoid the hassle of having to constantly delete files when you want to download new content. If you are unsure what capacity to buy, stick to the middle ground and buy the 32GB model. You won’t regret it.


Who should buy the 64GB model?

In my opinion, the 64GB model is an option for gamers and media buffs. These are your heavy music listeners, avid movie watchers, and avid3D gamers who want most, if not all, their content on their device. Get this model if you want space for all your music, a bunch of movies and a lot of 3D games, which can clock in at 1-2GB per download.


Who should buy the 128GB model?

The only exception to this “bigger is better” rule is the 128GB model. The average consumer will not need this much storage in a device. I consider myself a power user and I’ve never come close to filling a 64GB device. In fact, I choose the 32GB model, and I am quite happy with that amount of storage space. The 128GB is available for users who require above and beyond the norm. These are your professional photographers who want a mobile editing solution, a DJ who wants a compact music system, a videographer who wants his videos accessible on the go or a doctor who wants every medical reference right at his fingertips.


Get the most storage you can afford, but don’t go overboard. Though it sounds dreamy, not everyone needs a 128GB device. Look at your past devices, their capacities and how you used them. Assume apps and media files will get bigger, so bump up a level in storage capacity if your current device is almost to the max. If you still have room to spare, then stay with the same size you currently own. If you are new to iOS, stick to the lower capacities (64GB and below) and move upward as you increase your media and app libraries.

If you are planning to buy a new iPad for yourself or a loved one, what size do you plan to buy?

Like this post? Share it!