Tech brands 'ripping off' buyers with 1000% mark-up on storage upgrades

The iPad's internal memory sells with 1000% mark-up

Techies and informed consumers usually know that what you’re paying for in a product isn’t necessarily what you’re getting. Nowhere is this more apparent than when you buy a device with non-expandable internal memory.

As many of us know, the big sticker on the box that says '16GB of storage' tends to omit any mention that a big chunk of that is already taken up by the OS, pre-installed apps and so on an so forth, leaving consumers with a fraction of what they thought they had. You might remember we even had some major controversy with Microsoft’s Surface tablets, on exactly this issue.

A major UK consumer group, called 'Which?' is trying to raise awareness among consumers of this fact. They’re also raising awareness of the fact that upgrading internal storage on devices is up to twenty times more expensive than the prices paid by the manufacturers.

In their report, Which? focused on tablets from Apple and Google, noting that upgrading from a 16GB model to 32GB costs around £80. Compare that price with the actual price of the extended memory that’s less than £6. As the report mentions that’s a mark-up of 1,000 percent.

The group calls this situation “scandalous” and recommends consumers look towards tablets and devices that offer expandable external storage, such as Microsoft’s Surface with its MicroSD support. Which? explains that this approach ends up adding the same amount of storage “for a fraction of the cost”.

However, it is worth noting that even on certain devices that offer microSD support, it is not possible to install apps to the storage card - a situation that prompts many buyers to pay the premium and get a more expensive device with increased on-board storage anyway. 

Source: Metro UK

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To put this into perspective, this is like paying $100+tax for a 16gb flash drive. Can you imagine what a sucker you would have to be to pay this much for memory? Yet this is exactly what people are doing when they buy a 32gb or larger device from apple.

> As many of us know, the big sticker on the box that says '16GB of storage' tends to omit any mention that a big chunk of that is already taken up by the OS, pre-installed apps and so on an so forth, leaving consumers with a fraction of what they thought they had. You might remember we even had some major controversy with Microsoft's Surface tablets, on exactly this issue.

Hardly a "major controversy" as it applies equally to all devices...the OS and apps have to be stored somewhere.

The much bigger scam is the fact that you have to pay an extra $100 for each memory upgrade (8GB -> 16 -> 32 -> 64 -> etc) every step of the way. Guess who started that trend? Hint: It's the one company that knew it could get away with it from the get-go.

Not to debate morality (as others are doing that just fine), some devices with SD card slots have no ends of problems as a result.

For instance, older Android devices had issues where if the SD card lost connection for a brief moment for whatever reason (such as the device dropping from a non-fatal height), the entire system could crash depending on what you had moved on there (such as the launcher app).

Claim user error all you want, but the fact is that this is a non-issue on devices with internal storage only. It is impossible to change the storage method of any app on any device with only internal storage such that the same issue would occur.

For this reason, I consider devices with low internal storage (less than 16 GB) and SD card expansion less premium than devices with large internal storage and no SD card expansion.

Come on...Weere is that guy who was ripping me because I was calling out all the OEM's saying that they are charging exuberant pricies for RAM and Flash. You said I made no sense? What you got to say now? Come on...speak up now.

As zhiVago says above, there's nothing going on here but economics. Besides being used to determine profit (which companies like to be a positive number), cost to build has nothing (a clear exaggeration) to do with pricing. It's cool that Which? is trying to educate people on how little storage actually costs and hopefully they'll change the market through that. However, there's no scandal here. Just business. If you don't like it don't buy it and if enough people do that the price will have to come down.

The scandal is that we have a bunch of "tech consumers" that will pay ANYTHING for the fastest, the newest, the prettiest, and the "better than all my friends." They're the ones ruining the market. (For the record I want a 512/8GB Surface Pro 2 and HATE how expensive it is)

Difference is that the capacity difference with the Surface is an actual SSD, not crappy the same as the slow flash memory used in other tablets.

an advertised storage of say a surfaceRT @ 32GB isn't 32GB per se when the consumer EXPECTS to have 32GB of storage inside.

seems like a misnomer although the storage total is 32GB, what the consumer has available is less.

chrisj1968 said,
an advertised storage of say a surfaceRT @ 32GB isn't 32GB per se when the consumer EXPECTS to have 32GB of storage inside.

seems like a misnomer although the storage total is 32GB, what the consumer has available is less.

I don't know ANY customer who expects the storage there device has will be fully avail. No one expects that because it isn't going to happen. Unless you want a device with storage that has nothing on it.

What they do expect is to have a fair amount of space avail to have their own stuff.

chrisj1968 said,
people like you and I yes. but the normal everyday john and jane does don't.
What? No one isn't even pay attention. Let me give you an example. If you have a 16GB iDevice, iOS 7 takes up 49% of the space. What has anyone said? NOTHING. Samsung made a move with the GN3. Even tho Android andTW only takes up 7.5GB of space, they have move up to 32GB of internal storage.

The downside to Samsung devices is TW doesn't support installing apps to SDcards. But sdcards are perfect for music/pictures. But most people don't even look at space until they get a message saying they re very low or an app cant fit.

What I hate most in this case, is these guys are making billions of dollars and they are sticking to poor memory storage options. Right now, 32GB should be the minimum fr any device that isn't using a sdcard and doesn't support installing apps on the if hey do support it. With the money these guys make, 64GB and 128GB should be the normal especially after 6 years.

I don't care if mot people don't keep a device past a year. The main reason they keep it low is simple...to force you to buy a new device. Low storage means small ROMS, means less features...means a new device with more features looks more attractive.

Its a numbers game. In Apple case, they charge $100 to go from 16GB to 32GB, yet it costs them nothing to do this. Samsung is more forgiving as they charge $50 to move from 16GB to 32GB.

For me, the first thing I do when boot up a device I have never used, is I check to see how much of the storage is being used before I start adding stuff.

The average Joe wont even care to do this. So thus the pricing doesn't matter either.

Well duh I thought everyone who bought Nexus and iOS devices knew about this ripoff and still bought it? 128 GB iPad for $899. It's a total rip off.

The amount of memory these manufacturers put inside their mobile devices is one of the few things how they can differentiate and produce more than one version of the same model...and they milk this cow as best as they can

It's all business: marketing and economics (profit maximization).

Though the article is correct that you presently can not install App in MicroSD cards, you can Install Programs, on devices like the Surface Pro. Presently running Adobe CS6 and AutoCAD on the MicroSD Cards. Start up is about 4-6 seconds slower, but once loaded they are just as fast.

What hope do they have when in the UK we have internet suppliers offering *Unlimited broadband...

I'm surprised at Which for this because what companies charge you for anything isnt just a simple matter of taking the cost price and adding a percentage off the bat. As we all know there are soo many other factors.

You'd be amazed on sites like Play.com where resellers take a price list, add% and then sell it out FORGETTING to add shipping costs. Seen this soo many times

ALL companies, not just Apple, will charge what the market will bear and what people expect to pay. Popcorn in a cinema is my analogy. We all know it costs pence yet when you goto the cinema you expect to pay through the nose etc.

Granted Apple is expensive no to ways about it but a small saving grace is that it's more than just buying a part from a high street store. Support is readily available, shops you can walk into for help so it's more of the overall package for Apple than just a cost of materials + X

Isn't bigger memory harder to manufacture?

*subject to a cap and fair usage policy...

Edited by shifts, Nov 20 2013, 1:19pm :

the problem is what can consumer do? with these SOC designs, you can't really upgrade anything significant...and don't get me started on the ifix it bogus reports which seem more worried about glue and screw counts than actual practical upgradeability.

Here's my local (Australian) supplier's USB flash drive prices:
USB3.0 Kingston Flash Drive 8G / 16G / 32G / 64G: $9 / $15 / $28 / $49 AUD

The price of flash memory is now well under $1 AUD per gigabyte.

If I were Apple, I'd just release 64 and 128 GB models (64 for the price of a 16 GB model now).

68k said,
Here's my local (Australian) supplier's USB flash drive prices:
USB3.0 Kingston Flash Drive 8G / 16G / 32G / 64G: $9 / $15 / $28 / $49 AUD

The price of flash memory is now well under $1 AUD per gigabyte.

If I were Apple, I'd just release 64 and 128 GB models (64 for the price of a 16 GB model now).

if you were apple the share price would plummet because you would lose the company billions of dollars and the entire US would go into another recession.. try again

I agree totally that the whole scenario stinks of profiteering, but saying that 'upgrading from a 16GB model to 32GB costs around £80' is a shade misleading - see the Google Play store, a Nexus 7 16GB is £199, a 32Gb is £239 - by my reckoning that is 40 quid more, not 80.

Lets get the facts straight in the first instance.

well in the ops defense it is true of the ipad air, 16GB to 32Gb is £80 now heres the stupid part, 32GB to 64GB is £80 (increase of 32Gb) 64GB to 128GB is £80 increase by 64GB so doesnt matter whether your going form 16 to 32 or 64 to 128 it still costs £80 between models so wonder if there purposely keeping increase memory sizes high of the low end so you think that a higher storage option seems more beneficial on the cost where there just trying to inflate profits

Pretty sure the report is mainly dealing with Apple and their ridiculous markups, most other companies keep the markups within reason

z0phi3l said,
Pretty sure the report is mainly dealing with Apple and their ridiculous markups, most other companies keep the markups within reason

All companies take the ****. Apple just take the **** about taking the **** but then that's been Apple since day one with their overly expensive hardware.

ACTIONpack said,
They need to stop selling 16GB tablets and smartphones storage! The standard should be 32GB on in 2014!

why? i have a 16 gig tablet and a 16gig phone and not once have i ever filled up the space on them, plus i have a microsd card slot if i want the extra room, so why would i want a 32gig tablet/phone thats going to cost me 200$ more when i can add the 32gig microsd for 12$?

MicroSD does not work the same as internal storage. I have always had to remove data to keep at least 20% of my storage free if I want my phone to run smoothly.

I wonder which device boasts the biggest markup. It may be the surface pro 2, where the base surface pro 2 has 64gb storage for $800 and the top end has 512gb for $1800. If that is the only difference (I think RAM also goes up) then that would be almost $2.25 per gigabyte. However I believe the upgrade from 16gb iPad air to 32gb iPad air is $100 which is $6.25 per gigabyte!

Edited by Invizibleyez, Nov 20 2013, 10:30am :

Invizibleyez said,
I wonder which device boasts the biggest markup. It may be the surface pro 2, where the base surface pro 2 has 64gb storage for $800 and the top end has 512gb for $1800. If that is the only difference (I think RAM also goes up) then that would be almost $2.25 per gigabyte. However I believe the upgrade from 16gb iPad air to 32gb iPad air is $100 which is $6.25 per gigabyte!
Surface Pro 512 and 256GB also have 8GB RAM while 64 and 128 GB models have 4. There is also a big difference between pasting a bigger NAND chip to a system board (iPAD) or using a larger SSD drive (Surface).

The bigger rip off is anything with the word Apple on it, they literally double or triple charge you for RAM and HDD/SSD storage, noting else changes

Exactly. They are the ones that are selling 8 GB of additional RAM on their iMacs for $200. I'm thinking, are they really expecting the people who order a computer on their site to not check anywhere and see that 8 GB of RAM should be less than 1/2 that price? It's like they're stuck in 1998 or something.

paulheu said,
Surface Pro 512 and 256GB also have 8GB RAM while 64 and 128 GB models have 4. There is also a big difference between pasting a bigger NAND chip to a system board (iPAD) or using a larger SSD drive (Surface).

What is the difference between "a bigger NAND" and "a larger SSD"? An SSD uses NAND for its storage...

Also, 4GB of RAM isn't that expensive...

The problem is on every tech device for sure. This has been the case since forever. It is why I never do a RAM upgrade at the OEM, for instance, and always do the after-market. The same is true for storage upgrades like SSDs and the like. They always gouge the users who can't change these themselves. The only difference in the new tablet space is even us competent users can't change things (as it is all soldered to board).

I knew it. Glad someone is creating awareness and raise concern over the price. The last thing is to spread it out ASAP regardless of any social network platform. This is not fair and far too absurd to continue let the innocent and hard earn cash get roped by a greedy tech company. IT"S TIME TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT AND IT'S NOW OR NEVER!

Albert said,
wow. there actually are idiots surprised by this.

Comprehension fail. Read again.
They are just trying to raise awareness.

sanke1 said,

Comprehension fail. Read again.
They are just trying to raise awareness.

i was referring merely to those surprised by this on neowin.

but let's play it your way - so idiots with "raised awareness" will not do it?

JHBrown said,
As long as consumers keep buying, companies will continue with these mark-ups. No one to blame but ourselves.

Quite right because as we all know, you can't fix stupid!

-adrian- said,
Would like to see you put your Ipad in a pocket
My iPad mini and Nexus 7 fit perfectly in my pockets

However, it is worth noting that even on certain devices that offer microSD support, it is not possible to install apps to the storage card

This is important and tricky on a lot of Android tablets. Some will allow it and some won't. (Unless you are going to run a custom ROM that often can let you bypass this restriction.)

With Windows, you can install Apps and Software to external SD cards and even to USB Mass Storage devices.

There is a registry setting to modify the install location for Windows Store Apps (RT/x86/x64). With traditional x86/x64 software you can simply change the drive/location at the time of installing the software.

There are even tricks to combine storage locations with Disk Management, so you can use a huge USB Stick and combine it to be the same drive/path as the MicroSD card, etc.

On the other hand we have AT&T.
They can even remove features and reduce extra storage by half and sell it for the same price

-adrian- said,
On the other hand we have AT&T.
They can even remove features and reduce extra storage by half and sell it for the same price

You must be referring to the Lumia 1520. I agree, that was a stupid move on att's part. They removed the QI charging so they'd have another accessory to sell you and limited you case choices in the process. Why the hell would I want to buy a charging shell and a plate. Nokia should've said hell no to this crap.

Well just because AT&T is member of the PMA . Hell AFAIK there is not factory shipped phone supporting that stupid PMA charging. And removing 16gb of Memory. Hope they will change the partner soon.

This has been the way for forever. They use the higher end models to offset making less profit on the cheaper models.

I do agree that usable space should be advertised, however.

Its needs to end! Just because something is the status qou, doesnt mean it is acceptable.

Trading standards should get on this.

Brian M. said,
This has been the way for forever. They use the higher end models to offset making less profit on the cheaper models.

I do agree that usable space should be advertised, however.

Actually with recently released Google Nexus 5, the price difference between 16GB and 32GB models is not that bad.

But the difference between 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB idevices is eye gouging stuff.

Today I got iPhone 5c for my sis. cost me Rs. 40000 ($640) for 16 GB.

32 GB was for Rs. 52000 ($840).

If 32 GB was priced sensibly at around Rs. 44000 ($690) then I would have gone for that instead. That means extra Rs. 4000 from me which they lost because of this stupid pricing.

Edited by d5aqoëp, Nov 20 2013, 11:05am :

Colicab said,
Its needs to end! Just because something is the status qou, doesnt mean it is acceptable.

Trading standards should get on this.


but if the lower end models are propped up by higher margins on higher models, this "has to change" will only mean the lower end models come up in price with a slight decrease on the higher, no one will really 'win'

sanke1 said,

Actually with recently released Google Nexus 5, the price difference between 16GB and 32GB models is not that bad.

But the difference between 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB idevices is eye gouging stuff.

Today I got iPhone 5c for my sis. cost me Rs. 40000 ($640) for 16 GB.

32 GB was for Rs. 52000 ($840).

If 32 GB was priced sensibly at around Rs. 44000 ($690) then I would have gone for that instead. That means extra Rs. 4000 from me which they lost because of this stupid pricing.


Can I ask, why the huge number for the bills. Rs. 40000 and 52000 would it be easier to just have a Rs 640 and Rs 840 respectively. I just wonder if they ever explained that to you guys.

How is the markup on different versions of the Surface and Surface RT any better? I guess these devices never registered on their sales charts for them to bother including them on their report. Either that or the 'study' was funded by MSFT.

recursive said,
Either that or the 'study' was funded by MSFT.

No, it was from Which!, which is an independent and highly respected consumer group.

recursive said,
How is the markup on different versions of the Surface and Surface RT any better? I guess these devices never registered on their sales charts for them to bother including them on their report. Either that or the 'study' was funded by MSFT.

Its not any better, and its not surprising there is no mention if it was funded by MSFT. There are specific Android examples where the price isn't that bad so that's what everyone is harping on. Its easy to find a particular Android phone to win the 'Android rulz everything else drulz' argument.

I do agree that usable space should be advertised, however.

Absolutely. Problem is, nobody is currently 'lying' about anything. Its going to take a big name to step up and start doing it and slinging mud at the other side calling them out as dishonest for not doing the same in order for things to change across the board. I doubt there will ever be an industry 'requirement' from regulators... it will have to be an industry norm.