It always seems to the tech geek population that there’s no such thing as too much memory. The more photos, music and videos we keep on our portable devices the more we rely on memory to store it as we are out and about. Initially, Apple released the iPod with a miniature hard disk drive with the tagline “1,000 songs in your pocket”. The concept was that you would run out of battery before you finished listening to all of the songs and in addition, you were unlikely to listen to all 1,000 songs in a single sitting. Back then that was fine as it was never expected that your mobile device would hold your entire music collection.
Fast forward nearly 10 years and technology changes from hard drives to flash memory but the question of how much memory does one need remains. The answer is different for every person but recently, one of the key differences is that people are no longer seeing their portable device as one to store their favourite music but instead to store their entire music collection - which obviously requires more storage.
The need for expandable memory seems to be make sense to let users add extra memory if/when they think they need it. From a user perspective though, what I’ve anecdotally found to be the case is as follows:
Most people buy the entry level model for memory size - irrespective of what that size is. These are normal, budget conscious people that don’t mind swapping their favourite songs on and off their devices as needed and see it as a small price to pay to get an Apple device for their budget.
Most people that buy a product that has expandable memory cards either use the card that comes with it or buy one when they buy the device and never upgrade it. The case in point is digital cameras. On more than one occasion extended family members have complained they had to print their oldest photos then delete them from their digital camera because they had run out of space. I learned quickly that most people don’t take their photos off their cameras onto their PCs for storage and most don’t even consider a second or a bigger memory card.
Geeks want to be able to change everything they can to get a cheaper “boost” or “upgrade” to their device without having to throw away an otherwise perfectly functional older product. Common things that geeks like to upgrade include memory, CPUs, video cards, monitors and external peripherals.
The reality is that most normal people buy a product in a box and never, ever upgrade its parts but only seem to upgrade the whole box when either A) it breaks or B) they decide it’s too slow or C) there’s a new product with a great new feature that they really want.
This mentality shows that Apple is tuned in to what MOST customers want and it also suits their business to make their products unexpandable. The two biggest advantages to Apple by preventing user memory upgrades are A) they can charge a premium at the time of purchase that is well above what the memory actually costs and customers with more money will happily (perhaps not too happily) pay for the extra memory for it; B) there are no compatibility issues with memory cards by third parties meaning less support and customer complaint about such issues (see Windows Phone 7 memory card sensibilities); C) if people really want the extra storage for their music they may be forced/deflected towards purchasing an additional Apple product specifically for that purpose that has more memory (i.e. iPod Classic).
Is it fair? Probably not but then this is business. Will other suppliers sell more of their products than Apple just because they have expandable memory cards? For a percentage of the geek population yes, but then that’s not very many people compared to the rest of the population that purchase these products.
Sorry fellow geeks: you can forget Apple providing user upgradable flash memory in their mobile devices for the forseeable future.