Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Confiscating Memory.

There is a thing to be said about major mistakes in software engineering, and in all my time in owning Apple equipment, this has to be the worst yet.

Apple release updates for iOS periodically, and since iOS version 5, these updates arrive into people's iPods, iPads and iPhones automatically whenever they get a valid Wi-Fi connection. Without your acknowledgement. Even without notice. Waiting for their users to install them.

That's all well and good if you're one of these Apple freaks who crave for the latest and greatest from the Cupertino company. But if you're not... you're powerless to disagree with Apple expecting you to.

The problem is more drastic than just having a multi-megabyte download shoved into your devices without notice, eating up your Wi-Fi bandwidth. And the problem appears to be irreversible.

In each of these two screenshots of iTunes 10.6 examining the memory usage of an iPhone 4:

and an iPod touch:

both contain a yellow region of memory used as "Other". What this is is the latest system software update for your iOS device, in the bowels of the device itself. Mind you, the iPhone 4 hasn't been upgraded yet, whilst the iPod touch has not had its memory reclaimed despite it being upgraded already.

And you cannot get rid to it to reclaim your memory space, not without resetting the device.

Apple need to provide a control that allows users to jettison the system update package from a device's storage memory. As indicated in the memory usage graph of the iPhone 4, the update has made my 16 GB unit become a 12 GB, as 3.2 GB of memory is held ransom to upgrade demands by the device's makers.

As I understand it, the only way to get your memory back is to back up the device, erase it and then re-install it, and try to restore the data you had on it. However, this is no guarantee that you will be running the same iOS version as the one you had on it prior to the erasure, and no guarantee that future updates will not confiscate the memory from you again.

Care to explain this line of thoughtless engineering, Apple?

After Resetting Your Device.

Since this writing, the iPhone 4 ultimately did get upgraded to iOS 6, but not out of intention.

It turns out that performing a restore will get most of your confiscated memory back, and the memory usage distribution will look much more like for the iPod touch as it appears in this article (with approximately 1.2 GB used in the "Other" category). What that memory us used for by iOS is unknown, but probably contains caches, preferences and other user library data that is not accounted for by the applications installed on your device.

However, performing a restore will not leave you with the same iOS version as the one you had before the restore—instead, it will restore onto whatever the latest iOS release Apple has for your device.


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