App Sizes - Annual Comparison - Does size really matter? Banner
22 Nov 2017

Since the original concept of skignz was ‘formed’ we have had a fascination with the size of Apps on our mobile devices. At first, we were more interested in understanding why Apps were the size they were and where efficiencies could be made to reduce the

App Sizes - Annual Comparison - Does size really matter?

Since the original concept of skignz was ‘formed’ we have had a fascination with the size of Apps on our mobile devices. 

At first, we were more interested in understanding why Apps were the size they were and where efficiencies could be made to reduce the overall file size on your mobile device.

Further conversations and research helped us reason that most mobile devices had a certain amount of storage that was not supposed to include the OS. 

This in itself proved sufficient when we had a small/limited numbers of Songs, Photos and Apps. 

The big issue came when we increased the number of Apps on our devices (in addition to Music, Video, Photos,  Books etc) as they become available. It’s clear at this point, that none of the App developers were too concerned about file size. It was more around making their Apps look impressive and work as best they can.

Then as the OS’s were developed and upgraded (especially on your existing device(s)) the changes they made, would mean they would require some of this file storage space, normally reserved for your personal Photos, Music, Videos and favourite Apps. This, of course, has a knock-on effect with each of the App developers on the whole. It means each developer has to update their own apps in order to maintain the status quo in response to the changes in each update made by the OS.

This has become ‘part of the industry’ where annually the OS is upgraded to the next version and a number of times throughout the year ‘tweaks’ and 'updates' are made to that version. In many cases having this knock-on effect means App Developers are required to make changes to their apps immediately. Obviously, each change an App Developer makes to one of your favourite Apps, it's likely done in haste, in order to ‘maintain’ and it's more than likely that this change will further increase the App Size. 

In isolation this doesn’t present a problem, but with the average mobile device carrying 20 different Apps, if they all increase by 5-10% per OS update, plus the same twice a year as the developer pushes out increased functionality/updates, hopefully, now you can see why and where your storage gets eaten up ... not just a little but a lot.

Ask yourself: How many Apps do you have on your device? How much other personal ’stuff’ have you stored on your device? How many ‘new’ Apps have you download annually? Couple this with our previous point about the number of upgrades and impact of the increased file size of those Apps, then now you can see why (certainly on some older devices) you are requested to remove ‘your stuff’ or delete Apps just to make the OS upgrade to keep your device current.

You might say that with smartphones now having up to 256GB, why does it matter? We have plenty of storage space! Also add in the cloud access, which many device owners have access to, this should not even be an issue.

However, we would like to raise a few areas of concern with this approach:

  1. All the Apps being ‘reactively’ altered to maintain the Status Quo are essential a ‘multi-storey tower block’ built on a bungalows foundations, at some point they will have been added to so many times, tweaked and changed that they will either fall over, or they will slow down, or even become too complicated to keep up-to-date. Each App Developer has an enormous investment to make to rebuild from scratch in a more robust and efficient way, using the latest methods.
  2. As each of the OS develop new ways of doing things, point one will only accelerate.
  3. As the cost of the latest hardware increases, yes, they have increased memory, but are they in line with one another? 'Cost of memory' v's 'Increased cost to the user'. You may have noticed the changes from 8Gb to 16gb, then 32Gb, 64Gb, 128Gb and now 256Gb. In many cases, the jump from one to the other isn’t gradual with a new handset as hardware suppliers offer either 32Mb or 256mB, not each variation in-between.
One key question is, “If Apps were built to be as efficient and lean as possible, would the need still be there to keep increasing the storage size on our devices?”

Below is our annual App File Size comparison, now in its third year and as you can see many have doubled in size. Some have increased slightly, and a very small number have actually reduced. The ironic part is our own skignz App has seen the biggest increase, but then we would say that everything is relevant and our 300% increase from 1Mb to 3Mb, but this is nothing, compared to a 50Mb App increasing to 100Mb.

A further influence, on all of the above, is the introduction of technology developments and improved hardware such as ARKit/ARCore, camera improvements, barometers etc. The Hardware and OS developers are developing their relevant areas with App Developers in mind, and this allows the App developers to adjust and redefine their development roadmaps. 

Why duplicate what the OS/Hardware people are doing when you can take advantage of the billions they are investing? Which is allowing you (App developers) to focus on other areas of your App.

Although many see the size of their Apps as irrelevant or a small issue/price to pay versus the app working properly and looking amazing, we don’t dispute the latter part of this as the user should always be front and centre in any App developers mind. 

However, in a relatively new industry and growth sector, can ‘best practice’ be introduced, aspiration standards for us all to meet as an Industry. A more standardised approach may (just may) provide a framework for greater discussion between those developing Hardware/OS and those developing the Apps or similar technologies that are downloaded onto our mobile devices. 

So does size really matter? We think it does….

If you would like to find out more about skignz, please follow us on the usual social media channels.

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