How Much iPad Storage Do You Need?

Picking out the right iPad model for your storage needs

The amount of storage space is one of the hardest decisions to make you pick an iPad model. It is difficult to judge just how much storage you'll need until you actually need that storage.

Apple expanded the storage of the entry-level iPad from 16 GB to 32 GB. While 16 GB was fine in the early days, apps now take up much more space, and with so many people now using their iPad to store photos and video, 16 GB just doesn't cut it anymore. But is 32 GB enough?

What to Think About When Deciding on an iPad Model

Here are the main questions you will want to ask yourself when picking out an iPad model: How much of my music do I want to put on the iPad? How many movies do I want on it? Do I want to store my entire photo collection on it? Am I going to travel a lot with it? And what type of games am I going to play on it?

Two iPads showing storage capacities on each
Maddy Price / Lifewire

While applications may take up the majority of storage space on your PC, most iPad apps are relatively small in comparison. For example, the Netflix app only takes up 75 megabytes of space, which means you could store 400 copies of the app on that 32 GB iPad.

But Netflix is one of the smaller apps, and as the iPad becomes more capable, apps have become larger. Productivity apps and cutting-edge games tend to take up the most space. For example, Microsoft Excel consumes around 440 MB of space without any actual spreadsheets stored on the iPad. And if you want Excel, Word, and PowerPoint, you will use up 1.5 GB of storage space before you create your first document. Games can also take up a lot of space. Even Angry Birds 2 takes up almost half a gigabyte of space, although most casual games will take up far less.

This is why anticipating how you will use the iPad is important in figuring out the right storage space model. And we haven't even talked about the photos, music, movies, and books you may want to store on the device.

Apple Music, Spotify, iTunes Match and Home Sharing

Just as CDs were edged out by iTunes, digital music is being replaced by streaming subscriptions like Apple Music and Spotify.

These services stream your music from the internet, so you don't need to take up storage space to listen to your tunes. You can also use Pandora and other free streaming apps without a subscription. And between iTunes Match, which lets you stream your own music from the cloud, and iPad Home Sharing, which lets you stream music and movies from your PC, it's easy to get by without loading up your iPad with music.

This is where storage space on your iPhone is a little different than the space you might use on your iPad. While it is tempting to download your favorite music to your iPhone so that there is no disruption if you drive through a dead spot in your coverage, you may mostly use your iPad when you are on Wi-Fi, freeing you from the need to download a bunch of music.

Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, Etc.

However, there is one big difference between music and movies: The average song takes up about 4 MB of space. The average movie takes up around 1.5 GB of space. When you stream over a 4G connection, you'll quickly run out of bandwidth even if you have a 6 GB or 10 GB data plan. So if you want to stream movies while on vacation or traveling for business, you'll either need enough space to download a few before your trip or you will need to stream them in your hotel room where you can sign onto the hotel's Wi-Fi network.

Expanding Storage on Your iPad

iCloud on various apple devices
Apple Inc.

The easiest way to get more room on your iPad is through the cloud. While you can't store apps in cloud storage, you can store music, movies, photos, and other documents.

External hard drives that include an iPad app help to expand your iPad storage. These solutions work through Wi-Fi. Like cloud solutions, you cannot use the external drive to store apps, and it may not be a practical form of storage while outside of the house, but you can use these drives to store music, movies, and other media files that can take up a lot of space.

Use Cases for Larger Models

the room 3 ipad game

The first thing you might notice when comparing iPad models with different amounts of memory is the price difference, which has usually been at least $100 (although the norm currently is typically $150). For that reason alone, you might want to go with the cheaper model, but keep in mind what that premium price gets you.

If you choose a $749 iPad with 256 GB of memory over a $599 version with 64 GB, you're only paying 25% more for four times the storage. And with the larger capacity, you can keep a full library of games, music, and even movies with you at all times without having to rely on the internet. You can download movies from Netflix and watch them anywhere, and your entire music library will easily fit.

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