So the new un-numbered iPad release is wowing people everywhere with its gorgeous “Retina” display, and there’s little doubt it will continue to sell well from now until whenever the next version is announced. But that awesome new screen has some unannounced, unfortunate, and — at least for me — unexpected consequences for users of all iOS devices: app bloat.
As David Pogue put it in The New York Times:
Tests performed by Macworld.com revealed that the graphics in Retina-ready apps consume two to three times as much of the iPad’s nonexpandable storage than pre-Retina apps. To update their apps for the new display, software companies must redo their graphics at much higher resolution, which means much larger files.
If those much larger files were only distributed to new iPads, that would be just fine, because the annoyance of having apps take up more space would be offset by being able to experience them in the higher resolution. Unfortunately, those updated apps will only have one iPad version on the iTunes App Store available for download — and many apps have just one version that runs on both iPad and iPhone/iPod Touch — meaning that every user out there with an iPhone, iPod Touch, original iPad, or iPad 2 is going to get these much larger files, too. Which means they’ll experience the same annoying increased space usage but without any benefit to offset it. And, of course, a lot of those users are the same people who just bought a new iPad, so those folks will get both the bad and the good at the same time.
Sadly, there’s nothing owners of iOS devices can do about this situation, short of not downloading updates for their apps — clearly a suboptimal solution at best. The only way to really solve this problem would be for Apple to set up separate downloads for the new iPads, and make it possible for developers to create and maintain higher-res versions of their apps alongside the lower-res ones. That would cost a lot of money, though, and be of no direct benefit to Apple — in fact, it would slightly reduce the incentive to get a new iPad — so I’m not holding my breath for it to happen.
Guess the only thing to do now is buy a new iPad to get the benefit along with the pain… Hmm. Maybe Apple is more devious than I thought!