Apple bumps approved size for iOS apps, lets them eat twice the memory

People looking for richer mobile apps may cheer Apple’s decision to double the size limit of those approved for sale. But those whose iPhones and iPads have smaller amounts of memory will need to download carefully.

On Thursday, Apple said it is bumping the maximum size of apps to 4GB from 2GB, marking the first time Apple has expanded the size limit since the App Store’s 2008 debut.

Larger apps will be able to take advantage of the faster processors and improved screen resolutions found in iPhones and iPads. These hardware updates allow for apps with richer media experiences like high-resolution graphics—additional features that also mean bigger downloads.

For some Apple iPhone and iPad users, the larger apps will eat up their devices’ limited memory. The iPhone 5c, for example, comes with 8GB of storage. Around 3GB of memory is claimed by iOS. Downloading a 4GB app would leave a person with just 1GB of memory.

Even people with 16GB versions of the iPhone and iPad still run the risk of seeing the larger apps consume their device’s storage. A 16GB iPhone 6 running iOS 8, for example, would have room for only three 4GB apps with 1GB of memory remaining.

Many mobile apps, including some of the most popular ones, don’t require 4GB of space. For example, Facebook’s app takes up 64.7MB of memory and Instagram uses 12.4MB. Some, games, though, require more memory to accommodate their detailed graphics.

In September, Apple made available its Metal development tool that can be used to create more advanced graphics for iOS apps. Game developers worked around Apple’s 2GB limit by making additional feature downloads available after the app was installed.

In Thursday’s blog post on its developer site, Apple said the larger size limit would allow developers to “include more media in your submission and provide a more complete, rich user experience upon installation.”

The file size change only applies to apps that are downloaded over Wi-Fi. The 100MB limit for apps downloaded over cellular networks still stands.

Apple didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

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