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Where is the space for mobile apps

business Updated: Oct 20, 2012 16:04 IST

If the trend for bigger apps continues, mobile device owners will soon run out of space unless the storage capacity of new devices also starts to grow or they're prepared to embrace cloud storage.

If you own a third-generation iPad or iPhone 5, there's good news and bad news. The good news is that thanks to the high-definition Retina display on both devices, apps are getting better and more detailed. Unfortunately the bad news is that these better apps require more memory and over the last six months the average app size has grown by 16 percent to 23 megabytes.

But that's the global average. If only games are considered then the average size is now 60MB, a 42 percent increase since March. But why is this bad news? Larger files mean better apps. And while this is indeed true, the problem for iPad and iPhone users is that their devices can have as little as 16GB of internal storage.

According to the latest ABI research published this week, this trend for larger apps is not confined to Apple -- average Android app sizes have grown 10 percent to 6MB over the same period and games apps are nearly four times bigger with an average 40MB size -- but the growth is more pronounced within the Apple apps ecosystem. As well as Retina displays, the ABI attributes this growth to the fact that Apple has increased the maximum size of 3G/4G-downloadable apps from 20MB to 50MB and to the increasing practice of developers bundling the versions of their app as a single download so that they are always optimized, regardless of the mobile device.

As this trend continues, idevice owners could be faced with difficult decisions as to what to keep and what to delete as space quickly disappears. "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," noted ABI senior analyst Aapo Markkanen of the findings.

And for Android and iOS users who are running out of room, the cloud is certainly one option for freeing up space, and Apple, Google and Amazon would all be more than happy to provide it. And, while Amazon's cloud is free for storing and streaming Amazon content, Apple only offers the first 5GB for free.

But there are other options. Wireless storage devices like the AirStash wireless flash drive can stream up to 16GB of additional content to a device or the Seagate Satellite mobile hard drive which, though larger, can offer access to an additional 500GB. Those thinking of buying a smartphone or tablet who haven't yet taken the plunge should consider the internal storage capacity of the device or the possibility for further expansion, eg via an SD slot.