by Ken Mingis

The Takeaway: Why Apple will let iOS 9 delete apps

Jun 24, 2015

Apple has tweaked iOS 9 to allow it to temporarily delete some of a user's apps if need be to make installation easier on devices with limited storage.

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One of the tweaks Apple has made to its upcoming iOS 9 — the mobile OS was released to developers earlier this month and goes into public beta in July — should make it easier for iPhone and iPad users to install updates.

The change — allowing iOS 9 to temporarily delete some of a user’s apps — is designed to make room on devices with limited storage for the updates to take place. Doing so will allow Apple to avoid a repeat of last year’s iOS 8 installation problems, when users found they couldn’t install the new OS wirelessly. Instead, they had to plug in their devices and perform the upgrade using iTunes, a process many newer users didn’t even know about.

The new feature became public yesterday when Apple released the second beta of iOS 9 to developers, and is one of several changes Apple made this year to ease installation woes. They include:

  • Reducing the amount of free space required to install iOS 9. Last year’s update needed 4.6GB of space; iOS 9, due out this fall, will only need 1.8GB.
  • Relying on new technology called “app thinning” that allows developers to optimize app installation and processing based on the storage space on a user’s device. A16GB iPhone, for example, would be treated differently than one with 128GB of storage.
  • Allowing the aforementioned deletion of apps. If a device is low on the storage space needed to unpack the installation software or create temporary files, a pop-up message appears: “Insufficient Space for Download. In order to make room for the software update, some apps will need to be temporarily deleted. All deleted apps will automatically be replaced after the update is complete. Would you like to continue?”

It was not immediately clear how iOS 9 selects apps to delete (and then reinstall post-upgrade) or how the process affects apps that store data on a device.

The new app deletion process was noted by several developers who installed the second beta of iOS 9; one, Kaleb Butt of Vancouver, B.C., tweeted a screenshot showing the app deletion pop-up window. Butt’s image was quickly retweeted by numerous users, who highlighted the change (and complimented Butt on his sudden celebrity status).

With reports by Gregg Keizer at Computerworld.