Examining the Memory Hogs of iOS

The worst thing about the iPhone and iPad also happens to be the best thing. They do too much. It’s easy to assimilate them into our lives, and before long they become indispensable. But, soon we have our whole lives on these devices and they become overloaded.

How do we manage the memory? I’ve been working on this issue for awhile. When my iPhone keeps shutting off on me in the middle of a game, I know it’s because there’s a memory hog somewhere with an app. Here are two ways to examine the memory and keep track of it.


On your iOS device, whether it’s an iPad or iPhone, or even an iTouch, you can open the “Settings -> General -> Usage”. There you will find a listing of how much iCloud memory you are using, as well as the memory each app is using from highest to lowest. It doesn’t allow you to adjust the memory allowance, but it does allow you to delete the apps if you suddenly see they’re using too much memory. Obviously my big memory hog here on my iPhone is Music, and it’s not one I would ever wish to get rid of, yet there were a few smaller ones I decided to do away with. I also did the same to my iPad.


I also found an app that delves into the memory you use much more deeply. It’s definitely more than you think about with an iOS device. I apply memory knowledge such as RAM to my MacBooks, but I never even think about how that same thing applies to my iPhone and iPad.

Opening up the System Activity Monitor app, it lists the apps I’m using, just like the Settings app did, but it also shows a great picture of how all that memory is being used. It breaks down the Runtime Memory using Free, Wired, Active, Inactive, etc. It also shows how much of your disk is free and full, the CPU usage, and the battery status. I like seeing the minutes I have left on the battery as compared to just the percentage.


I saw a few apps that were running memory in the background that I wasn’t using, so I quit them. I listen to a radio app every morning, and I’m just in the habit of pausing it from my keyboard and going on with something else when I’m done. I realized looking at this that it was still still running that app, and that it was taking up valuable memory. I opened up the System Activity Monitor again, and I was actually now using more memory, but I was also taking screen caps as I went along in this process which was staking up both disk storage and running memory.


This app also has another page that displays information about the device. It lists the IP addresses, system information, etc. It also has a link to send an email of the Device ID, which certainly beats trying to copy down something of that length.


I can also get the same information from my iPhone. Obviously I have more memory issues with my phone than I do my iPad. The biggest memory usage here is with the Wired memory. I have more of a percentage of free space on my iPhone, but that’s because I use it more to take pictures while I’m out and about, so I need to keep a certain amount of space free.

By using a combination of the Settings app and the System Activity Monitor app, it should allow you to keep a closer eye on how and where you’re using your memory. Occasionally when installing an app it will ask if you wany to allocate more memory to it. What would aid in this whole situation would be if we could allocate how much memory is used by each app without jailbreaking the device.

Laura Tucker
Laura Tucker

Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews, and op-eds, with more than 10 of those years as an editor as well. She has exclusively used Apple products for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site's sponsored review program.

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