The best iPhone apps are almost 4x the size they were five years ago

The best iPhone apps are almost 4x the size they were five years ago


Each year at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, the company announces new iOS updates and its latest technology. While these updates will undoubtedly change the user experience, they also affect developers who need to stay on top of subsequent iterations of their apps. This includes meeting consumer demand in various markets, adjusting to meet new privacy policies on the App Store, and also experimenting with latest generation hardware and software updates.

With the introduction of these new technologies eventually comes an increase in the size of applications, which has increased dramatically as the sophistication of Apple’s software has exploded. Concrete example, according to Sensor Tower Application intelligence data, the 10 most downloaded iPhone apps in the United States in May were 298%, almost four times the size of five years ago, requiring 2.2 gigabytes of storage, up from around 550 megabytes at the start of 2016.

Top 10 apps get bigger

In our research, we only looked at the size of the main app, not counting any additional content or updates that can be downloaded after installing the app. Our cohort of the 10 most downloaded iPhone apps in the United States in May included Youtube, TIC Tac, Messenger, Facebook, Zoom, Netflix, Instagram, Gmail, Google maps, and Amazon.

Gmail's file size in May 2021 increased by 1,797% from January 2016, reaching 355MB.

Apple introduced a new 512GB storage cap with the iPhone XS, and as some developers have worked to include larger feature sets in their apps, it’s no surprise that the file size has increased. The company also expanded its settings, increasing the maximum app file size to 4GB in 2015 and also increasing the cellular download limit on iOS to 200MB so that consumers can more easily download larger apps when they are on their way. travel.

Gmail saw the biggest increase

Perhaps due to Gmail’s expanding feature set, its mobile app has seen the strongest growth in the cohort, growing 1,797%, or more than 18 times, over the past five years, from around 19MB to just over 355MB. In the past, the app has seen file sizes increase every time Google rolls out big updates, like in November 2016, when it went from 41MB to 197MB, an increase of 378% from the previous month as its update included new features. like Cancel send.

Facebook has reduced Messenger's file size to accommodate older devices.

Among the top 10 most downloaded US iPhone apps, Facebook’s Messenger has remained the lightest over the past five years. In May 2021, the app weighed in at 116MB, just 23% more than the 94MB it occupied on devices in January 2016. Its latest file size gives it the second smallest footprint after Netflix, which records around 82 MB

In March 2020, the app size decreased 76% from the previous month to around 66MB, from around 277MB. Facebook made a concerted effort to reduce Messenger’s file size to accommodate devices. older and those with less storage, which might be particularly appealing to users in the app’s largest market, India. Attracting consumers to India is the reason the company rolled out sleek apps like Facebook Lite and Messenger Lite. Other tech titans have also used the same strategy, like Google’s YouTube Go, which promises to put users in control of their data spending.

The best games have almost tripled in size

As shown by a previous in-depth analysis of the detection tower, the best mobile games on iOS have seen file sizes increase over the past five years. The top 10 games on the US App Store alone grew 197% to around 7.6GB in May 2021, up from around 2.6GB in January 2018. Again, that’s just about base file size, and these apps can get much larger after all content is installed. .

The cohort of top titles studied included a mix of social and casual games, many of which have increased their audiences over the past year, with users looking for new ways to interact with their friends. Among the most downloaded games were perennial list heads Roblox, PUBG Mobile, Call of Duty: Mobile, and Fortnite, despite its removal from the app stores last year. The other six games were Among us, Subway surfers, Helix jump, Word landscapes, Interior landscapes, and Hole.io.

Consolidate or Condense?

Some publishers’ strategies include integrating many major features into a single app, such as Gmail which now hosts Meet and Chat. Other publishers, such as Facebook, are choosing to reduce the file sizes of their apps so that consumers can access them even on older devices.

Clearly there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, both approaches promote streamlining, whether it’s reducing one application to the essentials or depreciating multiple applications and consolidating them into one.

In iOS 14, Apple introduced widgets and app clips, which allow consumers to access a limited set of features of an app without downloading the entire file. This OS update also introduced the ability to hide apps in the library, which can affect how users decide to organize their homescreens and whether or not to remove certain apps. During WWDC 2021, the company doubled its widgets with iPadOS 15, adding this functionality to Apple tablets. When this rolls out in September, developers will have even more ways to downsize their apps if they choose, or just experiment with new user experience flows.

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