Feature bloat creates storage woes for the 16GB Galaxy S4

Modern gadgets usually have less than the advertised storage space actually available for users, but Samsung is taking software bloat to a whole new level with the Galaxy S4 Android smartphone.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 arrived in consumer hands last week (Verizon customers have to wait until later next month), and Geek.com highlighted something peculiar: The 16GB base model of the S4 is almost half full with preinstalled software that you can’t delete, leaving you with only 8 to 9GB of usable storage space.

Depending on which version of the 16GB Galaxy S4 you have, between 40 and 50 percent of the storage space advertised for the phone is taken up by the Android OS and preinstalled software. To differentiate the S4 from the Android army, Samsung packed it with numerous exclusive features, such as eye tracking, air gestures, universal remote, voice commands, S Health, S Travel, and many others. Yet these features, which some reviewers have called gimmicky, take a toll on the storage space you get to use.

Michael Homnick
The Samsung Galaxy S4.

To add insult to the injury, the Storage panel under the Settings menu on the S4 doesn’t even display the phone's full 16GB capacity, but instead only shows the 8GB available to the user. Files pre-loaded by your carrier and downloaded during your initial sync can reduce the free space even further.

Fortunately, all is not lost. The Galaxy S4 is also available with 32 and 64GB storage options, though they'll cost you some extra cash. A cheaper solution is to make use of the MicroSD card slot on the S4, which lets you add up to another 64GB of storage.

The Galaxy S4 is not the only Android phone to offer significantly less user-available storage than advertised. Geek.com points out the HTC One also has some 7GB taken up by the OS. The typical iPhone has only around 4GB of space taken up by the OS.

Another company taking heat over its advertised storage space compared to actual usable memory is Microsoft. The 64GB Surface Pro has 23GB available for use out of the box—just under 36 percent of the advertised capacity. When the Surface RT tablets launched last October, the 32GB model only came with 16GB free, or 50 percent of the advertised capacity.

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