Aug 15 AT 3:09 AM Taylor Wimberly 70 Comments

The T-Mobile G1 storage problem in charts and numbers

This post is in response to yesterday’s article that claimed the G1 would not receive future Android updates like Donut and Eclair.  T-Mobile responded they would work with Google to introduce “future software updates”, but that still doesn’t explain how G1 owners will get Donut.

To begin, let’s look at the sizes for the default partitions of the T-Mobile G1.  These sizes are defined by your device’s secondary program loader(SPL) and do not change.

The different partitions of the T-Mobile G1.

The partitions of the T-Mobile G1.

The default partition sizes of a T-Mobile G1:

  • dev: 49460K
  • sqlite_stmt_journals: 4096k
  • system 69120K
  • data: 76544K
  • cache: 69120K

The largest partition is data which is where all your apps are installed.  Many users have experienced this filling up after installing 40-50 apps.  The next largest partitions are system and cache.  System is where the Android operating system is installed and cache is where OTA updates are stored.  Note they are the same size.  The cache needs to remain large so that system updates can be downloaded and stored on the device before flashing.

So how full exactly is the system partition where the Android OS is installed?  Out of an available 69120k of storage, 68780k is being used as of the last official T-Mobile update(CRC1).

The system partition free space.  Virtually zero.

The system partition free space. Virtually zero.

I tried to make a pie chart, but it was a solid circle.  Of the total available space in the system partition, 99.5% is being used. This means there is only 340K of space left for future system updates.

As mentioned in my previous post, Google had an extremely difficult task of making Android 1.5 (Cupcake) even fit on the G1.

“Where the situation is really tricky is that the system partition on the US G1 was already filled to the brim with cupcake, and we were routinely flirting with build sizes that were a few dozen kB under the limit (or several MB over…), which means that even small changes to the core platform could very easily push the system size over the limit and staying under the limit took some effort”. Jean-Baptiste Queru, Android Software Engineer

If Cupcake barely fit on the G1, how do you expect Donut or Eclair to be installed? The only possible fix is to rewrite the partition table to expand the system storage.  This would require flashing a new SPL which would erase all data on the device.  I see no way T-Mobile would ever release an OTA update that flashed the SPL and erased all the partitions.

Could Google and T-Mobile technically find a way to update the G1?  Yes, they could engineer an update method to back data up to the SD card, but I just don’t see it happening.  The fact remains that the internal storage space is physically limited and this will never change.  It was a major oversight by someone and we have to live with it.

Others have suggested that Google should allow apps to be installed on your SD card.  Again, I never see this happening.  We know for sure this will not happen anytime soon because Donut and Eclair are already feature frozen and do not include this request.

What about the myTouch 3G?

The picture for the myTouch 3G is much better.  The sytem partition has been increased about 33% over the G1 and sits around 90 MB.

The default partition sizes of the myTouch 3G:

  • dev: 49460k
  • sqlite_stmt_journals: 4096k
  • system: 92160K total
  • data: 302848K
  • cache: 81920k
The myTouch 3G still has space to spare in the system partition.

The myTouch 3G still has space to spare in the system partition.

Out of the 92160K in available space, 71660K is used and 20500k is free.  This means there is about 20 MB of space left for future updates to the operating system.  It is highly likely that the myTouch 3G will get more updates, but for how long will that be the case.  Will that 20 MB of free space be enough to last a full 2 years of updates? Time will tell.

Please understand this post is not intended to scare you.  I just want to expose the situation now, so you are ready when the next update drops.  We loved the discussions in the previous post and welcome your feedback.  How do you think Google and T-Mobile should handle the situation?

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

    Most Tweeted This Week

  • nate

    i dont put a lot on my sd card apart from a few albums and pics but i have this huge 8gb card i wish could be put to better use towards all this storage shortage on board the handset.

  • Matthew Gifford

    I’d be willing to trade up to a better Android phone and start a new two-year contract for a reasonable fee. It’s the least they can do for the early adopters.

  • B1nary

    I agree with Matthew, I guess if wouldn’t be too opposed to trading up my g1 for a better android phone, but they would have to make the deal worth it. I already paid a decent chuck of change for the g1 when it first was released, and really don’t feel like having to pay more again just because someone had a lack of foresight for updates.

  • kris

    Is it possible to maybe remove 1.5 and go back to 1.0 and then just get donut? I mean I’m trying throwing ideas out there.

  • kris

    There has to be a way to get these update.. and the sdcard idea should be used … they should let g1 users do it ..the owners of the mytouch don’t have the same problem that we do and I know newer android phones will have the same updates but with unique features for each phone so why can’t g1 users get this option ?

  • James Anderson

    The only way it seems G1s will could get future updates is if the two things that you don’t see happening actually happen. When I bought the G1, the infinite extensibility of the memory was a big draw for me. I have a 2GB SD in there right now, and know that I can easily increase it in the future. I foolishly thought that this guaranteed its being future proof. It seems to me, Google or T-Mobile, or some other enterprising sole, needs to make a PC based updater that whacks everything on the SD (you could even back up/sync your whole phone with your computer). Looks like we will all be rooting and fiddling with our G1s in the very near future.

  • Unk

    Well, if you’re rooted, someone could make a custom SPL that completely gets rid of the OTA update cache and adds it to /system thus doubling your storage…

    This would work because rooted phones don’t receive OTA updates anyways, but I don’t know how easy or feasible it would be considering the aftermath of Hakuro’s “special” SPL

  • krizz

    This is certainly bothersome. However no where in your contract does it say that T-mo is obligated to push out updates for your phone. Yes, it sucks for the G1, but it wasn’t lack of foresight. They just didn’t care.

  • roy

    I think they have an obligation to make this possible for us. When they were promoting the android system, they were talking about future updates, about a system that would keep improving. I can’t accept the concept that after the first real update (cupcake) this is over.

  • JoeyAndroid

    I am hoping T-Mobile will have a special upgrade program for G1. I wouldn’t say they have an obligation to do this. Like a user’s comment I read a couple of days ago, there is no precedence for carriers to upgrade users phone citing the iPhone as the latest example. But times have changed and it would be good business sense for T-Mobile to do so. There is precedence of T-Mobile trying to be a leader through drastic changes, like better rate plans and being the first to have Android. I believe they would create this special upgrade program for G1 through encouragement and praise by the Android community instead of complaints.

  • Pingback: HTC Dream – End of Life? No Donut or Enclair Updates? « Thoughts, Unleashed!()

  • jasonlee

    i agree with roy, but i knew going into the device that it had its limitations. a one update limitation, no. and its not donut im worried about, its eclair and beyond.

  • jasonlee

    and i also wouldnt mind if they flashed a new SPL. whatever it takes

  • foebea

    With a bit of elegant code this could be done reliably, and should not be an issue. Alert the user, check for sd space, back up user data, apps, dbs, boot. Repartition, flash, restore data. Now the user has twice as much space free and ota updates go to the sd card just like jf and cm and goog gets to keep thies app installs on internal memory for whatever reason.

  • foebea

    Or heck they could skip all that and just symlink some of the install to the cache partition and change the ota path to the sdcard. Would take less than a minute to change :)

  • anakin78z

    I really don’t understand why a certain minimum of internal space was not part of the spec for Android devices.
    Assuming that the G1 currently holds the largest user base of Android users, I don’t see how they could not figure out a way to upgrade us. I somehow doubt that T-mobile and all other carriers of the Dream will offer us great upgrade plans, especially for people like me, who haven’t even had their phone for a year yet.

    In the meantime, since HTC obviously set it up so that the sd card is the main storage device, I think Android should make a better effort to support it. I see no reason why updates couldn’t be downloaded straight to sd.

  • William

    I think that the most viable, but costly, option for T-Mobile would be to give owners of the G1 either an option to trade in their G1, or if they got it on a 2-year contract, then they should get an early upgrade. Hopefully there will be a Hero for us here in the states.

  • jay smith

    I wonder if this effect the HTC Dream and HTC Magic for the Canadain market. I have only had my phone for about a month and durring this short time frame I have seen four major price drops for them. They were orginally priced at 199.999 then short after 179.99 within 2 maybe 3 weeks it drop to 149.99. At the begin of this month it was had dropped to 79.99 and currently at 29.99 with a three year contract.This really scare me as a early adopter of the andriod phone here in canada.I ask one of the guys at Rogers why so many prices drops in a short amount of time and he said the HTC has basically gave up on push the phone on the canadain market.Which probably explains why we still can’t acess the paid apps here yet..

  • Lionel

    I called tmobile yesterday and spoke with an android developer. He said he was testing Donut on his G1.

  • PhineasJW

    T-Mobile would be *very* wise to offer current G1 owners an early upgrade path.

    Otherwise, the simple alternative is to:

    1. eBay the G1
    2. Eat the contract buyout price
    3. Jump to whichever carrier is offering the best phone.

  • Bryan

    @PhineasJW this is the path I’ve decided to take. The odds of TMo offering a free upgrade to MT are slim to none, and I’d be insulted if they asked me to pay for a new device.

  • bob

    Again an entire article that is pure speculation based on nothing “official”

    “This would require flashing a new SPL which would erase all data on the device. I see no way T-Mobile would ever release an OTA update that flashed the SPL and erased all the partitions.”

    Who says they wont do such a thing. You forget that the device itself doesn’t really store any data everything important is sync’d into the cloud (if you use google apps/contacts/mail, etc.)

    Most of the apps that I use also store their data on the SD card. So if my entire phone goes down all I have to do is reinstall the apps that I had previous installed and the data that they were using previous are still used.

    So go for it, rewrite away google/tmobile!

    also something to think about is that they could very well combine applications do away with old apps that are duplicated with the upcoming functionality in later version thus freeing up space in the build itself.

    Multitouch if they took this out for g1 owners i could give a rats ass, i don’t see anything on the iphone that is sooooo spectacular that blows me away because of their use of multitouch that its required to have on ANY android phone. pinch to zoom? how is that any differnt that a “tap” on the +? your still doing “one motion” period.

    anyways i’ think i’m done with this site, i’m done reading rss updates that are pure speculation and then trying to justifiy said speculation with more speculation.

    • Clark Wimberly

      You forget that the device itself doesn’t really store any data everything important is sync’d into the cloud … all I have to do is reinstall the apps that I had previous installed

      Seriously? I think most people would be furious if an OTA update wiped their phone. When I prepare carefully and wipe my phone purposely its still a big hassle. Reinstalling 30 or 40 apps isn’t a very fun task.

      i don’t see anything on the iphone that is sooooo spectacular that blows me away because of their use of multitouch that its required to have on ANY android phone

      Have you noticed the distinct lack of solid games on Android? So many games depend on multitouch for innovative control schemes. For instance, if I wanted to play an emulator, I wouldn’t be able to. I don’t have a hard keyboard, leaving me with just the touch screen controls. How would I hold LEFT and A at the same time?

      also something to think about is that they could very well combine applications do away with old apps that are duplicated with the upcoming functionality in later version thus freeing up space in the build itself.

      Like what? How much duplicate functionality is there in the core itself? Got any specifics here or is this just speculation?

      i’m done reading rss updates that are pure speculation and then trying to justifiy said speculation with more speculation.

      This may shock you, but people convey opinions in editorials all the time. Taylor isn’t making misleading claims, just laying out the facts and what they mean to him. In no way do these updates try to trick anyone into believing we’ve got official word or the whole story, he is just sharing what he THINKS. Novel idea, huh?

  • bob

    not to mention the other article you reference clearly has in the comments a response from tmobile:

    We plan to continue working with Google to introduce future software updates to the T-Mobile G1. Reports to the contrary are inaccurate

    from their forum so why again with the justification of the speculation eh?

  • Bryan

    @bob it’s all semantics. What TMo means by “future software updates” and what we’re looking for are different. They could simply be referring to small security patches and bugfixes. Updates for sure, but not new releases of software.

  • conro

    If Cupcake barely fit on the G1, how do you expect Donut or Eclair to be installed?

    The only possible fix is to rewrite the partition table to expand the system storage.

    There is no rule that says a new version of some software needs to take up more space than the previous version. It is entirely possible that google could add features to android while decreasing the build size through optimizations and removal of excess data.

  • kris

    I can’t believe the G1 is so close to being obsolete. .. I just got and I’m not ready to shell out 4or5 hundred bucks for the new guy…..

    • xigam

      Root your phone. It’s not obsolete.

      I have 432 meg total, 331meg available space for apps install, 7.5 gig on the FAT32 sdcard partition, my internal “data” partition has 64 mb free, not that it gets much use.

      I’m running the cyanogen mod, w/apps2sd working, fast and easy. Also, I can now do wifi tether and VPN.

      My cache is empty, so I could still do an OTA update if I wanted with a custom ROM. No need to mess with the SPL, just move the tons of media off the phone onto the sdcard..

      There are lots of options, all available today, but don’t wait for T-Mobile.. do it yourself.

      Root your phone, get over it.

  • Flashfox

    By the time Donut rolls out I should be close to the end of my contract. Worse case scenario is that I will need to pay the $200 cancellation fee. Now if I need to do this I will seriously consider if I want to jump into another contract for a new device which might not even last the length of the contract.

    As for rooting the G1, sure I can do this (done it on my DASH) but it’s a matter of principle.

    Regarding T-Mobile’s official statement, it does NOT say that we would get next gen Operating System updates just that they will work with Google to provide software updates.

    We are the early adopters and like in any other area, we will pay the price for this. C’est la vie!

  • Henning

    My G1 (from T-Mobile Germany), running the CRC1 build of Cupcake, has 2276K available in /system (maybe because voice recognition is not present?).

    Is /cache really needed? AFAIK it’s possible to install updates from the SD card? Or are those too copied to /cache first?

  • kris

    @henning. From what I’ve been reading , yes cache is needed for the updates.. I’m hoping they figure something out. I really don’t want to get rid of my phone.

  • Franklin

    Well William, having a Hero does not guarantee anything at all. It does not receive OTA upgrades and depends on the willingness of HTC to release upgrades when it comes to upgrading to Donut and Eclair.

  • Pingback: Android手机T-Mobile G1 vs. G2 | mo-Android()

  • Jason Lackey

    This looks to me to be a fairly compelling argument in favor of FOTA.

  • Jak Crow

    Actually, my G1 is running with the “danger” spl and cm 3.9.10 rom and my /system part is 90MB with 27.5MB free. Remember this spl was dumped from a magic if I’m not mistaken. Looks like I don’t have much to worry about. ;)

    • Justin

      Sooo Your Phone Runs without Hiccups…? How much is installed and how much is running usually on your phone?

  • europamo

    Class action Tmobile USA

    • Justin

      FOR BEING CHEAP! lol

  • Pingback: G1 Nearing Upgrade Limits? | K-Squared Ramblings()

  • Héctor

    I don’t give a crap for my current data. Ignoring the option to repartition the internal flash is a complete mistake. Why can’t you label an update as “IT WILL ERASE AAAAAAAALL DATA”? If you don’t want to show such fearsome update as OTA, just offer it as a downloadable update… Is it soooo difficult?

  • Mea

    Does anybody know how the ram on the samsung galaxy looks like? big enough for further updates.

  • http://Website(optional) Che

    Updates for the N93 from Nokia came twice only minor Bugfixes that made the phone somewhat useable Far less usable than my G1 with Android 1.1). Every update from Nokia wiped the Phone completely, one had to Backup the Phone via Nokia Software (not possible with linux OS).

    A good Method to update the G1 without loss is already descriped by foebea.
    The Update should ask to insert a clean 1 gb (at least) Micro SD or SDHC Card that would be formated with a unix filesystem (because of links that are not possible with FAT)

    Than the update is loaded on the SD Card and the Cachepartition can be used for the OS with links to the Systempartition. Some of you Linuxuser know what i mean ;)

    I think there are enough options for G1 users to upgrade in the Future.

  • Justin

    THEY CAN STOP BEING CHEAP! I want to support android and T-Mobile but it is hard when they are setting them selves up for a loss by letting HTC Hero Go by and other android phones and taking the cheapest phones with the SMALLEST memory, I feel Stupid for getting the G1 sometimes because I have Drawbacks that could have been addressed by giving the PHONE a feasible amount of memory like 256MB what would be the problem with 256MB even 128MB… Why O Why 75MB there isnt even a memoy card w/ that memory amount on it. isn’t it 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1GB etc… I just can’t understand why HTC thought 75 (if i am wrong correct me) was a good amount when the iPhone already had multiple Gigabytes of space.

  • Hokumet

    Someone already asked the question. But I havent seen the answer. So here is the question again. Please answer me, because I want to buy a samsung galaxy.

    “Does anybody know how the ram on the samsung galaxy looks like? big enough for further updates.”

  • Pingback: Google Android: Update und Sprachprobleme »

  • Anton Spaans

    Who says that Donut will take up more space than Cupcake?

    Who knows how much crud is in Cupcake that can be cleaned up?

    Who knows how much code can be made more efficient in size?

    Who knows how much resources (images/text/sound) can be optimized?

    In other words: extra functionality does not necessarily equate to an increase in the size of the code.

    But your overall point remains valid. At some point updates to the G1 and other android phones will cease due to size constraints, insufficient hardware, etc. But to conclude that this point likely has been reached with the Donut update is too premature.

  • somedeveloper

    I completely agree with Anton. The functionality of a program usually takes up very little space compared to media. If they only add features and tweaks, and no new graphics or audio, the storage difference should be unnoticeable small. If they optimize the images to save space, it’s going to consume even less space. To be honest, Android has a lot of areas where it can be improved right now, it is still very new, so it should be possible to have it consume less space.

  • Jeremiah

    The only way I could see Google/T-mobile fixing this problem is implementing some sort of “official” Apps2SD program, increasing the space available on the phone for the system partition. The only issue is (like you stated above) the fact that all data would be wiped from the user’s phone.

    @Somedeveloper – Do you think it would be possible to store all the system’s media (images/audio) on the SD card?

  • kris

    Is it posible to maybe master reset the g1 and not install cupcake, or remove cupcake and just load donut? Stupid question but if it might help save the g1 no hurt in asking lol

  • Tydiz

    Wouldn’t it be entirely possible for Google to separate the idea of “System” and “System Apps” into two separate groups? If you think about Donut, everything that has been announced(i.e. TTS, Gesture Control, and universal system search) already exists in the market. If Google treated their apps as if they were “Plugins” and basically baked them in from the outside, they wouldn’t have the problem of overflowing their system partition because these apps would then exists in the apps partition. This still leaves the problem of users not having enough room in their apps memory, but it is the price to pay i guess…

  • kris

    I personally don’t think there gonna leave g1 users hanging …. I think there gonna do what the iphone is doing …giving us small updates at a time …the installing apps on the sdcard might be coming just like the iphones finally getting mms messaging..your going by what people who do not work for tmobil , htc, or google are saying…I love the g1 …I mean I wish I could have multitouch and a flash player but other then that I’m fine the way it is ..if we do get more updates awesome ..if not ill wait till my contract is up and get a future android device.. but I don’t think there gonna give up on the g1…and every phone has its own unique. Options right? Maybe the g1 will be the only phone that will be able to save apps to the sd card..who knows…I’m not giving up hope yet..and I’m not gonna stop liking the phone just cause I don’t get any updates..

  • john

    Hi, slightly off topic, but does anyone know the partition sizes of the HTC Hero and the T-Mobile Pulse?

  • Paul

    kris, my old A780 could store apps on the SD card. This isn’t a new idea.

    • http://Website Kris

      I wasnt saying that the store to sd was a new idea I was just saying that that what we might get as an ota

  • Pingback: Android and Me()

  • Pingback: Android and Me()

  • SuperDave

    What we need here is a step by step on how to resolder a larger memory bank onto the G1.

  • http://Website g1 user

    Google and tmobile need to give the g1 an update that will allow app and text message storage on the sd card. The device storage is so low that app developers are suffering. As a g1 user, I cannot download any more apps…even though I would pay for them. I simply have no storage to spare. I’m seriously considering rooting my g1 so that I can store apps on my sd card, although I’ve read that this only partially fixes the problem as a portion of the app must still be cached on the device in order for the g1 to access and run the app. I’m severely disappointed with the device storage of the g1. I love the android market, but I’m so jealous of my iPhone user friends who have tons of apps on their device. Does the nexus fix this issue? I dislike that the nexus does not have a qwerty keyboard, so I haven’t invested in one as of yet…get on it tmobile and google…let us store apps to the sd card without rooting our phones!

  • Pingback: Even the lowest HTC phone gets Android 2.1 |

  • Pingback: CyanogenMod brings Android 2.1 to G1 and myTouch 3G – Android and Me()

  • Pingback: CyanogenMod brings Android 2.1 to G1 and myTouch 3G |

  • http://Website Shawn Teal

    Ok, so all i see is complaints and i agree with all of you on the space issue, i think that the G1 has the smallest space i have seen on an android, 71.84MB free when bare minimum is on it, that’s all the OTA gives you NO APPS ADDED ON THE PHONE, NO ROOT ON IT AT ALL AND MY SDcard WITH ABOUT 768-824.4MB/1GB[177.9GB(not sure bout the math working propperly here)used for major phone systems suck as the nandroid file and the dcim] FREE!!!! My mom and sisters Motorola Cliq XTs have 200MB free same set up as my phone no root, nothing on it except the same basic files. My Nokia 6263 gave me the ability to use 519.8MB of space at minimum (7.8MB on the phone itself with a 512MB SDcard),mind you you can go out and buy a 8GB SD card for it and be all set, you can put everything onto the SDcard and have it work fine I don’t c y u T-Mobile y u cant just set up the phone to store and boot from the SDcard anyways ur old as @$& phones can do it y can androids? WE CAN UPDATE W?O ROOTING THE PHONE MANUALLY SO JUST POST THE DAMN UPDATES FOR OUT G1 ON THE SITE AND WE CAN DO THE UPDATE OURSELVES!!!!! We got the 1.6(donut) update via OTA and it works fine but i know that it did have a new SPL because it rewrote the whole phone, and re set up the systems cache and boots and everything, NEW SPL IS THERE!!!! Tho T-Mobile&Google are stating they may send updates OTA for the G1 its amazing how there is little to no space for normal apps at first and now MORE space became available, so they can and should make new SPLs that make our apps go to the SDcard, and also allow a smaller cache because if need be we can manually update. Google and T-Mobile Love you guys in like a technilogical sense but GET A BRAIN AND SET UP THE Eclair UPDATE FOR THE G1, WE CAN JUST FOLLOW HOW TO UPDAT THE PHONE PROPERLY W/O A ROOT SETUP TO GET YOUR 2.0(Eclair) UPDATE. plz continue our G1, i love it, the QWERTY keyboard light kills me but 1.5 fixes that with the softkeyboard.

  • Pingback: G1 owners still have a prayer for an official upgrade to Android 2.2 – Android and Me()

  • Pingback: 深入剖析 HTC G1 Dream 的内部存储容量 - Your Need is Me()

  • Pingback: HTC Dream memory limitations could keep you in the cupcake ages | HTC Source – All the HTC news you'll ever need()

  • sami Al Harthi


  • Pingback: Even the lowest HTC phone gets Android 2.1 | Android and Me()

  • Pingback: Motorola Sholes and Android 2.0 set for October launch on Verizon | Android and Me()