Screenshots emerge of 256MB app limit on Windows Phone "Tango"

With the upcoming "Tango" update to Windows Phone, OEMs will have the ability to make phones with just 256 MB of RAM, shaving off a few precious dollars from their bottom line. Of course in doing so, about 5% of the apps currently on the Marketplace (including ours) won't work unless the developer re-works aspects to make it more efficient on memory usage. Such phones include the Nokia Lumia 610 and possibly the ZTE Orbit. Those devices display a similar notification in their "About" section too:

Of course there are instances where developers may not want to adjust their app--either they don't want to compromise performance/esthetics or they use periodicTask or a ResourceIntensiveTask. In that case, developers can actually opt-out of making their app compatible and instead a message will appear alerting users that this app won't work on their phone.

Nokia has now published details on both how devs can enable this feature as well as what the user experience will be like. The latter part involves a message noting that the app cannot be installed and when tapped a pop-up window will notify them that they need a phone with more RAM.

Source: Nokia Developer; Thanks, anon, for the tip

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • That kind of sucks...who would want a phone that would be limited because of low ram :/ well I'm glad I got my Titan but I'm just saying maybe the developers could create a lower end all version of their apps for that phone and have a link in the info of he higher end app that says if your phone can't download his app click here for a version compatible with your phone or something like that...
  • Its only 5% and id hope you'd know if your getting a low end phone.
  • I think you missed the point.  MS is reaching out to devs who have existing apps published to see if they can work on improving their code, or reducing memory requirements.  Plus, this is aimed for those markets that are going to be paying a whole lot for a device, let alone the connectivity options.  This is a good move anyhow.  For those that can afford to buy a device that has more than 256MB of RAM, why is this an issue for you?  It shouldn't.
  • i doubt this will be marketed in rich western countries where people spend 4 dollars on starbucks coffee and 500 dollars on oversized ipod touches.
    people who buy low end tango devices probably have little money and are content with what they have, not yearning for what they don't have. i used to live in Philippines, so i know the both the feeling of wanting somethign more, and being happy with what you have at the moment.
  • I'm actually pretty sure this will be marketed in Western Europe (and probably do reasonably well). 
  • Linda agree with you, but some deve might just not want ti compromise or don't have the time to, either way when someone buys a budget device one should be aware it comes with limitations. I this MS/Nokia are playing smart and fair.
  • Non-issue unless the 5% contain hugely popular ones.
  • Here's the deal. For the last 2 years all WP7 apps have had a Windows Phone Certification Guideline  ("5.2.5 Memory Consumption") saying they must not exceed 90MB of RAM usage. Meaning, if your app consumes more than 90MB of RAM, it should not be shipped on the windows phone marketplace. Both 512MB devices and the newer 256MB devices support apps using that required 90MB memory. Having less memory on the device, doesn't mean less memory for app. We're guarenteeing those 90MB even on 256MB devices.  
    However ~5% of apps have used more than 90MB of memory in clear violation of certification guidelines. Those apps can't run on devices that don't have that much RAM to give out. So there are really two options at this point: either pull 5% of the marketplace down including some really top notch apps (which no one wants to do), or temporarly exclude ~5% of apps from running on 256MB devices. 
    The mechanism described in the article is the mechanism used to temporary exclude those ~5% of apps. Hopefully that makes sense. Going forward we are not encouraging or advocating for any specific set of apps to disqualify themselves from 256MB devices.  We want all apps to run on 256MB devices. Microsoft has proactively reached out to developers asking them to fix memory usage in their apps so they can run flawlessly on 256MB devices.
    We're here to help deveopers who mistakingly consumed more than 90MB of memory to bring their memory usage under control. For any such developers please see our guidance on how to memory profile your apps and best practices to keep memory usage under control. 
    -- Justin Angel, Principal Engineer @ Nokia WP7 Developer Exprience 
  • Very enlightening, Justin!! Thanks for chiming in!
  • Cool. Thanks!
  • How much are you possibly saving by going with 256MB RAM? $3-$4. I think most buyers would rather their phone cost $3-$4 more in order not to have a gimped experience. Sure, most apps will work now, and they will try to get the 5% to use 90MB or less, but what about the future? These devices probably won't be getting any OS upgrades because of how little RAM they have.
  • I wonder how much they save. One RAM producer has just said RAM is sold as cheap as rice balls...
    I guess not more than 2$ :/
  • I think the savings are alot more than that. I would say closer to $15. On an SOC the RAM is stacked on top of the processor and is expense to manufacturer. So going from 512 to 256 MB allows them to use a cheaper part. They are also using an 800Mhz processor so the savings could be more. For phones the SOC is basically the whole device outside of onboard storage and communications. For newer SOC's even the modems are built in.
  • Take a look at the BOM of phones. 512MB of RAM costs the manufactures around $9.10. I'm assuming 256MB will cost around $5-6 so that extra 256MB should only cost $3.10-$4.10. And this is using the BOM for the iPhone 4S which came out a few months ago. RAM should be even cheaper now.
    I don't think they should have skimped on the RAM. When smartphones are all moving to 1GB, Windows Phone is allowing manufactures to drop down to 256MB. All this will do is hold the platform back.
  • What Tango update?
  • Sorry, disregard that comment
  • Because WP7 apps are managed my argument is slightly weakened, but really...the vast majority of mobile apps should neveruse more than 90Mb. That's a hell of a lot of RAM.
  • Its 5% today based on the old requirements I wonder what the percentage will be when developers start working within the new limits. What I guess would be interesting is just how impossible the 256mb limit would make it for some to develop within that window.
  • Doesn't the Dell Venue Pro have only 256MB RAM?
  • No, this was an error.
  • Stats reports that only a relatively small % of smartphone owners install apps (my mother for example love her WP but does not use app...).
    Those peoples can enjoy all WP goodness (messaging, contacts integration, social, photo sharing, SkyDrive) for under 100 bucks!
  • that's true, my mother too love my htc Titan. and I've been thinking which WP should I bought her. Knowing fully well she's not care about app than those that came with phone. £100 phone is not bad for call, messaging, and checking picture from SkyDrive.
  • I bought a 710 for my father two days ago, dude says it's amazing and must be witchcraft. :D
  • This might appear in the US for cheap MetroPCS phones, I would hope and for holdouts like my anti-tech girlfriend...I would think the lower spec memory would not simply be for its own sake but as someone else mentioned, allow for a lower processor, which would shave off quite alot in price.