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Apple's Schiller talks iPhone storage, thin design tradeoffs, single-port MacBook and more

During a panel session with Daring Fireball's John Gruber on Tuesday, Apple SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller offered his take on 16GB iPhones, the tradeoffs between battery life and device thinness, single-port MacBooks and more.


Phil Schiller gets surprise birthday shoutout from Eddy Cue at WWDC 2015.


Schiller was on hand for Gruber's "The Talk Show" podcast, which held a live taping today in recognition of WWDC, to discuss a range of topics including yesterday's keynote presentation. The recording has not yet been posted, but The Verge offered up a brief summary of the most salient points.

On the topic of iPhone, Gruber asked Schiller why Apple still fields a 16GB model in an age of data rich content like complex apps and high-resolution mobile photography. As expected, the Apple executive pointed to iCloud, saying consumers are increasingly turning to cloud-based solutions for their storage needs.

"The belief is more and more as we use iCloud services for documents and our photos and videos and music that perhaps the most price-conscious customers are able to live in an environment where they don't need gobs of local storage because these services are lightening the load," Schiller said.

Apple first added a 16GB iPhone to the lineup in 2008 as a top-tier option for the first-generation handset, then later marketed the 16GB capacity as an affordable entry level alternative. While top-end iPhones gain storage space at a fairly consistent rate, base models have been stuck with 16GB since 2011's iPhone 4.

In response, Schiller said a 16GB offering helps offset the cost of improving overall handset technology, such as better cameras."We model every thickness, every size, every weight and try to figure out what the tradeoffs are. I think we've made great choices there." - Phil Schiller on iPhone design

Schiller also tackled a common question regarding Apple's penchant for ever-thinner devices. Some believe current device sizes are acceptable, implying that instead of modifying chassis designs as components shrink in size, Apple could use the extra space for larger batteries or extra hardware features. Battery life is a big issue for many iPhone users, especially considering power drains like complex apps and connected accessories such as Apple Watch.

"If you want a product that's thicker with a bigger battery it's also heavier, more costly, takes longer to charge," Schiller said. "We model every thickness, every size, every weight and try to figure out what the tradeoffs are. I think we've made great choices there."

Riffing on the idea of thinner is better, Gruber brought up the new 12-inch MacBook and its lone USB-C port. Detractors claim Apple sacrificed MacBook's usability in its pursuit of design nirvana. Schiller agreed that making a jump to a single port for charging and data transport needs was a risk, but said Apple is in the business of testing boundaries.

"If all we do is an incremental, slight change, where's the excitement? We need to take risks," he said. "That's the Apple I want. I want an Apple that's bold and taking risks and being aggressive."

The podcast episode should be available soon from Daring Fireball.