While iOS 6.1 may be light on new features, there is at least one bit of interesting data included: there is a 128 GB system partition key in the BuildManifest. This information comes via Twitter user @iNeal:
We should be seeing 128GB iDevices soon. iOS 6.1 beta 5 has 128G system partition key in BuildManifest.
— Neal (@iNeal) January 27, 2013
What exactly does this mean? For starters, it seems likely that at least one iDevice will be receiving 128 GB of flash storage in the near future. The inclusion of this key suggests that Apple is testing what will become public software on internal prototypes, which would in turn suggest that those prototypes are at least relatively close to being finalized.
A next-generation iPhone could be a prime candidate for such a storage bump. The prices of flash storage have dropped dramatically over the past few years, as techniques and manufacturing capabilities have improved. The iPhone also has a huge profit margin , particularly in countries where carrier subsidizes are common.
The iPad and iPad mini could also be a likely candidate, given that they are both larger devices. The iPad family is also ideal for users who store larger files, such as movies, and more storage could also help to boost the content creation capabilities of the devices.
The iPod touch, since it is positioned as the more “affordable” way of getting in to the Apple ecosystem, isn’t exactly the ideal suitor. However, it is also the media device of the line, so that may make it a likely device.
All three devices may also receive a memory upgrade as well: Apple is typically fantastic about securing components at a price that makes it difficult for others to compete. Having a 128 GB model of an iPhone could actually be a decent point of comparison against other devices from competitors Samsung or HTC.
This could also signify a storage bump for every respective price point. While a new iPhone 5 16 GB model currently costs $199 subsidized in the U.S., with a new high-end storage option, Apple could theoretically bump storage capacity up while keeping the prices the same. So, instead of a 16 GB model, you would get a 32 GB iPhone for $199.
Such a move would seriously undercut Apple’s competitors, who have recently jumped on the bandwagon of including roughly 16 GB of flash storage in every device, instead of relying on SD/Micro SD cards to provide storage. It would also make the value proposition of an iPhone (or any Apple device, really) go up considerably.