iPhone 13 storage — how much do you need?

iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max colors
(Image credit: Apple)

The arrival of the iPhone 13 complicates the annual question of how much storage you should get for your new iPhone. Previously, to answer that question, you'd look up how much storage came with the entry level iPhone, roll your eyes, and then pay up for the next tier of capacity.

That's changing with the iPhone 13. Instead of offering 64GB as the base level of storage as it had for recent iPhone models, Apple bumped base capacity on the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini to 128GB. And the iPhone 13 Pro models, which continue to offer 128GB of capacity in its own entry-level model, adds a 1TB option for shoppers who can never get enough storage.

With iPhone 13 pre-orders now underway, it's time to figure out just how much storage you need. Answering that question requires us to review the available iPhone 13 storage options and consider just how comfortable you are with relying on cloud storage.

iPhone 13 storage options

If you're considering the iPhone 13 or iPhone 13 mini, you no longer have to resign yourself to 64GB of storage should you opt for the entry-level price of either phone. Instead, the $699 starting price of the iPhone 13 mini gets you a 128GB model; you'll get 128GB of capacity with the $799 iPhone 13 as well.

The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini also come in 256GB and 512GB configurations. Just add another $100 to the price for for jumping to the next tier of storage, then another $200 after that. The 256GB iPhone 13 mini would cost $799 while a 512GB model would go for $999. Price climbs are identical for the 256GB iPhone 13 ($899) and 512GB model ($1,099).

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 128GB256GB512GB1TB
iPHone 13 mini$699$799$99N/A
iPhone 13$799$899$1,099N/A
iPhone 13 Pro$999$1,099$1,299$1,499
iPhone 13 Pro Max$1,099$1,199$1,399$1,599

As for the iPhone 13 Pro models, the 128GB iPjone 13 Pro starts at $990 while the iPhone 13 Pro pushes the starting price out to $1,099. Add $100 to that price for the 266GB model. A jump to the 512BB model costs another $200, so the 512GB iPhone 13 Pro would cost $1,299. Should you opt for the 1TB iPhone 13 Pro unit of your dreams, it's $200 on top of that.

Put another way, if you want a 1TB iPhone 13 Pro Max, you'll pay $1,599 for the privilege. You can get a 13-inch M1-powered MacBook Pro with 512GB of storage for nearly that much, and still have $100 left over.

How much iPhone 13 storage do you need?

Can you get by on 128GB of storage? It's not an academic question. Because the iPhone doesn't include a microSD card slot for boosting capacity, the storage you buy at launch is the the storage you still have months later.

So if you opt for 128GB, you had better be sure that's all you need. Determining whether it is comes down to your iPhone usage.

If you don't have an oversized photo library that you insist on toting around on your phone or an extensive music library that you also store on your phone, 128GB is probably enough. Right now, my main phone is an iPhone 11 Pro Max. I'm using about 67GB at the moment, with around 550 songs, 800 photos, 20 videos and 40 apps taking up that space. 

Even if capacity were to start to fill up on my iPhone, Apple has a few ways to squeeze more storage out of your phone. A temporary iCloud backup feature in iOS 15 grants you as much backup storage on iCloud for up to three weeks after you buy a new phone to make sure you can transfer everything you need to to your new device. Since iOS 11, you've also been able to offload unused apps to free up space on your iPhone.

If that sounds like a lot of fuss to manage your storage, paying an extra $100 for the 256GB model may be a worth it just to take the guesswork out of calculating how much storage you need with your iPhone 13 model. But the 512GB versions — and the 1TB version for the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max — really is aimed only at people who keep everything on their mobile device.

What about iCloud?

There's one other thing to consider when calculating how much storage you need — how much you plan on using iCloud to host photos and backup other iPhone content. By default, you get 5GB of free storage on iCloud just by signing up. 

But Apple's iCloud Plus service lets you upgrade to 50GB (99 cents/month), 200GB ($2.99/month) and 2TB ($9.99/month) tiers. That storage gives you a place to stash things like photos, mail, calendar, contacts and other files. In addition, with iOS 15's arrival, iCloud Plus adds additional features like private relay for more secure browsing, HomeKit secure video recording for compatible security cameras and — eventually — a Hide My Email feature that saves you from having to share your true email address.

Whether iCloud Plus is worth it is another question entirely, but it's a way to augment your cloud storage options for your new iPhone.

iPhone 13 storage outlook

For most people, 128GB should be enough storage, though anyone concerned about bumping into that ceiling should pay the extra $100 to get 256GB of capacity. Only the biggest digital packrats need to worry about 512GB or 1TB options.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.

  • Masternav
    FYI, the Today's best Apple iPhone 13 Pro deals (Unlocked) at the end of this link actually shows LOCKED phones (minimum 60 days). Not very useful.