The one feature that I wish Apple had included with the iPhone 7

So the iPhone 7 is now upon us and Apple has announced that the initial supply will not be able to meet demand. Clearly, despite what the critics are saying, Apple has added enough features to make this a ‘must-have’ phone for many.

But even with all the new features, hardware and software wise, that the company has included there’s still one feature that Apple’s missing that I wish had been included.

I’m going to say it because there’s no point beating around the bush:

Apple should include, with every device you’ve purchased, the same amount of iCloud storage as the storage capacity of that device, for free. These devices, once set up, should then back up all the important documents that you have on your device automatically.

Why am I asking for this? Not because I’m a penny pincher who doesn’t want to cough up money every month for Apple’s existing iCloud plans for more storage. For me most of my data already gets synced with the different services I’ve subscribed to. Most of my important data, calendar events, contacts, notes, etc already are synced via the free 5GB iCloud account that everyone gets. And all of my photos are regularly transferred to my computer so if I was to lose my phone I’m still fine. It’ll hurt to have to buy a new one, but once it’s activated all of my data would still be there.

No, I’m thinking about those people who don’t regularly perform these necessary steps to look after their data. People like my grandmother.

Not a Computer

My grandmother, who’s 86 years old, has never used a computer in her life, but she has an iPad. To her the iPad is a window into the life of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren as photos are regularly shared for her viewing via the iPad. Not a small amount of photos also get taken on her iPad as well. She relied on my relative to set up the device but now that it’s up and running all she needs to do is keep it charged and she can enjoy photos of her family any time she wants.

But what happens if the device breaks? Or gets stolen? Barring a small miracle all of her precious photos would be gone forever.

This might sound like an isolated case but to most tech-savy folk this is an increasingly common scenario. Another such user is my aunt. She’s 82 years of age and also has an iPad which she — somewhat annoyingly — whips out during family events to get people to ‘pose for the camera’. She takes numerous photos and videos which she then shows off to others. She will probably continue to do so until she runs out of storage space to which she will then go and buy another iPad to replace the first. To her iPads are not just huge unwieldy cameras, they’re digital photo albums all in one.

And in case you’re thinking this only applies to older folk, another much younger relative also uses her iPhone in much the same way. Sure she uses it to surf the net, message her friends and play games, but when it comes to photos she’s much like my aunt and grandmother. Since she started using and iPhone (back with the 3GS) she’s literally kept all of her photos on her phone. Sure she’s changed phone a couple of times and she does sometimes, sometimes, hook it up to a computer to back up. But most of the time she just happily snaps and records videos and as long as her 128GB storage space hasn’t run out will likely never stop. She’s happy having her entire photo collection with her all the time and that’s ok, up till it’s not.

Once while out with friends, her purse got stolen and in it was her phone. Luckily she’d just recently backed up her data so she didn’t lose much. But I often look back on that moment and wonder, what if she hadn’t? That’s years and years of memories all lost without any way of getting them back.

Preserving Our Memories

There are many many people who care very much about their data. They back it up religiously in order to safeguard against loss. These are the folk who save backups on external hard drives and then subscribe to additional online backup services just so that there’s an additional copy floating in the cloud somewhere, just in case. But they are in the minority when you compare their numbers to the many millions of people who own smartphones and just simply trust that nothing bad will happen to them. Sure there are many free services available (e.g. Google Photos) that one can use but you’d have to at least know about these options in the first place before you could use them. For users like my grandmother and aunt, that most certainly won’t be the case. For my younger relative, sure she can always back up her data, whether manually or online, but for the most part, she, and many others like her, probably wouldn’t bother.

Because the strange thing is that the larger your photo collection gets, the less likely you are to actually do anything with it other than continue to add to it. Call it a human condition but even in the early days of digital cameras, it took me forever just to sort through the hundred or so photos I might have taken on a holiday. And even then I usually only did it because my 0.5GB 1 memory card was quickly running out of space. Now that I take photos continually with my iPhone I have easily anywhere from 500-800 photos on my phone at one time before I finally chuck them onto my computer where 50GBs of memories now reside. The thought of sifting through a collection that size is enough to give me a headache, which is why I gladly leave it to my wife to do.

And even though most of the photos we take are probably rubbish, when we finally do get down to looking at them, they’re still an important record of something that happened to us at that particular moment in time.

Recently when looking at some old photos and videos of our kids my wife and I couldn’t help but remark woefully how much we’d forgotten in such a short time. Most of the major events we could recall easily, but the more mundane ones? Almost completely forgotten. Only the act of seeing the captured photos triggered those long dormant memories, once again showing how fallible our minds really are. This has led me to realise how important photos are as receptacles of memories and experiences past.

Automatic Backups for All Please

Which is why I think Apple has a real opportunity here to create something of huge value for their existing and future customers. Imagine never having to worry about backing up your data again, ever? All your precious memories effortlessly and automatically backed up whenever you’re connected to wifi, so you needn’t worry about them.

The math seems to work too. A 32GB iPhone 6S costs $888. There’s no corresponding 32GB plan but iCloud’s 50GB plan starts at $1.28 SGD per month. That’s about $15.36 a year.  Most people tend to replace their phones every 2-3 years. which equates to a total cost of $46 for the cost of online storage throughout the lifetime of the device. Hardly a dent in the hardware costs of the phone at all, which I’m sure Apple could absorb easily. For those who don’t upgrade as regularly it’s still good value for Apple as server costs decrease with storage becoming cheaper over time.

Anyway, not everyone would max out their free online storage. Even iCloud as it is, doesn’t back up all the information on the phone but only what’s necessary. Which means that Apple can boldly advertise that they backup everything that’s important on the device you’ve purchased, but never literally end up having to store the full contents of the phone 2. Anyone who does exceed the storage space of their phone could then have the option to purchase additional space.

Despite all the logical reasons why Apple could do this, Apple should still do it simply because Apple prides itself in giving the best experience to the user. By doing so, Apple wouldn’t be giving users just another feature but something far more valuable: peace of mind. Peace of mind knowing that no matter what happened to their devices, which are replaceable, the memories and data contained, which are priceless & irreplaceable, are safely stored away, easily retrieved at the touch of a button.

And what an amazing feature that would be.

  1. Or 500mb, which is a number that just seems positively minuscule now. 
  2. I mean the numbers themselves are sort of irrelevant, what people want to know is whether their information, all of it, is safely stored and backed up, ready to be retrieved when necessary.