There are a few different types of Apple iPhone and iPad users: general household users who largely consume media—e.g. surfing the web, watching movies, listening to music. Other iPhone and iPad owners use their device(s) to produce stuff—written documents, edited movies, blog posts, music tracks, and the like. And then there are those who are very mobile with their devices. They commute to and from work on a regular basis with their iPhone or iPad. Some users may travel a lot on business, or they are students who carry and use their devices in a school setting.
Whichever type of Apple mobile user you are, it's quite possible to get by with an entry level 16GB iPhone and/or iPad. Now, if you're rich and have lots of money to splurge on 32GB devices, you probably need to read no further.
I always purchase the entry level devices because although I don't run out and purchase each new upgrade of an iPhone or iPad, I find that I really don't need the 32GB models—mainly because of the Wi-Fi and 3G connections that can be made with the devices. I have yet to max out the storage space on either my 16GB iPhone 4 or first generation iPad. Yet I can access over 75 gigs of data from various sources on my devices. Below, apps and services for getting by with the 16GB models.
First off, I can't recommend enough the file storage and sharing service Dropbox. In my view, it's better than the Documents folder on a Mac or PC. Storing or backing up your important flies on your Dropbox account provides you with up to 2gigs of extra free space on your iPhone and iPad. That's a lot of space for text documents, presentations, PDFs, and spreadsheet files. Dropbox even supports music and video files. In addition to the free Dropbox (iTunes Store link) app for the iPhone and iPad, many other iOS apps, like the text editor SimpleNote and the image transfer program, Picbox, have direct support or Dropbox, thus giving your greater access to your data.
You don't need to weigh down your 16 GB mobile with a bunch of music files. The Home Sharing feature of iTunes enables you access all your music and video content on your main computer, even if your iTunes library is on an external drive. Home Sharing, however, can only be used over a local network, which means it can't be accessed outside your home. If you travel often with your iOS device and you want to have good collection of music to carry with you, use the Smart Playlist feature in iTunes to rotate fresh music onto your devices. Other options include streaming music from online cloud services like Amazon's Cloud Player or music subscription services like Rdio.com, which provide a large catalogue of music selections for $10 per month.
If you like watching movies and videos on your device, the free video streaming app, Air Video, allows you to access your video files from anywhere, over both your local network and via the internet, including 3G.
To use the app on your device, you just need to download the free Air Video app on your Mac or PC. You can selectively add collections of videos on your computer to stream to your mobile device.
Downloading lots of iOS apps can quickly eat up storage space. I have this challenge with my iPad, which currently has 147 apps installed on it, though I realistically only use only about a third of those programs on a regular basis. You can find out about the storage capacity of your device by opening the Settings application and tapping on General>About. When apps began to hog space on my iPad, I simply prune it down to the apps I'm most likely to use.
While there is a $100 difference between the 16GB and 32GB models of the iPhone and iPad, there's still little need to load down your devices with lots of files and applications. Cloud service technology, which Apple will eventually start providing as well, means there's less reason to carry files your mobile device, unless you frequent places where there is little or no Wi-Fi or 3G access.
Let me know how you manage files content on your iPhone or iPad.