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 pain-in-the-assey iCloud-based change in iOS 5. Since 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 tmp, 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 tmp directories when the device runs low on space. That means if you bump up against your storage 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 okay.

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 stray download can just shove their stuff out the back door like a surprise enema, 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]