The Hills Are Greener: No Limits…Okay, Some Limits

The Hills Are Greener: No Limits…Okay, Some Limits

May 24, 2011

For iPhone and iPad 3G owners, there are few things more aggravating than the 3G app size limit of 20 MB. This makes recommending apps, especially games, so aggravating. Recently, while on a train ride into Chicago, I tried to recommend to a friend to download Plants vs. Zombies on to her iPhone to help pass the time on the long train rides. However, because the app was over 20 MB, she could not do so over 3G. She eventually downloaded the game, in part because of my and another friend’s insistence, but if it hadn’t addicted both of us, it likely would have gone forgotten, never to be downloaded. This brought me new perspective on the App Store’s file size limits – they can have an effect on downloads of apps. A smaller-name app could easily be discovered and suddenly forgotten if it was over 20 MB. This file size limit is largely arbitrary, based on Apple’s appeasement to the carriers, as well.

This is why the Android Market’s 50 MB limit is so helpful – I have yet to come across an app while downloading that I have not been able to download. This makes app discovery so much more helpful when there’s no limitation on what can be downloaded. The only limitation I’ve run in to is actually on the Amazon Appstore – Chuzzle was only able to be downloaded over wifi, but that’s likely Amazon’s call.

The problem is that the 50 MB limit applies to all apps, period. No app can be bigger than 50 MB, and it leads to things like apps having to download extra data to the SD card directly – EA’s games do this, and let’s not forget Spectral Souls, which requires over a gig of additional data to be downloaded to the SD card. Google has thankfully wised up to this practice, allowing developers to store up to 4 GB of data on Google’s servers for additional data, but this will still be a hindrance to some developers. Mika Mobile, developers of Battleheart, have run into a variety of issues with app file size, and could not deliver a tablet-ready version of the game for Android because of the 50 MB file size limit, and programming issues preclude them from using external app data.

Still, these all seem like minor tradeoffs that are superior to the iOS limitations that pop up, because wifi still isn’t ubiquitious. The telcos would not like that. So until then, we must live with external app data downloads, and the occasional weird sound file popping up when our music player shuffles all tracks.