Apple Doubles iPhone’s Cellular Network Download Limit

I’ve cursed the 10MB over-the-air cell data download limit on Apple’s (s aapl) iPhone many a time, especially when trying to grab a podcast or game for use on the train while traveling. Things got slightly better in that regard today, since Apple doubled the download limit for apps, games and iTunes content over 3G and Edge data connections.

Of course, I noticed the bump in download capacity when I absentmindedly tried to download a podcast that exceeded both the old and new limits, so it’s hard to say as of yet how much of an improvement in user experience this actually represents. Likewise, so far every other article I’ve seen regarding the change has found out about it by trying to download something that’s far larger than 20MB.

So why the change? Well, presumably there actually are some apps, video or podcasts out there that are between 10 and 20MB in size, so there is that. Maybe it indicates that a milestone has been reached by AT&T in terms of its ability to handle greater bandwidth usage, but somehow I doubt that, too. I can’t help but think that the real reason has to do with the upcoming iPad.

Since half of the iPad models will sport 3G connectivity, it makes sense to expect users to want to be able to access more content using that connection, especially given that they won’t be using the cellular connection for making calls or doing anything phone-related. I’m just speculating, but I think it’s also possible that the sweet spot for Apple’s visually rich e-book and e-magazine content will fall somewhere in that 10 to 20MB range.

Pocket Gamer has another interesting take on why Apple upped the limit. According to them, many iPhone developers were tailoring their games and apps to fit just under the 10MB cap, so that it would be easier for customers to purchase the software on the go from anywhere. An impulse buy, after all, isn’t nearly as likely to be made when you’re at home in the comfort of your Wi-Fi network, where you have so many other diversions vying for your attention.

Accordingly, a cap increase should result in a corresponding increase in the level of App Store software releases. As Pocket Gamer’s Spanner Spencer puts it:

Double the available app size for remote users should therefore make for some doubly impressive products. In all likelyhood this is in preparation for the inherently larger size of iPad games and apps.

Let’s hope this analysis proves correct, because it should mean promising things are on the horizon for iPhone and iPad users alike.

Related GigaOM Pro Research: How AT&T Will Deal with iPad Data Traffic