Written by Nick Heer.

Disk Space Used by System Files

Mishaal Rahman tweeted a question: “how much of your phone’s storage is taken up by the system?” Respondents with Google Pixels seem to be doing okay, with about 16–18 GB consumed by the system. That is nothing compared to people with Samsung devices, some of whom reported 56, 62, 68, 75, and 203 GB of system files. My iPhone 12 Pro looks more acceptable, at first blush, with just 8.5 GB consumed by iOS, but the separate “System Data” section consumes nearly 20 GB. It has a beta profile on it, so it may be logging more than a typical iPhone, but it is in the right range.

I thought about this when I was having some iPad storage troubles last month. That device, which has a nearly fresh installation of iPadOS 16.3, reports 7 GB consumed by the operating system and another 4 GB in the catch-all “System Data” category. It is only a 32 GB model, but nearly a quarter of that space is consumed by iPadOS alone.

I continue to believe this rabid appetite for bytes is disrespectful to users. Sometimes, it is hard to see where those bytes are going. The iOS installer for my iPhone has grown by a full gigabyte since the version which came with the device. The model I had before it came with iOS 9, the installer for which consumed 2 GB; the installer for its most recent version is over 5 GB. I cannot find numbers for the on-device disk space consumption after installation, but it has likely grown by similar amounts. I am sure there are not gigabytes of padding in iOS but I also find it difficult to understand why it has grown by so much on the same device.