RIM explains app memory in OS 7 BlackBerry devices

Now that the BlackBerry 9900 and 9810 have been out in Canada for a few days, there has been some confusion about app memory on the device. It’s advertised to have 768 MB of RAM, but there’s only 189 MB of memory available for applications, which is entirely separate from the on-board storage (which varies by BlackBerry) and the microSD memory card. 189 MB doesn’t seem like a lot, especially if you’re used to bigger apps on Android and iPhone, so I pestered RIM about it here at the BBM Apps Hackathon developer event in New York, and they provided me with a lengthy, comprehensive answer.

The 189 MB of free space refers to the application memory space, an area carved out of the eMMC where all the usual security checks are put in for apps – i.e. this is the space to which actual application COD files are installed.   Practically speaking, if you look through the App World catalogue, you’ll find that few apps exceed 2 MB in size and most are less than 1 MB in size.  On BlackBerry, most apps simply don’t need much space.  If you take Foursquare as an example, the app on BlackBerry is 790 KB where it’s at least triple that size on other major platforms, and arguably, with a richer feature set on BlackBerry.

The maximum size for an app is theoretically about 14-16 MB (7-8 MB of code, 7-8 MB of additional data [could be images, audio files, etc… basically, anything that isn’t Java code]).  This is documented here: http://supportforums.blackberry.com/t5/Testing-and-Deployment/The-maximum-size-of-a-BlackBerry-smartphone-application/ta-p/502534

The only argument for larger memory space is 3D games.  But, per the max app size limit, 7 MB for data is too small for them anyway (many games have 50 MB or more of images, textures, audio, etc).  You could go beyond that 7 MB data limit via a series of libraries, but then you’re starting to take a large chunk out of that 189 MB.  As such, for full featured 3D titles like 3D Roller Coaster Rush Jurassic 2, we worked with the vendor to download the game data separate from the COD files for the game logic.  More specifically, from App World, the user will be able to download the COD files for the app, which make up the core game logic.  This download is only a few MBs in size / only consumes a very small portion of the user’s available application memory.  When running the game for the first time, the game will then download all the rest of its game files, be it images, textures, audio, or whatever else.  This download is done in a manner that is cost-sensitive to the user’s data plan, using WiFi only, which is especially relevant for users who are not on unlimited data plans or for users who live in regions where data rates are such that 50 MB downloads over carrier networks are not practical.  The downloaded game files are then saved to the user’s regular media storage, allowing the app to be as graphically rich as it wishes, without negatively impacting the user’s available application memory space.

So, there you have it. I’m no developer, so have no idea if this set-up makes any more sense than on any other platforms, but it is a bit reassuring if you’ve been freaking about only being able to get 189 MB-worth of apps onto the new BlackBerry devices.

  • Anonymous

    Seems pretty reasonable to me dude. Wow.


  • Alex

    What RIM forget to talk about is real world scenarios. Two words “Memory Leaks”…. applications can be buggy and it’s nice to have a bigger threshold to compensate. Maybe RIM has done more to limit memory for leaky apps – I doubt it however. Sorry RIM in my view you should have at least allowed 500MB for apps, or at least allow the user to be able to expand it themselves somehow. I’m just not buying that 189Mb is enough.

Back to top ▴