Why is 32GB iPhone 7 slower than its higher capacity models?

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No! Apple may not be using lower quality storage for its cheaper iPhone variants.

A new video was recently released by the YouTube channel Unbox Therapy, where it was demonstrated that the cheaper 32 GB iPhone 7 has significantly slower write speeds compared to the higher-priced 256 GB variant. The video claims that Apple is not being transparent about the differences between the various iPhone variants, and that storage size may not be the only factor.

Ever since the video has been released, the topic has gone viral, with a lot of technology sites covering the news. But there’s one piece of information that’s been a bit misleading in this whole fiasco. So, we decided to provide our own take on this one.

In the video, two different variants — the 32 GB and 256 GB — of the iPhone 7 matte black model goes head to head for read-write performance comparison using the PerformanceTest Mobile app. The results show that although the read speeds on both the variants are similar, the 32 GB variant is about 8X slower compared to the 256 GB one, when it comes to write speeds.

Sure, benchmark tests are mostly theoretical, so a real-life scenario is also tested out, just to prove the point. A 4.2 GB media file is copied to both the iPhone variants. While the 256 GB variant takes about 2 minutes and 35 seconds to complete the transfer, the 32 GB variant takes about 3 minutes and 40 seconds to do the same — almost a minute more compared to the 256 GB variant. You can watch the whole video below.

The findings shared in the video has taken the Internet by storm, and there are a few valid points discussed here. First, Apple has not been fully transparent about the differences between the various iPhone variants, and there’s more to it than just the size. Second, write speeds in higher capacity iPhone variants are indeed faster than that of lower capacity models; agreed.

But the video also claims that Apple may be trying to cut down manufacturing costs of the lower capacity iPhone variants, by using low quality storage components that are slower than the ones used in higher capacity variants. This is the part which we don’t quite agree.

Higher capacity iPhone variants are faster not because of better quality storage components, but because of the inherent design of flash based storage (SSD). As HowToGeek notes in an article related to the topic:

“The higher capacity variants of an SSD model often get their higher capacity from simply having more NAND flash chips of the same type as the lower capacity variants. Having more NAND flash chips allows for a design where the controller on the SSD can access more data in parallel, allowing for higher speeds.”

Higher capacity flash storage has more number of NAND chips placed in parallel, compared to lower capacity ones. Hence, data transfer can also happen along more number of parallel channels, resulting in higher speeds.

So Apple may indeed not tell you about its 32 GB variant of iPhone 7 being slower than the 256 GB variant, but it most likely isn’t compromising on the quality of components at the same time. Also, the 8X difference in write speed, as demonstrated in the video, seems a bit too far fetched. Benchmark tests are not always consistent, and reaching a conclusion based upon a single outcome is rather unrealistic. Even the real-world test of transferring a large media file showed about 1 minute of delay in case of the 32 GB variant of iPhone 7, compared to the 256 GB one; significant, but far from being 8X slower.

It is important to note that such differences in speed would not be noticeable in daily usage of the iPhone, and it only becomes significant if you’re transferring large volume of data regularly. In the end, however, it all comes down to what you consider. Is the slower write speed of the 32 GB iPhone a turn-off for you? Let us know in the comments below.

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