Needed for Google’s Next Nexus 7 Tablet: More Storage

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Jared Newman / TIME.com

Now that Amazon and Barnes & Noble have announced their latest cheap tablets, it’s become clear that Google’s own offering, the  Nexus 7, has a storage problem.

The $200 Nexus 7, which launched in July, comes with just 8 GB of storage. A 16 GB version of the Nexus 7 sells for $250, but neither model has a MicroSD slot, so once you’re out of room, your only option is to delete stuff.

(MORE: 30 Days with Google’s Nexus 7 Tablet)

Let’s compare that to Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD and Barnes & Noble’s Nook HD:

The 7-inch Kindle Fire HD comes in 16 GB and 32 GB versions, for $199 and $249 respectively. There are a couple hidden costs — a charger costs $10 extra, and the device shows advertisements unless you opt-out for $15 — and there’s no expandable storage, but the fact remains that Amazon’s tablets have twice the capacity as the Nexus 7.

The Nook HD, like the Nexus 7, includes 8 GB of storage in the $199 model, but a 16 GB version costs only $30 more. An even bigger distinction is that the Nook HD has a MicroSD card slot, supporting up to 32 GB of expanded storage, so Barnes & Noble’s tablet has the highest possible capacity of all three devices.

A few months ago, I bought a 16 GB Nexus 7, and I’m glad I chose that version over the cheaper 8 GB model. Thanks in large part to high-end games such as Grand Theft Auto III and Shadowgun, I’ve already used nearly half my available storage, and would have been almost out of room already with an 8 GB tablet. As it stands, there’s no space for my music library, so I stream it through Google Play Music instead.

For all but the lightest tablet users, 8 GB just isn’t enough, especially once you’ve subtracted the 3 GB or so that’s taken up by the operating system. Even 16 GB is cutting it close for users who want to install lots of apps or media. Barnes & Noble and Amazon have adapted by offering options for more storage, and now Google’s Nexus 7 is behind.

Rumor has it that Google and its hardware partner Asus are working on new Nexus 7 tablets, including a $99 model and a slimmer $199 version. We tend to be skeptical of DigiTimes, the source of the rumor, but the possibility of a Nexus 7 refresh has me hoping for something else: slimmer or not, perhaps some higher-capacity Nexus 7 tablets are on the way.

Google was reportedly surprised by demand for the 16 GB Nexus 7, the Guardian reported in July, so at least the company knows that users want more room and are willing to pay for it. I’m still doubtful that Google will take action so soon after launching the original Nexus 7, but the company may have no choice if it wants to stay competitive in 2012′s cheap tablet wars.

MORE: Barnes & Noble’s New Nooks: The Cheap Tablet Wars Continue