The headline new feature of the new iPad is its incredible looking new retina display. The iPad experience is all about the display and that lovely big screen, so this is a single feature upgrade that will be felt in everything we do on the new iPad.
It also looks as if it’s going to have a big impact on app sizes, at least initially – as many of them will increase dramatically when updated to support the new retina display. I’ve already seen a little of this with updates to a few of the apps on my iPad 2 that have been updated in the last week. Here’s a few examples:
— Tweetbot: 22.2MB before the retina display update – 40.9MB after update
— Numbers: 207MB before – 401MB after
— Pages: 153MB before – 364MB after
So these three are nearly doubling or more than doubling in the case of Pages. Of course not all of the file size increase can be attributed just to retina display support. Pages and Numbers both added 3D charts in their latest updates, which I’m sure account for a chunk of the bigger file size as well.
Publishers of iPad newspapers, magazines and eBooks look like they may face the stiffest challenge when it comes to updating and optimizing their apps for the new iPad. There are already a number of what I call Coffee Table Book type apps that weigh in at 1GB and above. And there are plenty of iPad newspapers and magazines with issue sizes that regularly run well into the hundreds of megabytes.
There’s a very good rundown of this challenge for publishers by Josh Clark at his Global Moxie site, titled 3.1 Pixels are Heavy.
Clark says this on the increased number of pixels in the new retina display:
In bandwidth terms, pixels are heavy, and four times the pixels means four times the image size for bitmap images, give or take.
He then highlights how many iPad magazines are built on platforms that create magazine pages as giant bitmaps, and that if these images start quadrupling in size the situation quickly becomes untenable.
So publishers have got their work cut out for them to make their titles shine on the new iPad without gobbling up ridiculous amounts of storage space (and potentially crazy amounts of data usage if users are letting issues download when not connected to WiFi).
I’m sure publishers and developers will adapt, but it’s going to be fascinating to see how well and how quickly they do. One other thought this brings to mind: as expensive as it might be, I kinda wish Apple would’ve offered a 128GB option for this year’s iPad. And I bet we see one next year.