updated 09:53 pm EDT, Tue October 16, 2012
Android apps also adding bloat, but not as much
The move to a Retina display in the latest iPad as well as the iPhone and now iPod Touch models has resulted in a noticeable jump in the average size of iOS apps in the last six months, reports ABI Research. Apps have seen an average 16 percent jump in size since March, when the third-generation iPad was unveiled. Games for iOS have grown even more, some 42 percent on average. While Apple anticipated the growth and increase over-the-air download limits to 50MB (up from 20MB previously), the increase cramps storage and bandwidth limits for many users.
The issue stems from Apple's policy of making a universal binary for files, which include all the resources needed for the program on either the iPhone or iPad -- regardless of which device it is being downloaded to. The larger file sizes mean that users with smaller-capacity devices (8GB and 16GB versions) must be more judicious in choosing what apps to download, and generally have to manage their app and media libraries more carefully leave them enough room for a spontaneous new iTunes purchase.
The larger app sizes also mean that downloading over 3G, where users pay for data, is constrained -- as well as the number of apps a device can be expected to hold. Apple has largely settled on 16GB as the new low bar for new devices in terms of storage, though the "free with contract" version of the iPhone 4 is still available at 8GB. The latest iPod Nano is only available in the 16GB size, while the newest iPod Touch starts at 32GB.
The average size of apps across all categories is now 23MB, while for games alone the average size is now 60MB. Though Android games are generally smaller because of the clearer delineation of phone-based and tablet-based files, they too have been rising: a typical Android app is now 6MB (up 10 percent since March) and games are an average of 40MB in size, almost 400 percent larger than six months ago. The iOS apps generally have the advantage of being able to be played on all iOS devices and most OS versions, and are widely considered to be more graphically complex and polished -- but Android file sizes benefit from the separation of apps by device (many of the larger and more complex apps don't even run on the most commonly-found Android versions, requiring the later Android 4.0 or higher). Google announced that it would host files up to 4GB in size on its Play store back in March in an effort to woo game developers.