The creeping bloat of iOS apps

The iPad 3’s Retina display along with Apple’s more liberal submission policy have prompted the file sizes of popular iOS apps to grow substantially – especially for games.

Indeed, analysts at ABI Research confirm the global average app size across all categories was 23 megabytes in September, 16% more than in March.

For the most popular app category, games, the average size was 60 megabytes, effectively translating into a six-month increase of 42%. Meanwhile, the size of leading Android apps for a similar sample was around six MBs in September, representing an increase of 10% against March. 

The games, however, nearly quadrupled to over 40 MBs in reported size, as Google also revamped its own submission policies.

Senior ABI Research analyst Aapo Markkanen says the above-mentioned data confirms two important points. 

”First, Apple’s decision in March to increase the maximum size of 3G/4G-downloadable apps from 20MBs to 50MBs has clearly had an unleashing effect on developers. Their games can now be more complex and graphically polished, while still being able to benefit from the instant gratification of cellular downloads,” he explained.

“And second, Google’s move to start hosting files of up to 4GBs on Google Play has been similarly well-received among the developer community. Android’s old way of doing things was cumbersome for game developers and their customers alike, but there is evidence that this change, along with certain other improvements, is indeed making it a more credible gaming platform.”

According to Markkanen, the flipside of the increasing file-sizes is that the internal storage of smartphones and tablets is becoming a scarcer resource, as the device capabilities struggle to keep up with the requirements of apps and mobile content. 

“Especially the consumers with 16GB devices are likely to become more conscious about what apps to keep and what to uninstall, so the developers’ bar to impress will be getting even higher than it is now. This could also speed up the adoption of the mobile cloud as a storage remedy quite significantly,” he added.