Retina display for the iPad 3 could make universal apps too big for 3G downloads

Mar 2, 2012
Tech

Pretty much all the information we’ve been hearing for some time now about the next iteration of Apple’s iPad is that it will carry a high-resolution “Retina” display. But all those extra pixels could be a problem for developers who use a single app for their iPhone and iPad versions. The next generation is expected […]

Pretty much all the information we’ve been hearing for some time now about the next iteration of Apple’s iPad is that it will carry a high-resolution “Retina” display. But all those extra pixels could be a problem for developers who use a single app for their iPhone and iPad versions.

The next generation is expected to carry a screen that sports 2,084 pixels by 1,536 pixels – twice the resolution currently offered by the iPad 2. It’s a feature for which users have been clamoring since the iPhone 4 first showed off the feature when it was released. But as The Next Web reports, it could create trouble for some developers who use universal apps.

The issue is that Apple imposes a limit on downloads over a 3G connection of 20MB. And if the iPad 3 requires developers to increase the size of images within their apps in order to meet Retina display requirements, that could significantly increase the size of apps download, especially for apps that are right under the 20MB cut-off. For the developers of universal apps, that can be a big problem.

With universal apps that service both the iPhone and the iPad, developers are often very careful about staying under the 20MB download cap. The reason is that lots of app sales come from users who download apps spontaneously, on the spot. If those apps break the 20MB download limit, then spontaneous users can’t download them over their 3G connections and would have to wait. That could lead to a missed sale for many developers. So keeping under the limit is a big deal for devs who rely on iPhone sales.

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The 3G cap isn’t such a big  deal for developers who just make iPad apps or who make versions of their apps specifically for the iPad, since iPad users tend to be less spontaneous than their iPhone-using counterparts. But for iPhone apps, spontaneous, casual downloaders are a big portion of the market.

It’s possible that Apple will see the troubles of the 3G cap and raise it, should it actually roll out an iPad with Retina capability. The original download cap, a mere 10MB, was in place before 2010, when Apple faced pressure from its then-exclusive partner, AT&T, to limit the amount of data that iPhone users might be drawing from its network. Since then, the situation has flipped pretty drastically, and Apple basically runs the show among its carrier partners; AT&T, Verizon and Sprint have more to lose by making demands of Apple than the other way around.

So Apple may push the cap, or it may leave it be and force developers to fix things up with their universal apps. Either way, the download cap could signal a bit of a change across the App Store for iOS developers if Apple really does roll out the Retina iPad on March 7.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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