A Plea To Android App Developers

I own an HTC Desire. It was one of the earlier Android phones, and was the top of the range phone from HTC at the time. Overall I love the phone. I still love it. I’ve managed – touch wood – not to crack the screen, unlike so many of my iPhone owning friends. HTC Sense is actually a good addition to Android. The phone still works fast despite being chock full of apps and data.
But it is full. The major problem with the Desire is that it doesn’t have enough onboard memory. Not enough by far.
Recently James ran through a few good tips for freeing up some space. He has the similarly memory challenged Google Nexus One – which shares many traits with the Desire.
Yet they’re not enough. For the last few months, I’ve lived in fear of the “low disk space” icon. It’s not just some kind of OCD annoyance – it actually changes the way some apps behave. For example, the Gmail app won’t collect new mail. That kind of trivial annoyance.
So I’d instigated a one-on/one-off rule. You have a killer new app? Well, it’s going to have to be better and more useful to me than my current line-up. You can forget games for starters. A great podcasting app? Maybe… But I think Google Maps is more important. Sorry.
I could probably exist reasonably happily with my current line-up. But there’s another problem.
Everyone keeps adding new features to their apps. There’s an update to Gmail, Google Plus, Facebook or whatever. If you’ve chosen to tick the automatic updates, then you’ll get them without even knowing.
Suddenly the low disk space icon is visible again without you doing anything.
You clear the cache from everything. You use fine App 2 SD card utility. Still no luck.
Even the current version of Android Market is well over 7MB which I find astonishing since it’s basically a version of the web-browser.
All this was brought home when I downloaded the newly available Guardian app. It looks great. It caches news that it downloads offline. You can read it at your leisure. And yet it can’t be installed to SD card, and there’s no choice as to where you place the data that it caches.
I played with it. Liked it. And then had to “put it back” (uninstall it).
I know that there can be issues with SD card installed apps. If you mount the phone as a disk drive, then apps don’t work. And I suspect they’re probably a tad slower on SD card. But as the comments at the foot of The Guardian’s announcement makes clear, there are lots of people on “older” Android devices that suffer this memory issue. By older, I mean fifteen months old.
I don’t really mean to single out The Guardian. They’re by no means alone. Google is just as bad.
And what’s more, you can’t trust the size of an app as stated in the Android Market. I suspect that the “size” listed is the size of the compressed installer file. Rarely if ever is an app as “small” as it’s stated on the market. That’s especially the case with an app that is built to cache data.
App developers, please remember that not everyone is using a box-fresh, top of the range device!
Hopefully I’ll put this all behind me soon, when my current contract comes to an end, and I can buy a new Android phone. Incidentally – all suggestions gratefully recieved. It needs to be fast, hard waring, loads of memory, and have a top of the range camera. I’m not sure about the Samsung Galaxy S II. If there’s truly a special edition of the HTC Sensation then I might go for that. Or do I risk an upcoming Sony Ericsson? And then there’s the forthcoming Ice Cream Sandwich and devices that run that. Maybe I should wait…?
In the meantime I need to decide whether to actually free up some space and perhaps delete something like the Facebook app. Decisions, decisions.


  1. I also own a Desire and was highly frustrated at the lack of internal storage. I learnt about the low storage / no new SMS or email the hard way…
    I got around the issue of limited storage by rooting the device and installing Cyanogen. I’m fairly certain it invalidates the warranty and it’s a bit seat-of-your-pants when it gets to the stage where it can potentially brick your phone – but I can now move any* app to the SD card. Lost the Sense UI – a real shame – but that was taking up nearly 20MB of internal storage.
    It’d be so much easier if developers could just support App2SD in the first place, though. I don’t understand why they don’t? Is there some extra level of complexity involved? I’d love to know.
    *apart from system apps like GMail, Market, etc.

  2. Joff,
    I know that you can root the phone and run the risk of invalidating your warranty. I suspect I could do it safely, but it’s all just a little worrying, and in the end not worth it.
    I’ll struggle on through until the end of my contract or the time that a new phone I fancy the look of comes out.

  3. I suspect I’ll wait ’till the Nexus Prime, which is supposed to be rather lovely. And I’ve no wish to re-sign another contract: my current one’s a very good deal indeed.

  4. The Nexus Prime does sound like it’ll be out very soon. On the other hand, there’s now the HTC Sensation XE, although they’re mucking around by making it exclusive to one retailer – a counter-productive move if ever there was one.

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