Apple Telling Developers to Remove "Free Memory" Function from App Store iPhone Apps?


According to developers Bjango, Apple is now telling developers to remove the "Free Memory" function -- the ability to clear data from RAM without force quitting or rebooting -- from their iPhone (and iPod touch) applications or those applications will be removed from the App Store.

Bjango, who makes iStat [$1.99 on sale - iTunes link] had to do just that for their latest version:

Stat’s Free Memory function was removed at Apple’s request. This decision was completely out of our hands. Please note that all other apps with Free Memory appear to have been removed or updated without their Free Memory function too.

After eliciting feedback and considering their options, Bjango went ahead and removed the feature. (Bjango advises users who want the feature to NOT UPGRADE their copies, and reminds Mac users with Time Machine how to downgrade to the old, "Free Memory"-enabled version if necessary.)

To rub salt on their wounds, negative reviews are now piling up for iStat in iTunes, of course, despite Bjango explaining Apple requested the removal in the app's "What's New in This Version" section.

What Apple's rationale may be (if Phil Schiller deigns anyone with another email) is unknown.

[Thanks Scott for the tip!]

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, ZEN and TECH, MacBreak Weekly. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter,, Google+.

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There are 43 comments. Add yours.

taroliw says:

Apple really needs to get off the backs of Developers, IMO. Imagine if they did this sort of thing to Mac software developers... ?

Danny says:

Unless of course Apple plan to introduce something similar in OS 3.1 or later?

fastlane says:

Simpletons who leave negative reviews on apps, that they KNOW Apple has placed limitations on, never cease to amaze me.
"i relly relly luv pandora butt cant doe anyything else when it on this is apples fault buT im sew mad i give it only won star!!"
Sorry, but these people need to be beaten with a shovel.

sommerface says:

I don't know who aggravates me more - AT&T or Apple.

SkydiverTilt says:

The developer failed here not Apple! Apple may have changed policy, but the developer should have just let the app get pulled and the new version should have been submitted as a new app. People didn't read the update and updated and got the feature removed which pissed them off.
Free Memory App did the latter and gets kudos from me for it. Oh and just a me disclaimer, since I follow these blogs I was ready for the update that was going to pull it, while I still only use Free Memory, iStat was not updated, but now I have to see that one on the app store icon. Probably just delete the App anyway.
Anyway, again it was te developer's poor decision and deserves all the flack that comes with it. I'd finish with IMO...but it seems to be the majority opinion.

Dexter says:

I want to beat them with a brick bat for the simple fact that they type like they're a dyslexic, snot-nosed 2nd grader!

Dexter says:

My previous post is a response to Fastlane's post.

Ben Gillam says:

WTF is wrong with apple, people develop systems to FIX problems apple caused and now they are being forced to remove them. If apple fixed them then took the apps out then fine, but now these poor devs are getting 100s of poor reviews from the idiots who dont read the blurb on the app store and take it out on the dev

shdwfx says:

I'm sure Apple has their reasons, but they need to communicate them. For a company whose marketing savy is legendary, this degenerate treatment of developers and customers is nothing short of catastrophic.
Pulling apps and previously approved functionality is one thing, refusing to communicate lucidly about the reasons is something else.

d.allen says:

I'd be upset if I still had the 3G, because I often used free memory on that, and I paid for the app, but since I've had the 3GS, I haven't used it.

shollomon says:

"I’m sure Apple has their reasons"
I'm sure they do too. I'm also sure that like most "good reasons" organizations have for doing things, we wouldn't like them if we knew what they were.
I've written this plenty of times about MS. When "they" do something inexplicable and don't say why, its usually because the reason won't stand the light of day.

chrstphr.ross says:

Not worried.
With SBSettings on my JB'd phone, I swipe my finger across the status bar from any application i can see it, tap Processes, and kill the culprits eating up my space.
I guess, Apple thinks they're running a smooth operation. Of course, so did the Nazi's. Hopefully, the FCCs current monopoly investigations and application investigations break up the regime

Waco Chili says:

I am a dyed-in-the-wool Apple fanboy but this is approaching obnoxiousness. I will NOT be upgrading this app (sadly b/c I like some of the new functionality) because I rely heavily on it when my iPhone begins to crawl. F you apple!

rpv says:

You don't really need this feature, cause the way iPhone works it will always give the memory to the current application and if it doesn't have enough memory the system will close background apps anyway.
So having this in the iStat doesn't really improve anything.

Al says:

I use a free memory app a lot. If you're like me and are still using a 3G, then sometimes before I load a resource-intensive app, I will free up some memory. It really does help when the 3G gets sluggish (once or twice daily).

d.allen says:

That sounds great in theory, but in practice, when I had the 3G and not the 3GS.. many times over my apps would just quit on me, and it was due to the memory, or lack there of, to support the app. One free memory, and I was back in the app with no problems. Like someone mentioned though.. yet another reason to Jailbreak.

icebike says:

Would someone who actually KNOWS what free memory really does please post a summary?
All the rants seem pointless without clear technical details.
The way I look at it is if Apple's much ballyhooed sandbox was any good it would not be necessary for them to put out this edict. The reason for sandboxes is so that apps MAY do anything they CAN do.

Phbian says:

I like the application and I have the desktop version installed as well, but I am glad Apple asked them to kill the feature.
My experience with using iPhone program's "Free Memory" button is that it was clearing more than the memory. It took other, and often used, apps seemingly longer to load as if somethings were cleared that the apps needed and had to re-fetch again.

fassy says:

Free Memory is a poor man's application/process manager. It reports to you how much physical memory is available for applications, and lists what processes are currently running. It allows you to stop applications, including those Apple-created apps that run in the background (Safari, Mail, iPod), freeing up that memory for other uses. (the URL has an underscore in it)

Xultar says:

@ Icebike
Seriously, you call rants pointless when it is you who have no clue?????

Miles says:

Apple should give refunds to everyone who bought an app with that feature, it is only right. Can you imagine if you bought an application for your desktop and Microsoft decided that you were no longer allowed to use certain functions of that software and refused give you a reasonable answer as to why... People would be screaming bloody murder. When Apple does it the fanboys give same idiotic answer about Apple "owning" the device and legally being able to do what they want. Sorry but that isn't a good enough explanation. Also even if Apple was implimenting their own version of this feature in an upcoming firmware update it still doesn't mean they should remove it from apps that people have already paid for. That would be like MS removing the cropping tool from Photoshop because they're planning on putting that feature in MS Paint.
More apple bullying, what else is new?

Miles says:

Rob: you are incorrect. Some apps such as Google Earth will actuall prompt you that there isn't enough memory for it to be run. That means the firmware DID NOT clear enough memory for it to run. The only choice at that point was to restart the device to clear enough ram for resource intensive apps to run.

Miles says:

That was meant to say RVP not Rob. Damn auto correction.

icebike says:


Free Memory is a poor man’s application/process manager. It reports to you how much physical memory is available for applications, and lists what processes are currently running. It allows you to stop applications, including those Apple-created apps

Well if that is the case Apple seems justified in asking people stop using it, but Apple would be better off preventing an app in the sandbox from affecting another app. Sounds to me like Apple has a hole in their sandbox, and it should be their problem to fix it.
They should either enforce the sandbox structure, or forget about it. Asking Devs to stop using it only make them hide it.

GeeGee says:

I paid money for iStat just to get this feature without using the crappy task manager app you can get from cydia.
I will not be upgrading. You can't take my free memory functions away from me Apple twerps!

thismachinekillsfascists says:

i don't see what the problem is and still think that people that have not jailbroken their iphones are getting what they paid for, which is a severely limited device. it's truly ridiculous to me that people decide for themselves that their phone will exist in a prison with no walls. i.e. unlimited possibilities but somehow won't go past the boundaries the false 'guards' say you can't.
you can however do everything you want with a jailbroken iphone and Cydia.
what are you waiting for your next round of fleecing? if you don't want to be fleeced like sheep then stop acting like a herd of sheep.

iRoc says:

I have to say I feel you are way off base on this matter. The real reason IMO is that any process manager shows the end user that Apple isn't able to live up to it's claims of a well oiled machine that "just works". The fact is that the OS does not "just work"!
It regularly does not clear needed memory. It also doesn't dump used memory when apps are closed. Isn't the reason Apple doesn't allow back grounding of apps because the devices' limited memory. So wouldn't it be important for the OS to propperly clear out the memory when apps are closed? Oh, but the OS doesn't do that and devs had to create a way of doing it. That is egg on Apples face and well they aren't going to stand for that. It's not an issue of Apple bringing the feature out in a new OS release. It's just that the existance of a process killer or memory cleaner proves that Apple did not deliver on the " it just works" & when apps close the OS clears them from the memory, as they have said time and time again are basic functions of the OS.
Any defending of Apple on this matter is blatant sycophantic behavior. There is no justafiable reason for Apple to force any dev to remove a function that improves the end user experience! This is Apples way of bending users over and telling them it's for their own good. Oh thanx Apple I'm glade to know that your iron fisted rape regime is actually scarring the delicate state of many end users emotional being is for their own good.
Icebike you are generally on point on most matters here, but I'm sorry this time you're way off base. None of the hardware in the 3G s is "cutting edge" it was all availabe when the 3G was being made. The diff in price of said hardware would have justified the retail price point of the devices. A year later we have the 3G s and the cost of that not really so new hardware is well almost cent for cent the same as that if the 3G when being produced. So Apple really should have skipped the 3G entirely since with the 3G s hardware the OS has enough power to "just work"
The attitude of "You're going to take this because that's what we're allowing you to have'' is not acceptable. Yes new features have been added, but the stability of the OS has gotten worse with each new release. The new features can't white wash the repeated fumbles of Apples in house developement. Forcing App store devs to remove an obviosly usefull feature is an attempt to white wash the fact that the OS doesn't clear memory as Apple has repeated stated it does.
IMO the OS has a 2 month life and then it just turns to pooz and needs a restore to get it to " just work". I've tested stock vs jailbroken it makes no diff at all. By the 2nd month the stupid OS issues become undeniable and a restore is needed. Just for the record restoring from backup only puts the bugs right back. The only way to get a solid two months of use is to set up as new device with each restore. Windows needs to be reinstalled every year for optimum performance is lame, but two months is pittifull. It's not just my devices. Every one I know with iPhones comes calling when the issues pop up and I advise a full sync and restore and new setup. They eventually catch on and know to do it on their own, but the facts are that the iPhone OS is not living up to Apples promises, and they keep pulling the same tricks to cover the tracks of any bug that leaves it's feet prints in the sand.
Apples not being honest in this and so many other matters. App Store submision vetting, bugs, price of hardware, end users rights of ownership, user usage tracking. My issue is not that the issues exist, it's that Apple just says it's not their fault or that the issue doesn't exist when it does. That's a very snobbish attitude and says " yes you're the customer, but you're not important to me. "
^ Me= Apple
Apple needs to drop the attitude and start treat all people with some common decency. Somewhere along the way it became chic for people that in essence aren't the boss to act like dictators. Ie... Companies over consumer. The consumer no long has any rights, and in some cases like with Apple no longer even owns the property they paid for in good faith. It's now a lease or rental. Apple us like a landlord that is saying, " you will not install a garbage dispossal in the sink and you WILL continue to pay for the plumber to unclog the pipes!"
sad part is that people defend the way Apple treats the end user and devs. They deny deny deny. The batteries in our devices do not explode. The OS on our devices " just work". You can't sell that in our mall. Ok you can sell that, but not in that color, fashion, or flavor.

shollomon says:

"Apple needs to drop the attitude and start treat all people with some common decency."
That'll be the day.
Ma Apple. We Know Best.(tm) Now eat your broccoli.

Beth says:

Apple doesn't care how much you paid for any of the "free memory" apps (and there were quite a few). They just want you to pay for their own solution to free memory: it's called the 3GS, and it will free your bank account of those pesky funds too. Yay!

talkin73 says:

@Beth - Fantastic! ROFL!!!

iBlackdude says:

@icebike ......
I tough that you were a geek...... What a deception. :(

mech says:

well, that's pretty sad. Once again Apple throwing its weight around. I wasn't even aware of these apps and that they had the free mem function.
my JB'n iPhone (JiPhone) has SBSettings with this function which is indispensable to me. and it is accessible with a finger swipe and click. I can't believe people put up with 1) locating the app, 2) opening that app, 3) searching for the right screen with free mem, 4) clicking free mem, 5) then closing that app, 6) THEN doing whatever they intended to do... Takes a lot of patience to be a fanboy I guess.
to top if off, you PAID for that pleasure??? you have my sympathy.

Bent24 says:

Apple should imediately refund everyone who purchased the f ing application with an inconvenience fee added on!!!! I enjoy "free memory". On my 3g it was a phones lifesaver. Because, despite apple/popular belief, the phone did not "auto-magically" free running memory when it needed it. It would force quite the app you had running at the current time. That was even on a bone stock device. Then I jailbroke it and same thing. Then I used free memory and all was well. Now my 3gs is not dependant on free memory like the 3g was, as it has around 135-152 mb of usable ram on a fresh boot up as compared to 35-50 mb on the 3g. However using apps like MLB, slingplayer, Ira webcam manager, games, pandora, safari, email, web, imobilecinema it still chews through the ram and free memory steps up like a champ. Bad form on apples part. I don't care if apple does have something similar to this coming out in 3.1. The fact that some people I have spoke to would give apple an ok/pass is bs. It just represents that regardless what a company chooses to do you ( these people) will still suck on that propriotary power tit that's put in front of ther faces. Apple and Microsoft sittin in tree..... F it I'm out.

Bent24 says:

Sorry if that was covered before my post was submitted. I only read through a few post before the passion started to overflow. I feel better.

manfred says:

Well, I am not a specialist with the hardware of the iPhone nore the apps, but when I think of it from some point of view (and all specialists correct me, if I am wrong) it may come to this:
the more memory is 'used' (active, inactive, background...) the more power is needed. The more power is needed, the more the battery is used and has to be recharged. The more one uses and recharges the battery, the sooner one has to buy a new one. That makes an earlier income, doesn't it?
well, again, correct me if I am wrong and take this just as a simple speculation.

icebike says:

@iRoc / iblackdude:
So let me get this straight:
You two are seriously arguing that memory management is a function that should be handled ad hoc by user applications?
You have got to be nuts!
If that is the case, I have two recommendations: Change majors from Computer Science to Modern Dance, because you will be laughed out or flunked out of CS in the first week.
Did you miss the sentence where I wrote: "Sounds to me like Apple has a hole in their sandbox, and it should be their problem to fix it."
In no rational world do you leave memory management (garbage collection in this case) to applications.
In no rational world do you let one task clobber another task or it's memory.
The iPhone OS was pretty much stolen from BSD. BSD has world class memory management. You won't find any system with better garbage collection (Except Linux Kernels later than 2.6.30).
If Apple managed to screw up that part of the the OS, then it is Apple's job to fix it. (Heck, even Windows gets memory management right most of the time, Vista and Win 7 get it right all the time).
It is explicitly NOT the purview of application programs to start managing memory from a sandbox. The fact that they CAN is a bug in the sandbox structure - Apple's fault. The fact that programmers THINK its a proper thing to do speaks to their ignorance of basic systems design. (And the number of flashlight and fart apps bears witness to the fact that just about any fool with a computer can manage to churn out shitapps).
We can only hope that Apple has found their bugs, and has improvements in the pipe line for memory management, and that's why they are suddenly getting serious about weeding garbage collection out of applications.
We can also hope that this suggests they are looking at backgrounding of user apps in future releases, and can't have rogue apps running around clobbering memory.
And we can also hope they will, after fixing the problem, lock down this API so it won't be invoked when it should not, or by apps that should not.
But I assure you chaos will rule if you start down the slippery slope of allowing every user app control of key system functions like memory management.
I simply can not believe that Apple, evil and controlling as it may be, seriously wants the users to suffer poor performance SIMPLY so that they do not have to admit to a programming error. Anyone who believes that has their tinfoil hat on way too tight.
As for iRoc's assertion that he has to reinstall every two months, I'm calling BS on that too. I never reinstall until a new version comes out. There is simply no reason to. The iPhone does not have a registry to corrupt. A simple Power Off cycle solves the occasional slowness issues from hung up apps. If you feel you have to reinstall, (and you insist on throwing up Windows analogies as to why) then you have absolutely no business commenting on any 'Nix based system. BSD can literally run for YEARS without a reboot.
Anyone who has followed this site for more than two weeks knows I am the farthest thing from an Apple fanboy. However, I have been is systems design for longer than most of you have been on this Earth, and Apple is right about this issue.

fassy says:

Assuming these apps use public APIs -- a safe assumption, since they were accepted in the App Store -- this is not a programming error on Apple's part, but a deliberate decision in their API. Perhaps that decision was made without considering the implications, but it is not a bug, it is a feature published for developers to use.
If Apple has to fix it, the proper thing to do is not yank programs, which betrays the API contract Apple has with developers. For those fanboys who think developers just whine, yanking a part of the published API also creates tedious and inconsistent work for Apple, and worse, only provides the illusion of fixing the problem. (For an example, search the iTunes Store for Memory Sweep, another similar app that is still present.)
Enforcing those decisions via ad hoc App Store policy, rather than at the technical level, is simply a bad thing. If Apple needs to change a published part of the platform, they should deprecate those API calls in 3.1, add it to their submission scans, and remove them entirely in 3.x.

melwan says:

I agree with icebike. Apple needs to fix the issue from their end. No third party app should have the burden to clean up memory.
Judging from Apple's behaviour, I think they will be releasing a solution to the problem (or at least a work around) very soon since they asked the devs to drop that feature.

melwan says:

@CJ: this blog is about news (and this is news) and feedback including constructive criticism. If all you do here is troll your way through, then good riddance.

RikD says:

In response Apple's rationale for forcing the removal of the free memory functionality to promote sales of the 3Gs, I can't agree with. I have a 3Gs, and still have the original iStat app with t free memory function - as I didn't upgrade (RTFM'd before pressing the button...)
I can say that I use this function all the time. For example, I have the "Aw Craps" app that has a dice roller that has a random number generator. I found that if I don't clear the memory from game to game, I keep rolling 7's at a very high rate (which is not good in the real world). Apparently, memory is allocated for this function, and if not cleared occasionally it gets confused. Point being that the 3Gs is not immune to the problem.

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