Just another device after all

Today I rebooted my phone for the first time in many many months. Other than for software upgrades I can’t recall a time when I have chosen to fully power cycle the device for reasons other than a dead battery, and even that is a relatively rare occurrence these days.

The reason? Well, it just didn’t feel right. Pressing the home button was encountering odd delays as if it had not registered the key press, and overall the whole thing just felt, well slow. This might not seem an unusual thing for many people, but it had immediately drawn my attention. It’s a testament to the general speed of the device as a whole that you start to wonder what is wrong when a few seconds delay is introduced to tasks, rather than appreciate the fact that you are normally saved from such mundane irritations. Of course, the iPhone hasn’t always been super responsive at all times, the first release of iOS 3 on the iPhone 3G did indeed reduce it to a crawl on text entry until it was patched but these day, well if it was a proper “Mac” I would say it certainly has “teh snappy” these days.

So, that was the reason for rebooting the phone, but not the reason for it feeling slow. Did it fix it? Sadly the answer was a resounding no.

No space at the inn

Running out of space on iOS

So after a morning of confusion I am finally alerted to the culprit. I’m out of space. Thinking back the last thing I did was take video of my daughter playing, and it’s tipped the scales of the device. However, this doesn’t really explain the general slowness of the device satisfactorily to me. I could understand apps not wanting to start, or crashing, or otherwise producing errors of some sort, but just being slow? Odd. It’s not as though it is using any virtual memory to try to shuffle apps around like other mobile OS attempt, so its storage situation should just remain static when performing simple phone operations like setting an alarm or viewing the calendar etc. A bit more digging showed me that I has precisely 0 bytes available:

Zero Bytes Free

Naturally suspicious, I then took a screenshot which as you can see worked, so I suspect that there is a certain amount of leeway in what it considers to be free space or not!

Anyway, the problem identified I went ahead and removed a couple of videos as suggested and we are back to cooking on gas. So, was there anything useful to take away from a simple problem? I think so.

It’s not magical after all

Firstly, it just goes to show how much we take for granted the capabilities of the iPhone and devices like it. It never occurred to me, or rather it has never manifested that there was some finite limit on it’s capabilities that was as mundane as storage. OK, you come across this when trying to stuff it full of films to take on holiday etc, but this is during a time of (for want of a better word) “maintenance”, not necessarily normal use. Day to day, I’ve spent since launch doing whatever I wanted without ever hitting a limit that curtailed my usage, whether than be running out of space, connectivity, speed, or anything else for that matter. Days like today make you realise it’s just a computer after all. Damn fine and all that, but just an operating system, running on a selection of components that have their limits.

Also, always get the biggest device you can afford with regards to storage! With talk of the upcoming 8MP camera in the next iPhone, we can only expect to use up the available space faster than ever before. In a similar vein, I suspect I must have gotten close to whatever invisible threshold iOS deems “full” in the past, but have likely synced in sufficient time to empty out the pictures and videos before hitting the storage wall. I have occasionally synced at the same time as charging, just because that was the nearest USB socket, but with the upcoming Wireless sync and iCloud photo stream that may change my sync strategy, i.e. I may stop doing it at all and thus be more susceptible to running out of space.

There’s an old adage in computing that you will always use the space available to you, whether you have a 20Mb drive, or a 2Tb one. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that it eventually happened on the phone too, just perhaps surprised at how long it took.


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2 Responses to “Just another device after all”

  1. Gravatar of Sinjin Sinjin
    24. February 2012 at 02:35

    I love your articles! I’ve been dealing with the “cramped space molasses effect” on my 8GB iPhone 3GS for a while now, but it’s because I’m a packrat when it comes to pics and video I created. But iCloud was supposed to solve all this! Or the wireless macless sync when plugged in to power source? Well, I can’t trust it… I liked MobileMe better, and I like having my pics on a HD that I manage. So, I keep carrying these pics around with me to cheer me up when I’m stuck somewhere with nothing but my iPhone. So I’ve started deleting songs off it. But that will only work so long ( I only had 20 songs on it to start with). Are you sure some apps (or services?) aren’t filling up free space just by normal usage?

  2. Gravatar of Dan Dan
    24. February 2012 at 13:53

    Thanks Sinjin. Since I wrote this, I have moved to iOS 5, turned on iCloud and photo stream, and I still sync on a similar schedule. It’s not happened again to me since, except once when I knew the cuplrit was Instacast which had cached approx 8Gb of podcasts during a period that I had stopped listening to them, but it would still download new ones..!

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