The not so obvious problem for iOS developers

Recently my new company provided me with an 16GB iPhone 6S. I did everything in my power to circumvent this model, as I was using a iPhone 6 with 64GB at a 70% capacity. Switching to the 16GB seemed unfathomable. Since two iPhones in my pocket was not going to be an option, I told myself I would make this work. First, I needed to make some ground rules or this was going to be a disaster.

I started with creating a new phone and not installing my iCloud back up. I had 244 non-Apple apps on my phone and knew I needed to narrow this down. Only my most used apps were going to make the cut. This was a herculean challenge but a good exercise to think about what I was receiving the most value from. As of this writing I only downloaded 40 but I feel like I cut too many corners. One thing I had going for me is I don’t use any music on my phone since I use Spotify.

The most glaring problem I have with this new set up is my new trepidation to try out new apps. Is this a problem other people think about? In the past I would try out apps on a whim and keep them around even if it’s a one time use case. Now my new world view is drastically different because of the limited space. This makes me uncomfortable since I ‘m a Product Manager in the mobile space. Testing a large number of apps is part of the job description.

Now that I’ve given my personal account how this phone affects me. Let’s think about it in a broader context and what are the ripple effects for the ecosystem.

So I’ve read all the reports about the amount of apps the average person uses per day (5) and how many she will keep on her phone (25), but that is just data. The important question is why are people limiting their app consumption. Is it a personal preference or a choice they’re forced to make? This distinction is important as the app ecosystem’s vibrancy of new apps depends on it.

Let’s run with the idea that the vast majority of people own a 16GB iPhone. This is a safe assumption thanks to some data from the UK that says 91% of Telefonica users have the 16GB model. Let’s make another assumption and say the majority of those people run into a shortage of space on a frequent basis. If this is the case, then the obvious statement is Apple is not giving the user the best experience. The less obvious statement. App developers are experiencing a constraint in growth outside of their control.

Yes, Apple launched app thinning and reduced the size of OS updates. But that won’t solve the problem overnight. A simple thought experiment. If someone needed to choose between photos of their loved ones and the newest app. Which would they choose? The problem for app developers is, why do they have to?

This is an important observation as we increasingly rely on software to make improvements in our lives. As a Product Manager, it is more important than ever to bring real value to your users. Your not only competing for the user’s time and attention. You are competing for space on their phone.