May 10 AT 9:23 AM Nick Gray 47 Comments

BBC Watchdog to investigate Samsung Galaxy S 4 internal storage claims


If you’ve been keeping up with your tech news lately, you may have seen a few dozen stories about how little storage is actually available on the Samsung Galaxy S 4. The entry level 16GB unlocked European model in reality only gives consumers 9.5GB of usable storage, but that number drops to around 8.5GB for those who purchase a carrier branded device here in the US.

The discrepancy between the amount of advertised storage actual storage has caught the attention of BBC Watchdog, a consumer rights show in the UK. During next week’s episode, they will be looking into Samsung’s “extra-large memory” claims and hopefully show consumers exactly how much storage they will get when they purchase the Samsung Galaxy S 4.

It’s quite easy to pick on Samsung due to its recent successes, but the advertised internal storage issue does affect quite a few other phones. The 32GB HTC One has 26.1 GB of usable space and most of Sony’s high-end Xperia devices have 6-7GB of storage which is not accessible to users. Even Microsoft’s 64GB Surface Pro leaves consumers with a mere 23GB of usable storage.

BBC Watchdog may not be the first to report on the topic, but they do reach a much wider audience who could definitely benefit from a little more about the Galaxy S 4 before they go out and buy it next week.

Nick is a tech enthusiast who has a soft spot for HTC and its devices. Nick joined the Android and Me family in the summer of 2010.

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  • pekosROB

    Is it all the software features on the S4 that is hogging that space? I mean the One takes up 5.9 GB but the S4 6.5 GB.

    • VS

      Unlocked Sony Xperia ZL has about 12GB of space available out of the box. Not sure if past Xperia devices were different (first Sony mobile device I’ve test driven), but fyi to any interested.

      • Jon Garrett

        I took mine back the next day thinking it was defective. 16GB is not enough for me so there is no way in hell I can work with onl 8 or 9gb.

        I gave my wife my S4 and Im now rocking her S3. maybe I’ll get the 32GB version–maybe.

    • Richard Yarrell

      Seriously this is much to do about nothing period. It’s very simple pictures, movies, video’s on sdcard. Downloaded Applications on internal memory of phone why is that so hard here. My 16gb Galaxy Note 2 came with 10.97 available internal storage I have 128 installed applications out of those apps 30 apps are games Maxx Payne, The Dead, Dead Trigger, Backstab Hd, Real racing 3, Sg deadzone, Temple Run 2, it’s endless. This storage space IS NO ISSUE PERIOD.

      • John Patrick

        This has more to do with the BBC Watch hog getting views than anything worthwhile. If it were on the web it would be called link-baiting.

      • squiddy20

        …Except for the fact that it’s false advertising. Samsung advertises a 16GB phone. There’s the usual discrepancy due to the filesystem (which in this case brings it to ~14.5GB, I think), and their OS with all those gimmicky “features” takes up another 6 to 7GB of space, leaving you with half the advertised storage.
        Then there’s the fact that most apps set their path for data storage on the INTERNAL storage, so you’d have to manually go into every single one of these apps and change it. Which is why good guy Google has tried to steer away from SD cards. No more trying to figure out on which partition the data is stored. No more worrying about filling up a set amount of internal space (since you could conceivably fill up the whole ~28GB of space on the Galaxy Nexus with nothing but apps).
        Also, for one thing, the fact that you specifically stated “30 apps are games” does not make the list “endless”. For a second, assuming each of those 30 apps comes with a 400MB download of extra stuff (which is definitely lowballing it, and which gets installed on the internal storage), you’d have 12GB of due to these games alone, an impossibility when you have only “10.97 available internal storage”. What a moron.
        Finally, considering in the past you rambled off a list of having thousands of pictures, at least 40 movies, hundreds of apps (which could vary in size from 100KB to 2GB each, so not very scientific or specific), a couple GB’s of music, and 70 videos you shot yourself, and claimed you had something like 34GB free on your “pimp slapping” Note 2 (with ~10GB internal and a 32GB SD card), you’re clearly delusional.

      • C

        Perhaps… but one of the main problems is… most of the preinstalled apps can NOT be uninstalled to free up space like on a desktop computer.

      • Sargon

        Bullshit. Just like your galaxy nexus with “hundreds of apps and thousands of pictures and still have space left” I actually own a real galaxy note 2, not a piece of cardboard that I drew on, like you. You can’t push apps to the sd card in a stock gnote2, and the space available isn’t much. A lot of apps run in the GBs these days, asphalt 7 and bards tale hd would take up most of the space alone. If you actually owned one, lived in the real world, and not Richard’s Fucked Up Fantasy World of Shit and Piss and Imaginary Phone and Carrier of the Month, you would realize this.

        • EmagehtmaI

          Truth. SD card expansion is nice, but it only works well if you are gonna be putting movies and pictures and music on it. Actual apps have to be stored on internal storage, and since games are getting larger and larger… yeah. No room for lots of HD games.

          • Chris

            It depends on the game. Bard’s Tale allows you to download/install the HD content to your card instead of the phone’s own storage.

  • jaxidian

    People need slapped. That’s just how this works. I don’t complain about my 4WD vehicle not getting 4 wheels’worth of traction when only 3 wheels are touching the ground. Nor do I complain that my 32oz Slushie doesn’t look like 32 ounces once it melts. Or that my 2,000 sq ft house doesn’t have 2,000 sq ft of usable space once I move my furniture in.

    If people want to buy high tech stuff, they need to understand how things work before complaining about crap like this.

    • SpyderMS

      I think people are complaining because there are other phones, with the same version of Android, that have quite a bit more usable space on them than the S4 does. My 16GB Galaxy Nexus has 13.3 GB of usable space on it, and it’s not even likely that the System partition is being 100% utilized. A re-skin and a few additional features should not double (or more) the space required by the OS.

      • razma tazio

        ok sir, does the galaxy nexus have the same functions/features that the s4 has? now, i have a 32gb verizon lg intuition that has only 25gb usable storage…which equates to around 7gb used by the os…which equals the galaxy s4′s os space usage…so whats the big deal? every computer/netbook/laptop/tablet/smartphone, etc…never ever had the default internal storage as the usable storage…so its not really an issue if you know how much storage you plan on using…next time, get a bigger internal storage if you know you will be downloading programs/games up the ying yang.

        • Chris

          It’s an issue when you consider that the computers and netbooks your mention allow you to uninstall the bloatware.. yet on cell phones you don’t have Administrative Access so you can’t delete those apps to free up more space.

    • Martin

      It’s the equivalent of saying that a car will get x MPG without the interior and bodywork: technically true but useless and misleading because you can’t use the car without those. An S4 is useless without the pre-installed software (rooting is doesn’t count because it’s actively discouraged by manufacturers and networks), so how much internal storage it has without the software is irrelevant.

    • pekosROB

      The house is a bad example. Unless a house is sold fully furnished (which usually isn’t the case) you typically buy a house that’s EMPTY. You fill it up the way you want (i.e. you download apps that aren’t pre-installed the way you want).

    • pekosROB

      And the slushy is also a bad example. It might be melted, but you still have 32 oz of SOMETHING. It didn’t just evaporate in twenty minutes and you’re left with less. The 4WD vehicle is a bad example because the 3 wheels touching is only temporary or some times – not all the time – you can’t easily remove the storage space that is being taken up.

  • Christian

    They should at least give users the options to remove these additional “features” from their phone. Well, at least there’s rooting…

  • Emagehtmai

    I have to agree that it’s misleading. Yeah, you technically have 16 GB of storage, and everyone with even the most basic understanding of technology knows that actual available storage is less than the total, but when the OS and carrier bloatware cause the phone to have nearly half the advertised storage, you have a problem.

    • clocinnorcal

      Exactly! If the devices says 16GB and only half of that is usable, that is extremely misleading.

  • surethom

    I do find it distressful when companies advertise the amount of internal memory & you get nothing like that amount, if they advertise 16gb but user has only 15gb because of some system files fine. Once we start getting 120gb internal storage it becomes less of an issue, like on PC’s which use over 15gb for system files but on a 8gb,16gb & 32gb every gb counts.

    This is why I am weary of the Galaxy Zoom camera phone that will possibly have 8gb of memory, that will get filled up in 1 day of switching it on.

  • swazedahustla

    Blame Samsung for putting all that bloat in this phone. Not only does it take up alot of space, it makes even small things laggy as hell.

  • GE918

    That’s why I want my phone to have a memory card slot.

    • EmeryLee

      Yep I agree. I can live with having a sd card as a save location option especially for photos, music, and document files. It kind of really sucks that when you order a HD video from Google Play that you can’t save that file onto the SD card.

  • EmeryLee

    Honestly, I think the problem is Samsung limiting the users from installing apps directly to the SD card. If they remove that restriction then users probably wouldn’t be complaining about the misconception of space. It is cool that you can use the SD card as a save location for music, photo, and document files though. I’m currently using the Rhapsody, PowerAmp, and DoggCatcher apps and they allow the user to set up a specific save location for the downloaded files. This is a useful option. Maybe the developers of these game apps should incorporate an option in the settings to specify a different save location for the app as a override. The other thing that pisses me off and frankly keeps me from purchasing or renting videos from Google Play is the lack of specifying a save location on my phone or to the SD card. Therefore I just don’t do it.

  • EmeryLee

    Most Samsung smartphones and tablets don’t give you the ability to move apps to the sd card. I know my old LG G2x did and that was a cool option.

    • prince

      it not good at all that the internal is 32gb but if u install anything it said u are running out of space it make my galaxy s4 mini run slow why please do something about it because me I like game’s and app

  • John Patrick

    This is not a new situation. My guess is that the extra space is being taken up by program art -backgrounds, icons, panels etc, as well as wallpapers, sample videos, and user guides. Touch Wiz probably takes up quite a bit, especially compared aosp Android. All of these issues are no doubt amplified by the fact that the S4 display is 1920×1080 compared to most current phones being 1280×720 or less. All those extra pixels add up.

  • rauelius

    What upsets me most is that most reviewers point to the fact that it’s expandable. But they never mention that the usable space for apps is expanded. Unless you root and do a Storage/SD-Card swap, you are perpetually stuck with 8GB of “actual usable” storage on the Galaxy S4. Reviews should mention that the SD-Card everyone is crazy about is only good for Music and Pictures. You can’t install apps to it, and with the games that would actually take advantage of the hardware requiring more storage than whats available, the Galaxy S4 16GB is more or less a tease. Yeah it has a decent camera, yeah it does some nice tricks, but you’ll never be able to actually use your phones hardware. 16GB High/Ultra High end phones shouldn’t even exist. I’ll take 26.1GB of fully usable space on the HTC One WELL before an 8GB(Usable)+64GBSD(partially usable) Galaxy S4.

    So for reviews for phones going forward, it would be responsible journalism to say “Expandable-partially usable” with an SD-Card. As opposed to “Expandable via SD-Card”, as the latter is very misleading to readers who think “Oh, if I want to install Nova 3 or Modern Combat 4, I’ll just buy an SD-Card”

    I partially blame the reviewers of these phone for not being responsible and telling readers that the Phone SD-Card DOES NOT EXPAND USEABLE SPACE FOR APP…that’s just responsible journalism…then again, not everyone can be me….

  • swazedahustla

    More than likely people already know this fact about SD cards. This is nothing new. People…….. “fanboys” like to just throw out statements they heard in a review, but not really understand what it means. Then they buy the phone and find out no apps to SD, then they whine and cry on blog sites.

  • loki060706

    The other issue is OEM state their storage capacity based on 1000 MB in a GB but in all actuality it is 1024 MB in a GB. That is why a 4.7 GB DVD only has 3.8 GB of usable space.

    • Snicholls


      at least someone noticed this has been the norm for nearly 20-30 years and then some you never get the true amount based on the fact the Vendor’s, Manufacturer’s and Retailer’s Measure the Storage capacity in 1000MB and not the 1024MB that is in 1GB, then there is the fact of the Software and all the Bloatware that user’s receive on the device that is why i prefer android, because it gets removed straight away and i can scrape back some of that wasted space.

  • pekosROB

    This is why I want as much onboard storage freed up as possible. Put music, photos, videos, etc. on a microSD but I want as much space to save my apps to. If you want to play any games they take up a monster amount of space.

  • dbareis

    If the free space is not reported then that is misleading and all manufacturers are guilty of this and should be penalised. If I bought a 16GB device with that little space left as this phone has then I’d wouldn’t be happy at all. My current 16GB device is nearly out of room and it had about 12GB free to start with. The more consumer and other groups that jump on this the better.

    Obviously Samsung took no care in building these apps (size wise), if they had to report free space I bet they’d be more efficient (and probably faster native apps).

    • razma tazio

      that is why people need to know how much storage they plan on using before buying an 8gb or 16gb smartphone. ok, so if i plan on downloading x amount of hardcore video games from the playstore, im not foolish enough to buy a 8 or 16gb smartphone.

      dont blame the phones storage, blame yourself

  • Ben

    Android doesn’t take up 5GB. These manufacturers have preloaded their phones with shite and then left you with no storage space as a result…

    • Ben

      For reference, I have an 8GB Nexus 4 and ~6GB is user usable. Meaning my Nexus uses ~2GB for it’s OS while the Galaxy S4 uses ~6GB…

  • donger

    False advertisement.

    • razma tazio

      so basically every computer/laptop/netbook/tablet and smartphones false advertise…

      theres a difference between internal storage size and usable storage…if you read the specs, it will give you the actual storage size, not usable.

      when i buy a computer or a mobile device, im not dumb enough to know that the actual total storage capacity is not 100% usable.

  • Raptor

    Well, eventually Samsung will install 15GB of own apps on 16GB phone and guess how it will it advertise it — as 1GB or 16GB phone?

  • razma tazio

    ok, who ever is in charge of the BBC WATCHDOG needs to get fired…i mean, did he/she even do his/her homework regarding actual storage space vs usable space in computers/laptops/netbooks/tablets/smartphones? was there ever any storage space 100% usable? the BBC WATCHDOG doesnt know anything about storage space and how it works…and that is beyond utterly ridiculous!!!

    • EmagehtmaI

      The difference is on a laptop that is advertised as having 500 GB of storage, after the OS and preinstalled software is taken into account, even after the whole 1000 mb/1024 mb = 1 Gigabyte thing, you’ll still end up with well over 400 GB of usable storage. This is a phone that is advertised as coming with 16 GB of internal storage but is shipping with only half of that as actual user-available. If you bought a new PC that advertised a 500 GB HDD but only had 250 GB of usable space, and you COULD NOT delete any of the preinstalled software that comes with it, I bet you’d be pretty miffed, eh?

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  • Terry Walker

    Do you think the S4 should be sold in 32gb and 64gb versions as well?

    Add your voice to the petition and show Sprint and other carriers there is demand for these higher capacity S4′s.

    It takes only a few seconds