Free Apps And Games On The App Store Are About To Test Your Data Caps

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Apple has increased the size of its download limits on cellular networks to 100MB from 50MB. The change comes as iOS 7 launches to the public as a ~700MB over-the-air upgrade to iPhone and iPad users.

The increase in size was first reported by MacRumors and we subsequently confirmed the new, higher limit.

Apple’s initial download limit for apps was 10MB while not connected to WiFi networks, forcing developers to take extensive measures to ensure that apps scooted in just under the line. This has become especially prevalent among developers of free apps and games. The thinking was that free apps acted as an ‘impulse download’. You are far more likely to get downloads of your app if you make it accessible anywhere, not just on WiFi connections.

If you take a quick poll of the App Store’s top and featured free apps, you’ll see a remarkable similarity in their download sizes: 43.6MB, 45.8MB, 46.4MB, 43.9MB. These are all apps like Battle Camp, CastleVille, Dragon Flinga, Deer Hunter, basically crap that you download on the fly to waste time.

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What this means is that all of these apps are going to balloon right up to the maximum 100MB limit as soon as they can. These are not coincidental sizes — at just under 50MB each they use every last scrap of data that Apple will allow them to ship over the wire.

The side effect of this, then, is that downloading these impulse apps is going to have a big effect on your data plan. I’m not saying you do, but if you downloaded 5 of these apps a month, that’s 500MB. That’s more than double the lower limit of AT&T’s lowest data plan allowed for the iPhone. You could obliterate your cap with just 3 downloads a month if you’re on the lowest plan.

All of this comes as carriers get more skimpy and anemic with data, not more generous. Though some carriers like T-Mobile and Sprint are attempting to use ‘unlimited’ data plans to buy market share, the majority of users in the U.S. are on terrible data plans that parcel out the megabytes like gold. All of you international users with your twenty quid unlimited plans I don’t want to hear it.

Anyhow, this isn’t a wave your hands in the air and scream moment, but it’s definitely interesting to see Apple loosening these restrictions and how they run up against the carrier agenda when it comes to data plans. And it’s something to be aware of because these free apps will likely double in size very quickly.