/ Technology

Is the Samsung Galaxy S4 suffering from memory loss?

Smartphone phone storage compared

Fancy a Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone with 16GB of storage? Then you’ll need to buy a 32GB version. Confused? I was when our tests found that the 16GB Galaxy S4 only has 8.6GB of free storage out of the box.

Why is the Samsung Galaxy S4 suffering from memory loss? First stop is the operating system. Just like computers, smartphones come installed with operating systems. And whether it’s Android, iOS or Windows, each of these operating systems take up some of your storage space.

But that’s not it. Many phones also come loaded with pre-installed apps – some of which can’t be removed – and these reduce your storage further. That means, in the case of the S4, there’s just 8.6GB left for your own files. That’s not much storage and if you’re expecting 16GB, you’re going to feel a bit short-changed.

And just to show that it’s not all about the operating system, the Galaxy S4 looks even worse when you compare it to another Android phone – a 16GB Google Nexus 4 leaves you with 13GB to play with. You can see how the S4 compares to other phones in our infographic:

Smartphone memory storage compared. Is Samsung Galaxy S4 the worst?

Shoebox storage

We expect to do more with our phones than just make phone calls – and manufacturers certainly promise as much with their all-singing all-dancing handsets.

I record videos, take photos and load the odd TV programme or film onto my phone, and I rarely have enough room on my 4GB for all of this. So, if I was heading to the shops today, I’d be looking to buy a 16GB handset – and I’d expect it to have 16GB for my own content.

You can plug more storage into your phone with an SD card, but why should you have to?

Just give me a number

It’s not just the Galaxy S4 that’s been stacking boxes in the garage. While the S4 is one of the worst offenders, all phones will hog some of your storage.

Yes, phones do need to come with operating systems and pre-installed apps and, yes, these do need to take up some of your storage – but shouldn’t we know how much free space we’re actually getting when we buy the phone?

Buying a 16Gb phone that has just 8GB of usable storage is a bit like buying a car and finding you can’t use the back seats. You aren’t getting what you expected.

I don’t want to guess how much free storage I’m getting when I buy a phone, I want to know. I don’t object to some of the space being taken up – although 8GB seems excessive – but I want to know how much is actually free so I can choose the right phone and the right, real amount of storage for me.

Should mobile phone manufacturers tell you how much phone storage you really get?

Yes (91%, 424 Votes)

I don't mind either way (7%, 33 Votes)

No (2%, 8 Votes)

Total Voters: 465

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DDan says:
15 May 2013

Bloatware, bloatware, bloatware. What is the point. Half the stuff really doesn’t need to be on that Samsung Galaxy S4. If people really wanted those extra apps they can go and download them. I would rather have more room for photos and films that a bunch of rubbish apps being pushed by Samsung.

Anon the mouse says:
15 May 2013

Erm, you forgot to put the iPhone in your chart. For reference it’s 13.7gb free on a 16gb factory fresh (or restored) phone running ios6.

Remember that with the Nexus 4 you CANNOT add more storage.

Jani says:
16 May 2013

You shouldn’t have to add more storage – that’s the problem. If you get a 16GB phone you should get 16Gb of storage.

Chris says:
17 May 2013

How does the S4 perform as regards battery life?
I’ve heard that this is also not too good. Is this correct?

Is the 32Gb version easy to come by in the UK?

Chris says:
17 May 2013

PS I also heard that not all apps will work from an SD card. True?
I have saved as much as possible onto my current HTC Desire HD’s SD card before upgrading, hopefully to an S4, if I’m happy with the answers to my queries.

Brian Andrews says:
17 May 2013

A laptop or desktop PC is sold with a finite specified disk size (eg. 500Gb), but it is generally understood that this isn’t all going to be available for storing files; the OS and programs will eat into it. What is happening with ‘phones and tablets is essentially the same thing – there is a finite available storage (eg. 16Gb) part of which is then taken up by the OS and Apps (programs).

The difference between the markets is twofold…

1) The smartphone market is still realtively new, with customers having a much more limited understanding of the topic, and manufacturers are not exactly been falling over each other in a bid to educate them.

2) With a PC, even after (say) Windows bloatware and several chunky programs have been added, there is still usually far more disk space left than most people could ever use, so the ‘stolen space’ just isn’t a problem. On a ‘phone however with its tiny (by comparison) storage card, the ‘stolen space’ is almost certain to impact the user, particularly if they are prone to take lots of ‘photos.

So as with everything – buyer beware!

Looks like Samsung is going to try and improve things:

“We appreciate this issue being raised and we will improve our communications,” a Samsung spokesperson told CNET UK. “Also, we are reviewing the possibility to secure more memory space through further software optimisation.

“Samsung is committed to listening to our customers and responding to their needs as part of our innovation process.”


Philip Roberts says:
18 May 2013

I noticed some time ago that 16Gb phones have somewhat less storage capability so when I bought an IPod I went for a 64Gb one, although that’s overstated as there is 58.6Gb free, however I was able to put 15 Gb of music, which is over 7 days of music and 10Gb of videos on it..

dot says:
18 May 2013

Am moving to australia next year i would like to buy a galaxy 4 should i buy it there or wait till i move there thanks

don’t buy it at all!!!!
If you want a decent high spec Android phone at a realistic price with more useable memory; ignore all the Galaxy hype and buy a Nexus 4.

“Also, we are reviewing the possibility to secure more memory space through further software optimisation.
“Samsung is committed to listening to our customers and responding to their needs as part of our innovation process.”
Samsung should have seen this coming and nipped it in the bud before their 2013 Flagship product got anywhere near BBC Watchdog. With their clout, they can either fix this problem themselves or direct the people who can fix it, to provide the fix their customers demand: Ensure that any bloatware can be removed by users who want it gone; also remove the bar that stops Apps being run on the expansion card.

Alternatively we could ask for all Samsung Tech products to be subject to a new tax: for each one sold Samsung to pay a percentage of day to day whole UK company profit. Only we will tell them that it is 45% once they have declared their profit and gone home- so it is totally unfair and disappointing – much like the 45% of used up space is on the S4!!!

I think some people are missing the point here.
It doesn’t matter how much memory the OS or manufacturer add-ons take up. We are interested in how much is available for our own use, not what isn’t. This is a fundamental requirement when dealing with comparatively small volumes of useable memory if you plan to use your smart phone for music, photo’s & video.
Phones (and tablets etc) should be marketed advertising the amount of available memory as a standard.
I don’t care whether the OS etc takes up 2gb or 63gb of memory, I don’t need to know. I just need to know how much I get for ME… if I need 16gb I should expect to get 16gb if the phone is advertised as such. People shouldn’t need to know about OS, Bloatware and other such matters; just tell us what we will get.
People are spending a significant sum of money when choosing their smart phone but are in my opinion being misled. I want the right product for my needs and want all the information necessary in order to make that decision based on suitability & cost.

A few years ago there was a story in the news about pubs short changing drinkers by the amount of foam they put on top of a glass of beer to fill up the whole pint. What if you went in to a pub and your beer (including foam on top) was well under the top of your glass and the landlord’s excuse was that he was taking in to account the volume of glass that made the container of your beverage ?. I can’t see many people letting that one go, can you ? Then again there are products like hair gel and face creams etc. that are either sold with inner and outer compartments that make it look like you’re getting more content than you actually are or the product is full of bubbles suspended in a gel. I’ve often wondered if all the bubbles were removed if there would actually be the stated amount of product left. Perhaps they over fill slightly just in-case.

wev says:
22 May 2013

Will anyone be complaining to the Advertising Standards Authority about this?


Or Trading Standards if you’ve been sold a phone like this in a shop?

Peter T says:
24 May 2013

I agree with some of these comments, but I think it’s a bit unfair to criticise the S4 so much, when (as banjo has pointed out) most of the other phones mentioned (HTC, Nexus, iPhone, etc) CANNOT be extended whereas you can easily slot a 16 Gb SD card into the S4 (for a lot less than the cost of the difference betwen the 16Gb and 32 Gb models of other phones) and, with spare SD cards, this effectively gives you UNLIMITED storage – which you can also then carry over to your next phone.
Most well-behaved apps will let you move them to the SD card; if they don’t, it’s usually down to sloppy programming by the app developer, it’s not Samsung’s fault.
And if the ‘bloatware’ really bothers you: you’ll soon be able to buy the ‘Google Samsung S4’, direct from Google, with ‘vanilla’ Abdroid 4.2.2 installed and NO bloatware – and still be able to add an SD!

Bought an iPhone 5 with 16GB just as they were released last year especially with a view to downloading OS map. To my chagrin, I find I’m 2GB short so can’t do it. Who do I sue??

Just wondering – is the S4 with 32GB available from most of the UK phone shops or not?

If not do Samsung need to be kicked into supply action – otherwise next time, they will mention lots of different versions at launch – and supply just the cheapest.

Andrew Walker says:
8 November 2014

I would have liked:

a) To have heard that Samsung has brought different models into supply by now (Nov 2014).


b) Which has administered a heavy boot up the backside of Samsung.

Eitherway – Which should have answered the question a very long time ago, Esp as the Samsung S5 is now out in the shops.

abhishek palava says:
8 November 2014

I have nexus 5.memory is 16 GB.can I expand that.

still cant beat the sd card, I have unlimited storage for my pics and videos, I am so glad I bought samsung galaxy android phone. I have more memory than anyone, unlimited, I can download the data to the sd card and free up the hard drive, take out the sd card put in another 32 gig and go agian, you people with the apple phones are stuck, hahahaha. no brainer. I have no cloud to rip off my pictures and who ever invented the removable sd card is a genious.