The New iPad: Analysis

Kwalee Programmer, James Munro, gives us his impressions of Apple’s shiny new toy.

On Friday 16th March, Apple’s third generation tablet device, dubbed The New iPad, became available to the general public. I can only imagine the hundreds of people that will have queued up at their local Apple store in the small hours of the morning to buy one, or even just to get a glimpse of the shiny new hardware.

I picked up my own new iPad last weekend and over the week I’ve been playing some games that have recently been updated to take advantage of the new Retina display. The resolution of the screen is absolutely mind-boggling. 2048×1536, that’s over a million more pixels than a HD TV and four times the original iPad resolution! All of this on a battery-powered handheld device! Unfortunately, the screen does comes with some problems. It looks so good, that you just stop noticing it’s there. Much like the Retina screen on the current generation of iPhones, you simply take it for granted. Many users don’t realise how pixelated the older screens look until they see them compared side-by-side.

James shows off The New iPad in the office

James shows off The New iPad in the office

 

For developers and consumers there is another issue. The increased resolution of textures and images required by apps to fully support the new screen will mean that download sizes will increase dramatically. For developers, managing the number of screen sizes is starting to become a chore. It is no longer possible to state that the Apple platform does not suffer from hardware fragmentation; however, it is nothing like the severely fragmented state of Android devices. In comparison, we only need to support 4 different screen sizes (320×480, 640×960, 1024×768 and now 2048×1536), over a few device generations with various levels of CPU speed. It is no surprise then, that Apple have increased the 3G download limit on the App Store from 20MB to 50MB.

With a wide range of screen resolutions available, developers are starting to seriously consider vector graphics over traditional bitmap art. Vector graphics maintain their crisp appearance, within reason, when scaled to any arbitrary size, large or small. However, it isn’t a silver bullet. I’m no artist, but my understanding is that it is a more difficult task to create rich and detailed vector art to the same standard as bitmaps.

Overall, the new iPad is a welcome addition to the popular tablet sector. A worthy purchase for existing iPad owners, but an even better deal for those looking to buy their first.