The 20MB app cap.

Regarding TechMeme, it never ceases to amaze me that there is always something that that gets aggregated to the site that I end up reading because it’s either so far out of left field or it’s actually interesting. When the latter happens, I have increased chances of epiphanies at the rate of over 9000%.

One of the biggest strengths of the iOS platform is the availability of utility apps that are relatively light-weight compared to something you might use on a desktop. the look and feel of these applications have to feel efficient enough to have a use at all times but walk the fine line of reusing many graphics assets or sacrificing graphical quality in instances where it might not matter for the sake of another function of the app.

Saving size isn’t even all about app performance, but it’s about potential downloads. It’s a known turth that apps that stay in line under the 20MB cap and can be downloaded over the cellular network see an increased amount of downloads or purchases. Having a first impression that doesn’t include the sale being rejected because the app requires a wifi connection to install onto the device is a key component of  an app potentially ‘going viral’ inasmuch as apps can.

TheNextWeb’s Matthew Panzarino makes the observation with an app called Consume in a post to the site’s Apple section earlier today. 1

To give you an idea, we asked Bjango’s Marc Edwards about how the new Retina graphics would affect the size of one of its latest apps, Consume. He gave us these statistics regarding the app’s packages:

  • iPhone (Retina and non-Retina), iPad (non-Retina) = 18.3MB
  • iPhone (Retina and non-Retina), iPad (Retina and non-Retina) = ~35MB

For a universal app, simply supporting the new graphics that the upcoming iPad will boast could potentially double the size of applications. This might prompt Apple to revise its 20MB cap for downloading applications over cellular networks, but as the same networks crack down on moderate to heavy cellular data users with speed bumps and lowered caps, an increase could catch some folks off guard if they make a habit of constantly downloading over the air.

Back to the apps, themselves: you can bet that any developer with the inside information and have apps developed for the new hardware already has the fix in for their software. However, many developers are going to be scrambling to support the new hardware from as close to Day 1 as they can and it’s going to be an uphill battle if Apple doesn’t increase this cap.

Apple will be able to shrug off the damage if it doesn’t raise these caps, but developers certainly can’t. Adoption for the new iPad might be the highest priority for some companies, but making the trade to native resolution graphics for the cellular download cap might be a bit too much for developers to make.