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How does the aggressive iOS 13 RAM management affect UX?

Apple's iOS 13 comes with RAM management that may terminate mobile apps that aren't in use. Apple has somewhat addressed this with updates, but some of the core issues remain.

With iOS 13.2 and iPadOS 13.2, Apple added more aggressive RAM management to improve in-app performance and overall UX.

This decision makes sense for a mobile OS that needs to work smoothly on hardware as old as the iPhone 6s, which was released in 2015. By killing inactive apps, the OS frees up resources to ensure smoother operation of apps that are actually in use. This measure should also improve smartphone battery life in most cases.

Issues with the aggressive iOS 13 RAM management

The problem for enterprise IT professionals is that the iOS 13 RAM management is too aggressive in some situations. Many iPhone users reported that they were losing drafts of emails and pages had to be reloaded in the Apple Safari browser whenever the user switched away from these apps to answer a message or address a notification. These are numerous other examples of issues caused by this RAM management feature, such as partially-watched videos either restarting or being marked as fully-watched.

The aggressive iOS 13 RAM management hinders users' ability to multitask. Though this feature is intended to save battery life, it can actually result in shortened battery life. Users may need to reload apps from scratch whenever they switch between them, which negates any benefits that would come from the OS shutting them down.

Many mobile apps save their states when the OS' RAM management terminates them, but any apps that do not run a state save could lose text and data that users were still working on. Some users who need to continuously switch between mobile apps for a certain workflow will have their productivity massively hindered by this iOS 13 feature.

Within a week, Apple released iOS 13.2.2, which included various bug fixes, and the release notes included the following comment: Fixes an issue that could cause apps to quit unexpectedly when running in the background. While this improved some of the aggressive iOS 13 RAM management, some issues persisted, such as mobile apps failing to download content while in the background.

However, Apple addressed the app download issue with iOS 13.2.3. With each new iOS update, the iOS 13 RAM management process was improved, but every new release has left some persistent issues. For example, iOS 13.3 addressed an issue where email clients were failing to download new messages in the background. However, there are no notes pertaining to memory management in the bug fixes for iOS 13.4 or 13.4.1.

While the latest iOS 13 updates certainly seem to have addressed some of the issues, iOS 13 RAM management is still far more aggressive than pre-iOS 13 releases. The best practice to address this RAM management is to save often, especially with custom or business applications that don't have an auto-save feature.

It is also a good idea for users to manually close applications that aren't serving any purpose; this will minimize the amount of RAM management the OS will execute. While switching between a few live mobile apps is fine, having too many open will results in some being terminated. With the aggressive iOS 13 RAM management, the user does not get to choose which apps stay open.

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