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View Full Version : Why Are Some iOS Apps so Crash-Prone?

Jason Dunn
05-02-2011, 07:00 PM
<p>I've been using my iPad 2 now for just over two weeks, and while I've been quite happy with it for the most part, I'm utterly dismayed at how often certain applications will crash. It's not uncommon for me to load up TweetDeck and have it crash three times in a row before it will finally load - and then it will spontaneously crash a few minutes later. I bought my most expensive app yet - FilterStorm Pro for $14.99 - and it crashed immediately the first two times I tried to load an image. The third time, doing exactly the same thing, it worked fine. I've seen similar problems on my iPod Touch - apps crashing, seemingly at random.</p><p>Based on my experience, iOS is the most "crashy" experience I've had in years on any operating system. The worst part is that when it happens now, I don't even blink - I just re-start the app. Because that's such a fast process, it's ultimately not a significant problem - yet I know that if the same thing were to happen on one of my Windows 7 computers, I'd be furious about it.</p><p>What is it about iOS apps that make some of them so crash prone? Shoddy development? Something about iOS resource allocation that causes problems?</p>

05-02-2011, 07:12 PM
I can't say why it's happening, but I see it a lot too.

Tim Williamson
05-02-2011, 07:57 PM
I've seen it too, but usually only with specific apps. Most apps that I use regularly I haven't seen crash at all. But the most recent update to the Mint app is very crashy, they also added some new features in the most recent update that I'm guessing have caused the instability.

When I see an app that's unstable I usually deal with it with the hope that the devs release an update to address the crashiness. :o

P.S. Just bought a used iPad 1st gen to see if it really becomes a useful tool for the family. The 1st day my wife hated it, the 2nd day she said she LOVED it. Same situation when she switched from Blackberry to iPhone.

05-02-2011, 11:00 PM
So that's an interesting topic. I have a couple apps that are crashprone, but honestly I almost never get crashes on my iPhone. All crashes get logged and put into iTunes. So its not just a "feeling". I have metrics.

One app I use that crashes often is USAToday. But looking at the last 30 days, I have seen only 4 apps crash, besides USAToday. And my usage is about 10 hours a day minimum.

The main reasons an app will crash often are shoddy programming frankly.
1) They don't handle low memory situations well.
2) They do multi-threading incorrectly (this is the most common one I've personally seen in my own code and in other people's - for example I just found a bug in PI where the status bar would sometimes not hide properly and I finally figured out after a lot of debugging that the call was happening in the sync thread and not the main thread as it should).
3) Poor memory alloc/release understanding.

On the iPad 2 you're going to see more of #2 because before having just one core multi-threaded bugs wouldn't show up as easily, but now having two cores simultaneously touching data, devs who wrote their threaded apps without thinking of atomic access and protecting data from multi-thread access will get crashes.

#3 I see constantly in the developer forums. So many developers have no clue how to do proper memory handling. The good ones don't have that problem though - much :) This is the one place where I wish iOS had garbage collection like big brother Mac OS X.

05-03-2011, 03:40 AM
I vote for mostly shoddy development.

Alex already hit the nail on the head with his list of reasons.

#3 bites a lot of iOS newcomers who are new to not having Garbage Collection.

From my personal development experience for iOS, all my crashes have been traceable to specific bugs in my code and not to any mysterious OS bogies.