My workflow requires me to frequently switch back and forth between Google Docs and other apps and this leads to my Google doc being repeatedly closed.

My understanding is that the cause is “app suspension”. There’s not enough memory for both apps, so, instead of using virtual memory, the brilliant engineers at Apple decided to just reclaim memory from the app not currently being used (as described in iOS always "resets" my apps after a while when they are minimized. How can I change that?)

My feelings / assessment include:

  • Multitasking was SOLVED by OSes in the 1980s.
  • This is intolerably frustrating.
  • I can't change the way the OS is written.
  • I can't change the way the app is written.
  • To my knowledge, all I can do is buy new hardware.
  • This iPad Air 2 has a measly 2GB of RAM.

My intuition is that an iPad with more RAM will experience app suspension less frequently, so I am considering purchasing a new model. However, depending on the memory management scheme of the OS, I may or may not get the fewer app suspensions I desire.

I require more technical knowledge to help me make a good decision. How can I tell if paying for a newer iPad will address my needs?


Blame the apps, not the hardware is my overall message. The icons for some apps are larger in code size than the first version of Adobe Illustrator and the Google model of web apps and complicated iOS apps can bring down the newer iPad Pro. Look at their hesitance to update apps if you wonder how many components have to be reviewed for a quick update to list privacy concerns that most developers fixed in days.

I would put a few documents in Files storage and use the Apple apps to see how responsive the hardware is when the application saves state as the OS intends for the gloriously smooth multitasking experience you are right to expect on hardware faster in every respect than needed to juggle a dozen spreadsheets, documents and presentations. Try running apps in airplane mode so you get a sense of the actual hardware speed without network sync or delays (perhaps Google is sending telemetry or downloading parts of the app while you work rather than optimizing for your experience?).

In 2020, Apple is reminding developers they need to be detecting delays as short as 20ms in frame by frame animations - even one frame that’s late spoils our sense of delight.

You are right to be absolutely brutal on developers that can’t handle an app suspend / resume cycle on an OS designed for power efficiency. The RAM constraint is there since it’s not needed if the app is designed and tested properly. Throwing more RAM at an app that doesn’t take advantage of hardware as capable as the iPad 2 isn’t effective. Worse, all RAM draws power so putting too much RAM in lowers battery life, for no gain in performance.

Even if you aren’t a developer, you can read Apple’s high level overview of what is needed to design a good app. Step one is design it to look great, step two is prepare for interruptions. Google missed or ignored step 2.

Be prepared for interruptions, and be ready to resume. Your app can be interrupted at any time. When an interruption occurs, your app should save the current state quickly and precisely so people can seamlessly continue where they left off when they return.

You can look at memory allocations in Xcode if you don’t agree with this overview, but to make an incredibly responsive app requires very little RAM on iPadOS. Well written apps will perform magnificently on older hardware - even 5+ year old devices have a lot of life in the for the correct app lineup.

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    Note also RAM takes power so that to keep battery usage up you want less RAM. ie the bnest memory size for a desktop computer is not the same for a tablet. – mmmmmm Feb 12 at 13:07
  • Agreed @mmmmmm and Apple Silicon shows that RAM on die and a fast storage controller and custom NVMe storage has upended even desktop class design. The M1 mini and Air are absolute units for real world app responsiveness and multitasking. This question needs some good answers IMO. – bmike Feb 12 at 17:14
  • Apple’s argument that more RAM drains the battery faster sounds plausible just like their argument that purposely slowing down older models to preserve battery life sounds plausible, but we all know that $ is the real underlying driver in both instances. Brutal truth: Adding more RAM and allowing users and developers the freedom to choose the tradeoff would negatively impact $ for Apple. Wrongthink that threatens the profits of the oligarchs will not be tolerated. They will delete this. – Alex Ryan Feb 12 at 23:13
  • IMO both Apple and Google are corrupted and in decline. However, in this particular case, refusing to add a reasonable amount of RAM is CLEARLY a decision designed to increase sales by forcing customers to upgrade more frequently than necessary. A 50 cent army of effective PR experts is a small cost relative to the financial benefits of the scheme. Wrongthink that threatens the profits of the oligarchs will not be tolerated. They will delete this. – Alex Ryan Feb 12 at 23:16
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    @AlexRyan all this is measurable from an engineering standpoint. I understand where you’re coming from, though I think. I do disagree that RAM is the problem, but I’m more than happy to share the stage with people that disagree with me - I learn the most from this sort of discussion, tbh. Thank you sincerely. I can’t +1 your question a second time, but great points are being aired. – bmike Feb 12 at 23:18

It's more complicated than just "more RAM = less app suspension". For instance, flagship Android phones today can have 3-4 times the RAM that iPhones have, but because of software optimization, iPhones can still hold many apps open in the background. If you get a new iPad (especially if yours is several years old), the problem will likely go away, but no one can answer your specific workflow question. I have an iPad Pro 2018, and I can keep a Google Doc open after using several other apps.

  • This is helpful. Thanks. Have you noticed app suspension occurring if your google doc exceeds a certain number of pages? – Alex Ryan Feb 4 at 20:38
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    @AlexRyan I don't use docs that much so I don't have a huge file to test with, but I opened up a view only file that's 10 pages long and I haven't noticed a difference. Obviously if you have a huge file, any device will struggle with you switching away from it and coming back. If this answer answered your question please mark it as such. Thanks! – aequinox Feb 5 at 0:51
  • Very helpful. Thank you. – Alex Ryan Feb 5 at 3:05

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