It’s not just you: your iPhone stor­age isn’t go­ing as far as it used to

The Denver Post - - TECH KNOW - By Hay­ley Tsukayama

Nearly ev­ery iPhone owner’s been there: you’re snap­ping pic­tures or get­ting ready to down­load a new game, and you get that dreaded mes­sage warn­ing you that your stor­age is al­most full.

So much for watch­ing that movie on the plane.

If you feel like your stor­age is fill­ing up faster than it used to, you may be on to some­thing. An ex­am­i­na­tion of the most-in­stalled apps for iOS from mo­bile anal­y­sis firm Sen­sor Tower has found that the size of those apps is, on av­er­age, 11 times big­ger than they were in 2013.

And some apps have grown far more than that, said Randy Nel­son, Sen­sor Tower’s head of mo­bile in­sights. Take Snapchat, for ex­am­ple, which now takes up 51 times more space than it did in May 2013. Face­book is the largest of the apps Nel­son looked at, now clock­ing in at 388 MB – up from just 32 MB at the start of Nel­son’s anal­y­sis pe­riod.

Nel­son said that there are mul­ti­ple rea­sons for the up­ward creep in app size. For one, apps – par­tic­u­larly so­cial me­dia apps – have been adding new fea­tures reg­u­larly, to keep up with each other. Snapchat is an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple of this, Nel­son said. At first, the fea­tures of Snapchat were pretty stream­lined with its close fo­cus on ephemeral mes­sages. But now it’s locked in a fea­ture war with In­sta­gram and Face­book, and has added things such as the Dis­cover tab, or an ever-expanding ar­ray of fil­ters. Games grow for a sim­i­lar rea­son; new lev­els or fea­tures in Candy Crush take up ex­tra space, as do pret­tier graph­ics that want to take full ad­van­tage of the iPhone’s screen tech­nol­ogy.

There are also some tech­ni­cal rea­sons that app size is bal­loon­ing, Nel­son said. The iPhone and iPad have more screen sizes than they used to, for ex­am­ple, which means that de­vel­op­ers of­ten de­sign their apps to adapt to all those dif­fer­ent sizes. Sup­port­ing a broader range of de­vices au­to­mat­i­cally means an app’s size will go up, even though the per­son downloading the app only sees one ver­sion. As de­vel­op­ers drop sup­port for older de­vices, app sizes may go down again, Nel­son said – but it may not be by very much.

The up­shot for con­sumers is that, yes, your phone’s stor­age isn’t go­ing as far as it used to. And there’s not a clear so­lu­tion for con­sumers about how to solve this is­sue. We can, of course, rely more on the mo­bile web or sim­ply use fewer apps. But app creep is par­tic­u­larly hard to deal with, be­cause it means that even if you aren’t downloading new apps, the old ones you have are still tak­ing up pro­gres­sively more space.

Ap­ple has an­nounced some fea­tures that may be able to help with this prob­lem down the line. In iOS 11, due out in the fall, there is a fea­ture that lets you “off­load” apps you use less of­ten – delet­ing the apps them­selves from your phone, but re­tain­ing enough data so that you don’t have to set them up again.

Nel­son has not run a sim­i­lar anal­y­sis for An­droid, though growth causes such as ad­di­tional fea­tures would log­i­cally ap­ply there as well.

With app sizes only poised to keep grow­ing, Nel­son said the prob­lem is un­likely to go away any time soon. Mo­bile apps are gen­er­ally be­com­ing more com­plex and more graph­i­cally ad­vanced, not less. So, if you keep run­ning up against your stor­age lim­its, it may be a hint to think big­ger for your next phone pur­chase.

“It is more am­mu­ni­tion for that de­ci­sion to pull the trig­ger on buy­ing a phone with more ca­pac­ity,” Nel­son said. “If you know that you’re go­ing to have an eighth of your stor­age taken up by the top 10 apps, you’ll prob­a­bly push to pick up a larger phone.”

Ki­ichiro Sato, As­so­ci­ated Press file

It seems like you need two phones to store as much as one phone used to. An ex­am­i­na­tion of the most-in­stalled apps for iOS (run­ning on iPhones) has found that the size of those apps is, on av­er­age, 11 times big­ger than they were in 2013.

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