Apps can request access to more RAM with iOS 15 permissions, exceeding normal system memory limits

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A new documented law allows app developers to request privileged access to RAM on iOS and iPadOS. This system permission existed in previous iOS versions as a private escape hatch, used by some internal processes.

The change from private to public means that third-party app developers can take advantage of this where necessary. This is especially useful on the latest generation iPad Pro with M1 chip, where the available system RAM can reach 16 GB, but the default RAM per app limit is only 5 GB.

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Since the first release, per-app RAM limits exist in iOS. Unlike the Mac, iOS does not swap memory with disk when memory is running low. So iOS needs to manage resources carefully and developers should expect their app to be ejected at any time.

However, some pro apps on the iPad can benefit from being able to use more system resources than the average app. Recently, buyers of the new iPad Pro were surprised to find that the number of available layers in a Procreate canvas was the same whether they bought the 8GB RAM or 16GB RAM model. (This meant that the only benefit of buying the higher-spec model was the ability to hold multiple apps in memory at once for multitasking purposes, rather than enabling a single application.)

This event highlighted how the maximum available RAM for an individual application on the M1 iPad Pro is only 5 GB, or less than a third of the total physical RAM on the 1 TB or 2 TB iPad Pro models. Presumably, with this right, Procreate will have access to significantly more than 5 GB of RAM and improve the customer experience.

The documentation for this right warns that access to additional memory is not guaranteed. It is also currently unclear how much additional RAM will be allocated, as RAM limits vary by app and iOS device.

Of course, most apps don’t have such high RAM requirements. This right is welcomed by professional media apps such as image and video editors. The proper use of permissions is under the purview of the App Review team.

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