How iOS 5 Neuters Instapaper (And Other Offline Apps)

For all the talk about the cloud — "i" or otherwise — a lot of the best apps are the ones that let you work offline almost as efficiently as when you're online. iOS 5 is making that a lot harder to do.

Marco Arment, the creator of Instapaper, brings up a potentially problematic iCloud-based change in iOS 5. As everything's being synced to iCloud, Apple's no longer allowing apps to store downloadable content in the directories that are synced. Just shift the data to cache or temp, they say, which were traditionally used for non-essential files and aren't synced. That's where Instapaper's stored stuff for years. No problemo, right?

Here's the thing: iOS 5 now has an automatic feature that cleans out those same cache and temp directories when the device runs low on space. That means if you bump up against your hard drive limit, all of your Instapaper articles, magazines, ebooks, comics and pretty much anything else that relies on downloaded content to function will vanish. You'll have to re-download everything if you want to access it. That's, like, not OK.

Your content just up and disappearing without so much as a prompt is beyond frustrating: it's deal-breaking for several apps, most of all the ones that work offline. A lot of folks use these apps heavily in places like subways, planes and areas without Wi-Fi, and if a download can just shove their stuff out the back door, it makes those apps wholly unreliable. Arment stops just short of flat-out demanding a new place to store the downloaded data, but even allowing a setting to turn the auto-clears off would be better than this.

[Marco Arment]