Sunday, April 24, 2011

iPod RAM

Apple does not advertise the amount of RAM (Random Access Memory) in the iPod (or iPhone or iPad). On computers, memory normally refers to RAM. However, common (Apple-promoted) usage of the word memory in the iOS device context refers to what is typically known as storage on computers (hard drive or solid state drive capacity).

Some folks typically take apart each new Apple device to find out how much RAM it has, then post their findings on the web. Based on that information, my 3rd generation iPod has 256 MB. In practice the question of whether your iOS device has enough RAM probably boils down to, "Does it do what you need it to do?"

In my earlier experimentation, I was loading 4 Chinese dictionary apps. That, plus being in the midst of watching a movie on Netflix and loading multiple pages in Safari may have been the most demanding usage I was making on my iPod's RAM. In any case, I began experiencing performance delays.

Entering my Passcode, there would be a delay between when I tapped the screen and the (normal) black dots showed up. When I wrote Chinese characters using strokes, there would be a delay before the strokes actually appeared on screen.

I also started experiencing crashes in Safari. On the iPod, restarting Safari is pretty quick, so that didn't really put me into a tizzy. I also experienced one crash in Notespark while editing a note that was entirely in Chinese.

I eventually concluded which of the 4 Chinese dictionary apps met my needs best, so I no longer needed to access the others with any frequency. After 2 longish "intermissions", I also finally finished watching The Curious Case of Benjamin Button on Netflix. That allowed me to release the RAM those apps might have been holding.

After double-pressing the Home button to show recently used apps, tap-hold any of the app icons until a red "minus" circle appears in the left corner of each icon (the icons also start jiggling). Tapping on the red minus circle of one of those recently used apps should release any RAM it has been holding onto.

Reducing the number of apps in that recently used set, and keeping fewer pages open in Safari seem to have largely eliminated my iPod RAM issues. It would be swell if my iPod had the 512 MB RAM that the iPhone 4 and iPad 2 have, but managing my app usage a little more tightly seems to have eliminated practical issues.

Someday I may go back to using apps with wild abandon, without explicitly freeing RAM as described above, to see if any issues surface, now that I'm largely done testing those 4 Chinese dictionary apps. After all, ideally a consumer need not concern himself overly much with RAM issues. If I find anything of interest, I will try to update this entry.
4/27/11: Forget that wild abandon. Slow performance in Safari showed up almost immediately.

8/26/12: On my (now) 4th generation iPod running iOS 5.1.1, I had more apps open than I realized, and was surprised to discover that it was so low on available RAM that it couldn't send Camera Roll pictures out via e-mail, and within the Mail app, the Outbox messages did not even show the images.

10/22/12: Once again, I had more apps open than I realized, and found that the Mail app could update neither the iPod's mail message counts, nor mail messages for activity (e.g., deletion) that had already occurred on the multiple mail servers I use. Because of my 8/26/12 experience, I quickly realized what the problem likely was, and quit other apps to free up RAM, and things worked again as desired.

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