The iPhone needs a big red X like Windows Mobile, errr, better I mean

My buddy Dwight Silverman of the Houston Chronicle picked up a shiny iPhone 3G and he’s been playing in the App Store like a million other iPhoneros.  He’s overall pretty impressed but he points out something that most of us who’ve been using the iPhone have noticed.  Dwight has done a good job describing what a lot of us have seen, that the App Store is a great resource for programs for the iPhone but that you might be installing them at your own peril.

I too have noticed that once you start installing apps and playing around with them that the iPhone gets a lot more unstable than it was out of the box.  It’s not uncommon to fire up a new app and have the phone kick you right out of it back to the home screen.  I’ve even had the phone reboot itself a couple of times.  Read Dwight’s analysis for a good description of this.  Dwight mentions that some of the new apps in the App Store may not be quite ready for prime time and that may be what is causing the problems.  I think Dwight is right about that but I also think there’s another thing at play here.

From what I can gather using the iPhone it appears that the memory model is similar to that of Windows Mobile.  We’ve long groused at Microsoft that when you click the red X to close a program in Windows Mobile that the app doesn’t in fact close, it just goes into the background.  While I’m no expert on the iPhone my observations is it appears to be working the same way.  When you hit the home button to leave a program it looks like the program is still taking up memory even when it’s closed.  I’ve seen the iPhone get unstable like described without even running an app from the App Store.  Try opening up several tabs in Safari with a few of them containing web pages with a lot of data and you’ll almost certainly get kicked out of the program.  This tells me that what we’re seeing is that the iPhone gets unstable when it starts running out of memory, and it’s pretty recreatable a situation.  So maybe it’s not the apps from the App Store so much as the way the iPhone handles memory.  If that’s the case then it would behoove Apple to make sure that big programs actually close when you leave them and not just pause.