BBC Watchdog to investigate Samsung Galaxy S4 storage claims

by: Robert TriggsMay 10, 2013

samsung galaxy s4 top side aa

Samsung was probably hoping that this contentious issue had died down by now, but BBC’s Watchdog program intends to broadcast an investigation into the available internal memory accessible to Samsung Galaxy S4 owners. If you recall, the 16GB unlocked European model leaves consumers with just 9.5GB of usable storage, and in the US that figure drops to around 8.5GB for those who purchase carrier branded handsets.

For those of you who don’t live in the UK, BBC’s Watchdog is a consumer awareness program, which investigates breaches in consumer purchasing rights and suspicious trading activities. Importantly, the show has a large enough audience to reach out to, and inform, less observant consumers about the “problem”, elevating this from a mild inconvenience to a nationwide reputation issue for Samsung.

Samsung Galaxy S4 storage

In Samsung’s defence, it has already responded to consumer concerns, in effect saying that it’s a necessary trade off for all of the extra features that Samsung packs in, and that’s certainly true.

It also seems a little unfair to pick on Samsung, as every every smartphone has to install an OS and software which eats into the total available memory. Everyone is guilty of this; it’s an unavoidable consequence of installing software. Theirs is just unusually cumbersome.

Even so, this is a potentially embarrassing situation for Samsung which could have an impact on UK sales. Do you believe that manufacturers should at least make consumers aware of the maximum memory size vs the actual memory available? Is it misleading to offer 16GB worth of storage only to leave users with just half left for themselves? Tell us what you think.

  • Dean

    just make a rule that companies should only be allowed to use 20% or less of the storage, if the device doesn’t meat that standard than they need to increase capacity.

    Simple & effective

    • Trevor Kinsie

      No thank you, I don’t want laws imposed onto companies that regulate how they go about their business. If they are lying to the consumer about storage claims that is their prerogative and they should be dealt with accordingly. Making obscure and inane storage restrictions however does not solve that.

    • flamencoguy

      No. It is the owners responsibilty to know what they need and what is available and which model to buy. Read the specs. If you need more capacity pay the extra money and buy the 32GB model. This is the same for many products. Cars for one. You want more horsepower buy the bigger engine.

      • K.

        The car manufacturers do not advertise cars with 4 seats of which only 2 are usable.

        • flamencoguy

          I think it’s more like they specify 4 seats and the owner folded the seats then still expect 4 seats. Read what you will into it. There are just dumb people interpreting facts they don’t understand fully. Same applies to computer hard drive capacities, SD card capacities, car trunk capacity (spare tire space included). That is what the chip or the device is capable of storing when empty. It is the total capacity of the chip or the device. Also some people measure 1 MB as 1,000,000 others as 1024K or 1,048,576. Its all about peoples level of knowledge. I think the manufacturers should say “free usable space will be less” and not specify any amount. OSes grow over time as more features are added. So if you buy the phone when a newer release is installed it may contain less usable space. There will still be a birdbrain that will complain and say you said it was 8 GB free and I am only seeing 7.5GB free.
          Caveat Emptor!

        • Steve

          Poor analogy. It’s not a standard industry wide practice for car manufacturers to advertise seat numbers but then offer less than that.

          • K.

            That’s exactly the problem. Phone manufacturers should make it a standard to tell the exact usable space they offer there customers.

  • John Francis Gamao

    They should tell the customer that it has 16GB but 8.5GB usable.

  • I think that the space advertised should be the usable space. Its ridiculous to advertise 16 gig as its internal memory, but you are only able to use HALF of that

    • flamencoguy

      It is ridiculous that you don’t know this. That amount used can vary with each new release of the OS depending on when you buy the phone and what version is installed. I think HALF wits should just buy the 32GB model or string 2 empty tin cans together and forget about buying any high tech devices. It is too complicated for them!

    • uu

      Try to think laptops, when advertsed as 500GB and then ull end up realizing that 400GB is available.. this is common to all companies even htc BB Sony Lg..
      16GB is d real deal, coz the true internal CARd memory is 16GB..
      The most accptble solution is to stop 16GB versions, they must start w/ 32 GB

    • Daniel

      This is actually standard practice. Every storage device advertises maximum capacity, not available capacity. You won’t find a single company that doesn’t do this. So it’s odd that Samsung is getting investigated for this.

      • RaptorOO7

        The Brits need to save us from ourselves and really the issue is the fact that the UK will not be seeing the 32GB version from what I have read and if that holds true its really the retailers and carriers fault.

        Overseas they get the 16/32GB GN8.0 in the US only the 16GB GN8.0 which to me is a joke.

    • I agree 100%. I keep hearing “It’s common practice to do this.” “All companies do this.”. Just because it’s common practice, and “everybody” is doing it, doesn’t make it right. It’s also common practice that all criminals wear a mask when they rob a bank. Doesn’t make either right to do.

      • John A

        Well said.

  • Ray

    Samsung should have gave a barebones os and let consumers download the features they want to use.

    • Trevor Kinsie

      The only thing is not all of these features would be available in extra software, such as the hover options, these are baked into the OS. I agree that it is a little ludicrous the amount of space that it take up, but in this case it is almost necessary.

      • Josh Warner

        Im willing to bet there will be a custom roms soon that will include all these features without 4Gbs of bloatware. Seriously, people need to stop crying about this. Choice is why people pick Android. If you dont like this situation, luckily you dont own an apple, and you can change it.

    • flamencoguy

      Then there will be other complaints like “How do I download this?” “Where do I get this from?” People will always complain because this is what people do. They never see it as their own fault for finding out as much as possible before buying. Instead they should just be saying. Oh I didn’t realize that. I need more storage and go buy the 32GB microSD card. Most apps can be off loaded to the SD card!

  • I think that the best way to deal with this issue is to have an additional MMC chip that holds the OS and another for consumer use! This will NOT increase the price of any device more than 10$ or maybe even less! A recent report says that the S4 costs 237$ to build and another 10$ wouldn’t hurt Samsung too much and they can advertise this as a plus! I think that 4GB or even 8GB of flash could be integrated in the SoC too!

  • Josh Warner

    Stop crying. I wouldnt be surprised if at least 2GBs of that are carrier bloatware. You can put a 64GB sd card in the damn thing if you dont like it. There are plenty of apps that let you transfer other apps to the sd card so dont cry about that either. If you dont want 7 gigs of OS, root it and put a custom one on.

    • Or you could just not buy it.

    • ProfessorGadget

      you can’t load apps to your SD card with Jellybean unless you root your device. I have an GS3 32gb with 32gb SD card and option is greyed out and the app I had before the jellybean update doesn’t work anymore.

      If I’m wrong I’d love to know how without rooting my device.

  • UKphones

    It’s like going to a large swimming pool and finding it’s already so full of people that you can’t swim seriously.

    All Samsung had to do to avoid this was to make the larger memory versions avsilable it’s 1urope. AT&T in the USA are selling the 32Gb version. It should be available to anyone.

    As it currently stands potential customers are holding back or opting for the HTC One that starts at 32Gb.

    • Steve

      No, it’s like going to a swimming pool everyone knows has a lot of people in it already, and then complaining that it has a lot of people in it. And all the pools nearby also have a lot of people in it.

  • The Term “usable space” needs to be put on EVERY device with storage, from Hard Drives and SSDs to phone, mp3 players, everything. That way the consumer can make a better informed decision. Samsung is not the only guilty party here, they just used up so much space that people felt the hit…

    • RaptorOO7

      In the world of storage devices we all know that part of the advertised space is formatted space, but in this case Samsung AND the carriers have gone above and beyond the call of duty when they added their bloatware and the UI.

      Samsung should really focus on making their apps better and use stock Android OS. Their UI eats up resources and space.

      The real solution is to start with 32GB devices and skip these 16GB (9.8GB) devices altogether. The 3GB S4 only has about 23-24GB of usable space so not much better.

      • I agree there, most tech savvy people understand
        The storage issues but most casual consumers don’t understand that the advertised memory is used by stock applications… and at this point with 13 megapixel as the new standard for images 32gb should be the new low end of device storage

  • david2.0

    its just like the Wii U

  • Quryous

    There is no excuse for not posting in their ads the actual END USER amount of storage available. Posting MAX or TOTAL storage is of little if any value to the typical end user.

    Getting rid of “Mandatory” carrier induced bloatware would help, but there are other methods that should be used on top of that.

    For one thing, I’m still waiting for 32GB and 64GB versions of various Galaxy phones to make their actual sales appearance. They were advertized from the original announcement, but have NEVER appeared for sale. WHY?

  • They just need to increase the capacity especially for the OS software and their custom apps.

  • Will Stewart

    It’s unfair of the Beeb to pick on one company. There are plenty of electronic devices that don’t have the aadvertised storage…some more than others in Samsungs case.

  • Oom Papa

    If you buy a PC/Laptop advertised at 250GB, you get less when it has arrived.. I had a mate once, who was looking in the box for the extra GB’s :D
    That aside, Samsung, also allow you to add storage, unlike iPhone’s. It would be ridiculous for watchdog to make a consumer issue out of this when there are much bigger problems happening with smartphones and people’s money.

  • Grayson Terry

    It wouldn’t hurt to show total storage vs available. To only show total available seems rather silly. New Samsung s4, 8.6 gb of storage. Nah. But in Samsung’s defense, they have an sd card slot. My s3 has a 64 gb card inside. And nobody offers that much internal storage. Kudos to Samsung, that feature is what sold me on Samsung in the first place.

  • William

    So stupid.

    Why not investigate EVERY company, then, since that’s what
    everyone does. They were not the first nor will they be the last for
    this practice.

    I smell foul play singling out Samsung for an industry wide practice.



  • flamencoguy

    Odd that people are only now starting to notice. Computers and cell phones have been around long enough for them to understand this issue.
    Product reviewers could and should have explained this also or find out if not available on the spec sheet. Most people do not understand everything on a spec sheet anyway. Like CDMA or HSPA or UMTS. Maybe this will be done in the future. It is been industry practice but singling out Samsung for investigation is unfair. I smell a rat. Could this be something Microsoft or Apple started behind the scene. It’s not beyond their tactics.

  • jieng

    16Gb with only 9GB useable?
    Samsung ask us to get a sdcard?
    Samsung din know that Most App can’t be save on SdCard??
    Most high end game take up more then 1GB now.

  • Or simply make it so that you can remove the bloatware without having to root it.

  • John Mortimer

    This is just crap’ the gs4 as just been limited and setup in a way so there is no slow down when you get to 200mb, I.e. it does not lag, tested it runs without problems unlike other phones like the gs3 and so on

  • i think the consumers should b informed right of that they r paying for , if the sticker on the box of device says 16 gb, it should be 16 , no 9 gb

  • Why can Manufacturers not incorporate the tools like Android Kitchens and so through programs like Kies can download the Official Firmware Package supplied by Samsung and then select the applications they want, surely this was a reason for App Store’s to have the applications that you wish to add there remove the Bloatware, i bet that 90% of people in the World only use half of the applications that are actually supplied, and the people that are technically minded use Root Uninstallers to remove the Crapware supplied.

  • kirah

    i think, even if only half of the internal memory is left for us users, as long as we could transfer applications to the external memory like it does whith the previous phones, it would have been much better..but the thing is, we cant even do that…so thats REALLY REALLy disappointing..