Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Phantom Wasted Space on the iPhone

As you've probably noticed by now, as a computer developer that spent years developing real-time systems in assembler, where every microsecond counted and every byte was put to good use, I've grown increasingly weary regarding multi gigabytes operating systems.

I simply hate bad programming, and although we all have to deal (and use) software that might leave a lot to be desired, I'm also a supporter of the theory that a good OS/platform should be foolproof in preventing any badly coded program to mess around with the entire system.

That's why I so much loved Apple's iOS. No longer would I have to worry about programs leaving junk behind, or even dealing with its file system.

But, in the back of my head I had always that strange feeling... Is this iOS really that good - or is it just an illusion, as we're not allowed to actually see what's happening?

... I would soon find out.

The iPhone iOS is not perfect - if you recall, I already had to deal with more than I wanted to, to sort out the black photo gallery bug. And indeed I sometimes worried about having a lot of space used up on my iPhone even though I don't have that many Apps (around 200), and no music or videos.

Free space was becoming smaller by the day, and I had already made sure I cleared up the big space wasting Apps with over 100-200MB.

A friend of mine, having an iPhone Apps blog, had it even worse: less Apps, and just a few hundred MBs of free space.

It was him that finally got fed up with it and decided to use DiskAid to peek behind the iOS curtains... and the findings were quite surprising.
There were "Archives" files laying around, wasting over 800MB, some of which were related to Apps removed months ago!

[Facebook wasting over 800MB]

But, there was more to come. Even smallish Apps were using up lots of space. Facebook, for instance was using over 800MB!
And... it wasn't the worst: mobileRSS and AppShopper Apps were also using an incredible amount of space - one was over 2GB! (though, truth be said, mobileRSS does indeed have an option to clear up its cache - though it shouldn't ever be allowed to grow so big).

In the end, having removed and reinstalled exactly the same Apps as before, his iPhone went from 400MB of free space to... - get ready - over 6GB of free space!

Indeed it seems like the "perfectness" of the iOS is simply an illusion, and that there's a chance your iPhone also has a lot of wasted space piling up behind its serene appearance.
Should we blame poorly written apps? Apps that have to go through an approval process that should prevent this kind of thing from happening?... Or should we blame Apple's iOS itself, for allowing an App to grow to gigantic proportions without forcing it to have a "clean up" switch?

In any case, if you're wondering why your iPhone free space is mysteriously shrinking - maybe it's time to give it a tune up and remove/reinstall some of the Apps you suspect might be downloading and caching information. (Or, if you feel confortable with it, check each App space using such a tool as diskaid.)

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