iMac BTO for an iOS Developer

FuriousGallus

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 4, 2019
6
0
Hey everyone.

I've recently started considering an iMac for professional iOS development. Been waiting for an iMac refresh for a while and now it finally arrived so I'm pretty stoked. Never owned one.

I've been lurking here for a few days but I still have some things I'm wondering about, so I finally signed up to talk about them.

For RAM, I'm gonna be taking the 8GB from Apple and upgrade later. Pretty simple. I don't think I'm gonna need more than 40GB (32 + 8) in the foreseeable future (considering I work on a 16GB MacBook Pro currently with no real issues), so I'll likely pick up a 16x2 kit somehow.

For SSD, the one thing I was wondering about was read/write speeds. I'm under the impression that going
over 512GB has diminishing returns with respect to those, and it's a good size for me, so that's what I'm aiming for.

For CPU, I understand the i9 in the iMac enclosure does not live up to its potential. But, I like the CPU horsepower for my workflow, and it seems that it's considerably more powerful than the i5, so that's what I'm aiming for.
Which brings me to the GPU, and that's a little tricky because it seems that there's an efficiency difference between the 580X and the Vega 48 with respect to heat dissipation.
I'm wanting to game occasionally (possibly heavy games in bootcamp) but I'm really not sure the Vega 48 upgrade is worth so much (almost 600$ where I live).
However, if during my normal workflow my GPU choice would have a non-negligible effect on the CPU performance, or otherwise make the fan noise too annoying or make the temps too high - then I would reconsider it and probably opt for the Vega.
It's my understanding though that this could only be a meaningful difference in scenarios in which the CPU and GPU are both utilized to the max at the same time. If that's the case, during normal development, I'd mostly be utilizing the CPU, and so I wouldn't need to dissipate much heat from the 580X.

There's another small issue of whether or not to get the touchpad for the iMac. For years I've used it on the MacBook Pro and absolutely loved it (hate using a mouse now, hurts my hand after a while). But it seems to me that it's mostly convenient because of its placement on the MacBook right under the keyboard.
Did any of you make a switch to the Magic Mouse (or another mouse)? Or are you using a touchpad with it? Where do you place the touchpad, then? Is it convenient for you to put it where a mouse would normally be?
I know it's really much more of a personal taste thing but I'd still love to hear your experiences on the matter, as I'm totally new to the iMac.

Would love to hear your thoughts and thanks for reading this far.
 

ncrypt

macrumors 6502
May 16, 2012
314
190
UK
Not sure about all the spec stuff, but 100% get the trackpad, especially since you say you like it on the MacBook. I've used a trackpad on Mac desktops for years and never regretted it
 
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adamk77

macrumors 6502a
Jan 6, 2008
510
149
Hi there. I'm also a fellow iOS developer, so I'm hoping I can share some insights from a developer's perspective.

Until very recently, I had a 2017 27" iMac with 40GB RAM and 512GB SSD. This was definitely the best bang for my money. It was plenty of RAM and the 512GB SSD was plenty for my apps and source code. If I needed more space, then there was a viable upgrade path with extremely performant external SSDs that can match the performance of the internal SSD.

I sold my 2017 iMac when the 2019 iMac was announced. Like you, I also wanted the extra CPU horsepower because of how well Xcode leverages the multiple cores, which translates into faster compile time. So I'm with you and would definitely have gone with the the 8-core i9. The i5 didn't even cross my mind.

Though I also wanted the Vega 48, it's definitely not worth the extra $600. The Vega 48 seems to perform similarly to the GTX 1060, but not too much faster than the 580x. Also, I never found the fan noise from my 2017 iMac with the 580 annoying, which runs hotter than the 2019 iMac. The primary benefit would be that it runs cooler than the 580x, but I do not think that this alone is worth the extra $600, especially considering that for what we do, even the 580x is overkill. My head was telling me that the Vega 48 was not worth it, but my heart was telling me otherwise. Maybe you're more sensible than I am though :).

As for "heavy games", I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir saying that a Mac in general is a poor choice for this. But I understand the desire for a single machine to handle both work / development and games. An option is to budget for an eGPU in the future, which will unburden your iMac's GPU, translating into a cooler running temperature. You could get an eGPU enclosure and something much more powerful like a desktop class Vega 64 to pair with it. The downsides are the extra cost and that you'd need an external monitor (sucks not being able to leverage the awesome iMac's screen) to get the full performance out of it.

I am partial to the trackpad. I have both the Apple mouse and the trackpad. I rarely use the mouse. It's one of the least ergonomic mice out there. I also love being able to leverage all the gestures. The only time I use the mouse is precision work in Photoshop. For gaming, the Apple mouse is horrible -- you'd want a regular gaming mouse for that. It's not right under the keyboard, but if you get the smaller keyboard, the trackpad will be in short reaching distance. This is the reason I did not go with the full keyboard with the numeric keypad. If you are right handed, it increases the travel distance to go from the keyboard to the trackpad, which I found annoying (I also have the full sized wired version). You can take a look at my setup (photo attached).

The below isn't an iMac vs a Mac Mini debate. I just want to share where I eventually landed as a fellow iOS developer, with my own personal list of needs.

After much debate, I settled on the 2018 Mac Mini. I really wanted the i9 but I also wanted a larger monitor. As a coder, you can probably relate to the desire for extra real estate. As a compromise, I chose the 6-core i7 upgrade, 512GB SSD and upgraded the RAM from 8GB to 32GB myself. I also purchased a 43" 4K monitor which I use in full 4K (1:1 pixel mapped, non-Retina mode), which gives me plenty of extra real estate for all my windows on one screen. The cost was far below at about $1300 less than the 2019 iMac configuration I was considering. It's working out really well so far. In the future when my funds are replenished, I intend on doing this in this thread https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/egpu-enclosure-m-2-pcie-to-pcie-3-0-x4-adapter-nvme-ssd.2176166/ to get that extra GPU kick and storage.

Hope this helps. If you want to kick around some ideas, PM me or post here and I'd be happy to share whatever I can.
 

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FuriousGallus

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 4, 2019
6
0
Hi there. I'm also a fellow iOS developer, so I'm hoping I can share some insights from a developer's perspective.

Until very recently, I had a 2017 27" iMac with 40GB RAM and 512GB SSD. This was definitely the best bang for my money. It was plenty of RAM and the 512GB SSD was plenty for my apps and source code. If I needed more space, then there was a viable upgrade path with extremely performant external SSDs that can match the performance of the internal SSD.

I sold my 2017 iMac when the 2019 iMac was announced. Like you, I also wanted the extra CPU horsepower because of how well Xcode leverages the multiple cores, which translates into faster compile time. So I'm with you and would definitely have gone with the the 8-core i9. The i5 didn't even cross my mind.

Though I also wanted the Vega 48, it's definitely not worth the extra $600. The Vega 48 seems to perform similarly to the GTX 1060, but not too much faster than the 580x. Also, I never found the fan noise from my 2017 iMac with the 580 annoying, which runs hotter than the 2019 iMac. The primary benefit would be that it runs cooler than the 580x, but I do not think that this alone is worth the extra $600, especially considering that for what we do, even the 580x is overkill. My head was telling me that the Vega 48 was not worth it, but my heart was telling me otherwise. Maybe you're more sensible than me though :).

As for "heavy games", I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir that a Mac in general is a poor choice for this. But I understand the desire for a single machine to handle both work / development and games. An option is to budget for an eGPU in the future, which will unburden your iMac's GPU, translating into a cooler running temperature. You could get an eGPU enclosure and something much more powerful like a desktop class Vega 64 to pair with it. The downsides are the extra cost and that you'd need an external monitor (sucks not being able to leverage the awesome iMac's screen) to get the full performance out of it.

I am partial to the trackpad. I have both the Apple mouse and the trackpad. I rarely use the mouse. It's one of the least ergonomic mice out there. I also love being able to leverage all the gestures. The only time I use the mouse is precision work in Photoshop. For gaming, the Apple mouse is horrible -- you'd want a regular gaming mouse for that. It's not right under the keyboard, but if you get the smaller keyboard, the trackpad will be in short reaching distance. This is the reason I did not go with the full keyboard with the numeric keypad. If you are right handed, it increases the travel distance to go from the keyboard to the trackpad, which I found annoying (I also have the full sized wired version). You can take a look at my setup (photo attached).

The below isn't an iMac vs a Mac Mini debate. I just want to share where I eventually landed as a fellow iOS developer.

After much debating, I settled on the 2018 Mac Mini. I really wanted the i9 but I also wanted a larger monitor. As a coder, you can probably relate to the desire for extra real estate. As a compromise, I chose the 6-core i7 upgrade, 512GB SSD and upgraded the RAM from 8GB to 32GB myself. I also purchased a 43" 4K monitor which I use in full 4K (1:1 pixel mapped, non-Retina mode), which gives me plenty of extra real estate for all my windows on one screen. The cost was far below at about $1300 less than the 2019 iMac configuration I was considering. It's working out really well so far. In the future when my funds are replenished, I intend on doing this in this thread https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/egpu-enclosure-m-2-pcie-to-pcie-3-0-x4-adapter-nvme-ssd.2176166/ to get that extra GPU kick and storage.

Hope this helps. If you want to kick around some ideas, PM me or post here and I'd be happy to share whatever I can.
Oh man I'm really happy you took the time to share, thank you! Glad to see this forum consists of more than graphic designers and video editors, and it's really helpful to hear another voice with similar needs.
Certainly would prefer our posts to be here, I know I'd appreciate this thread if I saw it just now.

I'm happy the Mac mini setup is working out for you. Definitely seems to make sense for your needs, and your desk looks super nice!
The thing with the monitor though is that I'm not used to working with one monitor at all. I've always really liked fullscreen applications with two monitors (usually using my MacBook Pro with an external monitor elevated behind it). I don't think I can really get used to split screen, or go back to the Windows-like mess of just having everything in one desktop.
So just the idea of using one huge screen with fullscreen apps is a bit weird to me right now, but if I go the iMac route then I'm gonna try to get used to it. It's definitely not small to me, 27" seems plenty large and I wouldn't be sitting as far away from it as you'd be if you'd place it where your current monitor is.
So far I guess it looks like the Mac mini makes a pretty convincing case even for me, but I would need to get a new monitor and I can't really justify getting two. The iMac seems like a simpler choice, and I love its aesthetics as well. It's definitely what I'm going for.

Glad you feel like the trackpad with the small keyboard isn't too annoying. Really solidifies for me that it's what I should be going for.

I'm really feeling what you're saying about the heart vs mind split regarding the Vega. Even when I'm so inclined to rationalize the Vega, I just can't do it. My thinking is that I just feel like I'm shelling out so much for this whole thing anyway, why not just let myself feel really good using it? Money comes and goes, but I'll probably be stuck with this machine for quite a while dealing the consequences of my choices.
I heard here recently somebody say (paraphrasing) "I've never regretted getting too much, but always regretted not getting enough". I'm past being okay with regretting stuff.
We'll see what I end up doing, heh. So far I think I made it pretty clear that I'm hardly more sensible than you ;)
 

adamk77

macrumors 6502a
Jan 6, 2008
510
149
Oh man I'm really happy you took the time to share, thank you! Glad to see this forum consists of more than graphic designers and video editors, and it's really helpful to hear another voice with similar needs.
Certainly would prefer our posts to be here, I know I'd appreciate this thread if I saw it just now.

I'm happy the Mac mini setup is working out for you. Definitely seems to make sense for your needs, and your desk looks super nice!
The thing with the monitor though is that I'm not used to working with one monitor at all. I've always really liked fullscreen applications with two monitors (usually using my MacBook Pro with an external monitor elevated behind it). I don't think I can really get used to split screen, or go back to the Windows-like mess of just having everything in one desktop.
So just the idea of using one huge screen with fullscreen apps is a bit weird to me right now, but if I go the iMac route then I'm gonna try to get used to it. It's definitely not small to me, 27" seems plenty large and I wouldn't be sitting as far away from it as you'd be if you'd place it where your current monitor is.
So far I guess it looks like the Mac mini makes a pretty convincing case even for me, but I would need to get a new monitor and I can't really justify getting two. The iMac seems like a simpler choice, and I love its aesthetics as well. It's definitely what I'm going for.

Glad you feel like the trackpad with the small keyboard isn't too annoying. Really solidifies for me that it's what I should be going for.

I'm really feeling what you're saying about the heart vs mind split regarding the Vega. Even when I'm so inclined to rationalize the Vega, I just can't do it. My thinking is that I just feel like I'm shelling out so much for this whole thing anyway, why not just let myself feel really good using it? Money comes and goes, but I'll probably be stuck with this machine for quite a while dealing the consequences of my choices.
I heard here recently somebody say (paraphrasing) "I've never regretted getting too much, but always regretted not getting enough". I'm past being okay with regretting stuff.
We'll see what I end up doing, heh. So far I think I made it pretty clear that I'm hardly more sensible than you ;)
I definitely hear you about multiple monitors. That would be my preference too. My choice was certainly a compromise.

I've attached a few photos of the different configurations I've tried with the iMac. The 2 photos where the external monitor is high up in the air is another 27" external monitor. That completely ruined my neck so I had to give that up lol.

I've also tried the setup where the 27" is to the left of the iMac. But also not great for my neck, constantly looking to the left. The best configuration is up and down, but a 27" external is too big for that. Also, I spent a good chunk of money on a really nice set of speakers and having it on the side completely blocked one of them.

What ended up working the best for me was the portable 1080p 15.6" screen (ASUS Zenscreen MB16AC, similar in size to the MBP screen-- the dark photo with bad lighting) that sat right under the iMac, which will replicate your previous setup with the elevated external monitor and a MBP in front of it. It's powered by a USB-C connection, so very clean setup, too.

I tend to sell my old Apple gear to fund new Apple gear, and from the looks of what folks are purchasing, I think the Vega 48 would be a more popular option in the used marketplace than the 580x. I'm still rationalizing :) I agree with you about the buyer's remorse sentiment of not getting enough. That describes me perfectly as well.
 

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FuriousGallus

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 4, 2019
6
0
I definitely hear you about multiple monitors. That would be my preference too. My choice was certainly a compromise.

I've attached a few photos of the different configurations I've tried with the iMac. The 2 photos where the external monitor is high up in the air is another 27" external monitor. That completely ruined my neck so I had to give that up lol.

I've also tried the setup where the 27" is to the left of the iMac. But also not great for my neck, constantly looking to the left. The best configuration is up and down, but a 27" external is too big for that. Also, I spent a good chunk of money on a really nice set of speakers and having it on the side completely blocked one of them.

What ended up working the best for me was the portable 1080p 15.6" screen (ASUS Zenscreen MB16AC, similar in size to the MBP screen-- the dark photo with bad lighting) that sat right under the iMac. It's powered by a USB-C connection, so very clean setup, too.

I tend to sell my old Apple gear to fund new Apple gear, and from the looks of what folks are purchasing, I think the Vega 48 would be a more popular option in the used marketplace than the 580x. I'm still rationalizing :) I agree with you about the buyer's remorse sentiment of not getting enough. That describes me perfectly as well.
Wow, interesting attempts you got there! It's also interesting that we both sort of found ourselves in essentially the same setup too: Your ASUS Zenscreen setup is essentially identical to what I have going on at work right now, but with a 27" iMac instead of my 24" crappy Samsung monitor. My neck is happy with this sort of setup.

It's cool that you found a setup that works this way with the iMac, I'll definitely be considering that too after I try just the sole iMac and see if I really miss the other smaller monitor. I think what has driven me to the fullscreen applications workflow is the ease of switching between them, and the focus it helped maintain for me when working on something. When I have Xcode open, there's nothing else to distract me, I'm all in there. I love that. So I'm guessing this focus could presumably even be heightened with just using the one iMac monitor.

Edit: Also the thought of the Vega 48 improving the iMac's resell value crossed my mind as well, but I was just guessing honestly. I have no experience with that whatsoever. I'll take your word for it because it fits in with my agenda ;)
 
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adamk77

macrumors 6502a
Jan 6, 2008
510
149
Wow, interesting attempts you got there! It's also interesting that we both sort of found ourselves in essentially the same setup too: Your ASUS Zenscreen setup is essentially identical to what I have going on at work right now, but with a 27" iMac instead of my 24" crappy Samsung monitor. My neck is happy with this sort of setup.

It's cool that you found a setup that works this way with the iMac, I'll definitely be considering that too after I try just the sole iMac and see if I really miss the other smaller monitor. I think what has driven me to the fullscreen applications workflow is the ease of switching between them, and the focus it helped maintain for me when working on something. When I have Xcode open, there's nothing else to distract me, I'm all in there. I love that. So I'm guessing this focus could presumably even be heightened with just using the one iMac monitor.

Edit: Also the thought of the Vega 48 improving the iMac's resell value crossed my mind as well, but I was just guessing honestly. I have no experience with that whatsoever. I'll take your word for it because it fits in with my agenda ;)
I'm coding now, and oh man, it's distractions galore. Email, Skype, iMessages, Slack and all my devices are ringing when I get a phone call. It gets crazy.

I went with the iMac 27" as my sole screen for a bit. I lasted a month. Then I just broke down. It's so much easier just glancing at my email or Slack on the 2nd screen than switching spaces or alt-tabbing to it. The final nail in the coffin for abandoning the 1 screen setup was my daughter. She's too young to be left alone, but sometimes I just need to get work done. And I had to have a 2nd display to show her something on the 2nd monitor to keep her quiet while I continue my work on the main display.

From hearing you though, I'd place my bet on you purchasing the Vega 48 :)

I'm constantly thinking about pulling the trigger on an eGPU. I don't even need it right now. My wife will love me for it.
 

mikehalloran

macrumors 68000
Oct 14, 2018
1,602
392
The Sillie Con Valley
For SSD, the one thing I was wondering about was read/write speeds. I'm under the impression that going
over 512GB has diminishing returns with respect to those
There is no reason to think that. The size of your System/Library/Applications plus active work files should determine your boot drive size. Large files will reside on the HDD portion of a fusion drive and slow the process. I can't imagine an iOS developer wanting to take that chance when time saved=money earned.

An external Samsung X5 over TB3 is just as fast but you lose the advantage of APFS Snapshots which applies to files residing on the boot SSD only.

The iOS developers I know are doing so from their iMac Pros.
[doublepost=1554407196][/doublepost]
I went with the iMac 27" as my sole screen for a bit. I lasted a month. Then I just broke down. It's so much easier just glancing at my email or Slack on the 2nd screen than switching spaces or alt-tabbing to it.
I don't have the daughter issue you do but there's no way I can do most of my work on a single monitor (I need 3 total). Life's too short. Back to that Time Saved= maxim.

Still torn between the i9 iMac and iMac Pro but the Pro's second TB bus makes adding both of my side monitors plus any additional TB3 peripherals much, much easier.
 

FuriousGallus

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Apr 4, 2019
6
0
There is no reason to think that. The size of your System/Library/Applications plus active work files should determine your boot drive size. Large files will reside on the HDD portion of a fusion drive and slow the process. I can't imagine an iOS developer wanting to take that chance when time saved=money earned.

An external Samsung X5 over TB3 is just as fast but you lose the advantage of APFS Snapshots which applies to files residing on the boot SSD only.

The iOS developers I know are doing so from their iMac Pros.
I'm a little confused, are you under the impression that I was advocating for a fusion drive? If so, I'm not. I'm planning on going fully SSD, only possible question in my mind was whether or not to go for the 1TB SSD or the 512GB SSD. I just don't really need that much space so the 512 GB seems to suit my needs better. I was just wondering if there was a speed difference as I encountered this phenomenon with MacBook Pros before.

Regarding the iMac Pro, I know a beefed up iMac Pro would compile faster, but my budget cannot reach the levels required to make such an approach worthwhile. Just the base model is ridiculously more expensive than my target iMac configuration, and its other features just don't matter to me enough to justify that uptick.
A Sillicon Valley iOS dev likely makes 3 times my salary and can afford any computer they want no problem, but I'm gonna have to settle here unfortunately.
[doublepost=1554409468][/doublepost]
I'm coding now, and oh man, it's distractions galore. Email, Skype, iMessages, Slack and all my devices are ringing when I get a phone call. It gets crazy.

I went with the iMac 27" as my sole screen for a bit. I lasted a month. Then I just broke down. It's so much easier just glancing at my email or Slack on the 2nd screen than switching spaces or alt-tabbing to it. The final nail in the coffin for abandoning the 1 screen setup was my daughter. She's too young to be left alone, but sometimes I just need to get work done. And I had to have a 2nd display to show her something on the 2nd monitor to keep her quiet while I continue my work on the main display.

From hearing you though, I'd place my bet on you purchasing the Vega 48 :)

I'm constantly thinking about pulling the trigger on an eGPU. I don't even need it right now. My wife will love me for it.
I guess my hope for the single monitor is that I could have my iPhone on a standing wireless charger like I have at work, and that most human interactions would go through it first. If I don't feel like typing too much on my phone then I'd switch to the corresponding desktop app, use Handoff etc. It's sort of what I'm doing right now even with the dual monitors and it doesn't seem so bad.

It also looks like macOS is pretty geared towards making the single-monitor experience as painless as possible, although I haven't tried to push that to the limit yet.
Like for example one of the cool things about the Mail client on macOS is that you can deal with emails through the notifications and I like that they automatically open in split screen and go away once you're done with them. Messages can be replied to within the notification itself (iMessage, Slack, WhatsApp etc), so interruptions that require quick answers can be dealt with elegantly without breaking away too much from what you were doing.

What would you be using your eGPU for? :)
 
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adamk77

macrumors 6502a
Jan 6, 2008
510
149
I'm a little confused, are you under the impression that I was advocating for a fusion drive? If so, I'm not. I'm planning on going fully SSD, only possible question in my mind was whether or not to go for the 1TB SSD or the 512GB SSD. I just don't really need that much space so the 512 GB seems to suit my needs better. I was just wondering if there was a speed difference as I encountered this phenomenon with MacBook Pros before.

Regarding the iMac Pro, I know a beefed up iMac Pro would compile faster, but my budget cannot reach the levels required to make such an approach worthwhile. Just the base model is ridiculously more expensive than my target iMac configuration, and its other features just don't matter to me enough to justify that uptick.
A Sillicon Valley iOS dev likely makes 3 times my salary and can afford any computer they want no problem, but I'm gonna have to settle here unfortunately.
[doublepost=1554409468][/doublepost]

I guess my hope for the single monitor is that I could have my iPhone on a standing wireless charger like I have at work, and that most human interactions would go through it first. If I don't feel like typing too much on my phone then I'd switch to the corresponding desktop app, use Handoff etc. It's sort of what I'm doing right now even with the dual monitors and it doesn't seem so bad.

It also looks like macOS is pretty geared towards making the single-monitor experience as painless as possible, although I haven't tried to push that to the limit yet.
Like for example one of the cool things about the Mail client on macOS is that you can deal with emails through the notifications and I like that they automatically open in split screen and go away once you're done with them. Messages can be replied to within the notification itself (iMessage, Slack, WhatsApp etc), so interruptions that require quick answers can be dealt with elegantly without breaking away too much from what you were doing.

What would you be using your eGPU for? :)
Yup, there is a speed difference between the SSDs. The larger ones are faster. I can't find the link where I saw the benchmarks but I remember the cost benefit analysis wasn't enough to sway me to the larger drive.

That sounds like a good way to stay focused. I've gotta try that sometime too. I usually turn on Do Not Disturb when I can't stand it anymore.

So with the configuration that I have, everything is pretty smooth (4K video playback, expose, mission control, spaces, lots of windows, etc). The only place where I run into performance problems is with the simulator. The scrolling is very jittery and jumpy, and it often doesn't seem to register clicks / taps. It's gets properly annoying.

I initially thought it was an issue with certain simulators (Xr, Xs) but I'm seeing issues with others as well, just not as pronounced as with the Xr and Xs Max. I read that Xcode will take full advantage of the eGPU, so I'm hoping that this will solve my issues.
 
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adamk77

macrumors 6502a
Jan 6, 2008
510
149
True in benchmark tests. Whether you'll notice it in real world applications is unlikely — unless you deal with large files, then yes, you'll notice.

Do iOS developers deal with large files?
Nope. The exact opposite. A great many small files. I'm counting about 6 GB of data across 20,000 files for one of my projects.