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The Galaxy S23 bloatware problem isn’t as bad as you think

During its Galaxy Unpacked event in February 2023, Samsung revealed the next generation of Galaxy phones that make up the S23 lineup: the Galaxy S23, S23 Plus, and Galaxy S23 Ultra. These phones are packed with Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Galaxy chip and have up to 12GB of RAM and 1TB of storage, a massive 200MP main camera on the Ultra, and plenty of other powerful features.

However, an article from Ars Technica raises questions about storage in the Galaxy S23 lineup. The standard S23 starts with 128GB of storage, and the S23 Plus and S23 Ultra start with 256GB of base storage. But it soon found out that between 50 and 60 GB of storage space was used by the system storage. Ars Technica was under the impression that all that storage was taken up by “bloatware,” but that’s not entirely the case.

Here’s what’s really going on with the Galaxy S23’s storage.

GB vs GiB (and what it all means)

Settings app running on Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

When you get your Samsung Galaxy S23, you can go into Settings to see how much storage you have to work with. If you have the basic S23, you’ll have either 128GB or 256GB, depending on which version you buy. The S23 Plus starts at 256GB and goes up to 512GB, while the S23 Ultra starts at 256GB and goes up to 512GB, or 1TB.

But like any other smartphone, this one Advertised The storage space is not actual usable space. Each device needs to allocate some storage for the operating system and all necessary system files, which will reduce the amount of actual usable storage that you can do whatever you want.

And believe it or not, while we’re all familiar with gigabytes (GB), there is another similar but different form of data measurement: gibibytes (GiB). While one gigabyte is 1,000 x (1,000,000,000) bytes, one gigabyte is equal to 1,024³ (1,073,741,824) bytes. Basically, one GB equals 0.93 GB.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra lying on a large rock.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Why is this important? It turns out that Samsung actually counts the storage space for the S23 series, which you can find in the “My Files” app, in binary GiBs, and so doesn’t reflect the actual storage space, which is in GB.

We’ve reached out to Samsung about what’s going on here, and here’s what the company told us:

The actual internal system storage space of the Galaxy S23 series ranges from 20 to 25 GB, depending on the type of model, carrier or region. Allocated internal system storage for Android OS, unique Samsung user interface and native apps, space for future OS upgrade for more convenient and smooth usage. Storage space for the S23 series, as currently viewable in the My Files app, is calculated using binary GiBs, which does not reflect actual storage space. To address this confusion, Samsung is considering updating My Files to use decimal units of GB, which will enable the app to accurately display actual internal system storage between 20GB and 25GB.”

Yes, it’s a bit confusing, but in fact, system files don’t take up nearly half of the base model S23. Inaccurate system storage numbers aren’t Samsung’s thing, even Apple’s iOS had bugs showing incorrect storage numbers in the past.

Hopefully, Samsung will release an update in the near future to address this issue, because in reality it should only be consuming 20GB and 25GB, which is a more realistic figure.

Samsung reserves space for its apps and future updates

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, Galaxy S23 Plus, and Galaxy S23 screens.
Galaxy S23 (from left), Galaxy S23 Plus, and Galaxy S23 Ultra Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

As mentioned in Samsung’s statement to Digital Trends, some of the system space that is taken up is essentially partitioned and reserved. It uses its own Samsung One UI on top of Android, and they both need space on the device to run.

Another important thing to note is that Samsung includes a lot of apps duplicated on top of Google apps. Therefore, it reserves some additional system space to add its own native Samsung version of apps, in addition to the standard Google apps, and other apps that partners may want to add for certain carrier functionality. In addition to the Play Store and Google Photos, you also have the Galaxy Store and Samsung Gallery apps, for example.

Android 13 logo on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Finally, Samsung promises to support the Galaxy S23 series with four years of Android updates, as well as five years of security updates. In order for Samsung to get those upgrades and updates to the device, it requires storage space, which it reserves for this purpose in the future.

Instead of someone having to delete apps and other files to make room for a future software update, having space reserved ensures that there really is room for them without any additional work from the user. It’s basically broken down so you can update your S23 when needed without worrying about space for it, because it’s already done by Samsung.

Advertised storage ≠ usable storage

Multitasking menu on Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

So while the space advertised on the box is 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB, it’s not actually usable space — and that goes for any smartphone on the market, not just Samsung devices. Since this space is for system files, it shouldn’t be more than that.

For example, my 128GB Google Pixel 7 has about 14GB of system files, which means I only have 114GB of space for photos, apps, and other files. My Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 has an advertised 128GB of storage, but that’s about 24GB taken up by system files, leaving me with 104GB of storage space. TRUE storage.

The initial article from Ars Technica, which has since been updated, appears to have caused some confusion and controversy regarding the Samsung Galaxy S23 lineup. However, even though Samsung should have made it clear from the start that it was calculated in GiB and not GB — or just put the storage in GB to begin with — this whole thing seems to have been blown a bit.

While it’s still a bit larger than, say, the Google Pixel for system space, the 20GB to 25GB devoted to system apps and updates isn’t too bad — especially when you consider that any version of the S23 should stick with you. the least four years.

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