The Newsy Bit

We are aware of some display issues with both Jab A Jelly and Word Soup on the newly released iPad, and fully intend submitting an update that corrects this. All other iDevices are unaffected. The thing is, the problem lies in an ‘upscaling bug’ that was beyond our control and rooted in the SDK we chose to use for developing those two apps, and although they have finally issued what they’re calling a fix in the last day or two (apparently the ‘number one mobile development platform in the world’ couldn’t get an iPad3 to test on…), numerous other developers are reporting issues with those fixes.

So the upshot is, we’re hanging on for the moment until we can submit an update that actually works! We’ll let you know when we have more news ourselves! We were hoping by now to be able to say ‘updates are up!’. But unfortunately not.

The Opiniony Bit of the Newsy Bit

Then again, perhaps a portion of the blame should lie with Apple, since at no time did we (or 99% of the developers on the App Store) certify that our apps would work on iPad3, but they chose to automatically add it to the list of compatible devices for every app in the appstore that previously supported iPad and iPad2, when there clearly is compatibility issues – as is evident by the flurry of apps updated this week in the App Store with descriptions of ‘now compatible with new ipad’!

Trouble is, it’s us, the developers, that people point the finger at when it turns out there is a compatibility issue (with a device we’ve (still!) never seen, that we weren’t able to get specs for until Apple’s announcement earlier this month. and couldn’t test on or simulate for until they were actually in the hands of consumers!).

In our case, we actually took our affected apps off sale when we discovered the problem, which is obviously causing us financial loss, and as said above, all we can do is wait for a working compatible version of the SDK.


The Non Newsy Opiniony Bit

On the iPad that’s causing us so much trouble: We have no particular plans to natively support the new third generation iPad at the moment – that is to say that our (updated!) apps look perfectly good on the new iPad without the need for super-high-resolution graphics being added to the app especially for the new device. The new iPad does do a good job of upscaling. Which is just as well, or it would have rendered the vast majority of the app store content useless for iPad3 owners!

If we do decide to natively support the new iPad, we would very likely make it a seperate app/download. Why? Because what you can’t have failed to notice already, whatever iDevice you own, is that as developers jump on the bandwagon and your favorite games and apps are being updated with all new retina graphics, the file sizes are getting much, much larger.

Graphics file sizes scale exponentially by pixel resolution. For example, using a simple test with a ‘blank’, single color PNG graphic:

320×480 resolution – 638 bytes
1024 x768 (‘standard’ iPad) resolution – 2,479 bytes
2048 x 1536 (new iPad) – 9,363 bytes

Taking a more realistic, full color example such as you might find as one of several backgrounds to various screens in a game (as a jpg, because as a png it would be far too large!):

320×480 resolution – 133,921 bytes
1024 x768 resolution – 633,620 bytes
2048 x 1536 resolution – 1,860,753 bytes

So that’s about 3 times the file size of the standard iPad resolution, and more than TEN times the file size of a non retina device – in this case, 1.8 meg of graphic file you’ll never even see bundled with your app. That’s ONE image.

Considering most apps – particularly games – have several menus, and often different graphics per level, you can see how this will soon ramp up! The more graphic dependant the app, the more it will inflate. Perhaps oddly, it’s more likely to be your 2d games than 3d games that are more adversely affected, because models can simply be rescaled, and the textures won’t really look any different, whereas platformers and other 2d games will require an entirely new higher resolution set of graphics to natively support the new screen size.

Indeed, we’ve been seeing that apps that are being updated to natively support the new iPad are more than doubling in size in one fell swoop. Sometimes, trebling. Sometimes more! And it isn’t like you can choose not to update, because being ‘universal’, it is this new, larger app that will get all future updates.

To us, that just doesn’t seem fair on anyone who isn’t buying for iPad3. Why should iPod, iPhone and iPad users suddenly find that they can only load a third to a half of the very same ‘universal’ apps they used to be able to store on their devices because they’re now bulked out with graphics they will never, ever see on their devices, just because Apple has released a new device?

The reality is that non retina iPod or iPhone owners were already getting shafted on filesize by every universal app you own – and now all those retina iphones and ipad/ipad2 owners (so… that’s everyone who owns an iDevice prior to iPad3!) will be getting shafted too, since there could be up to three copies of every graphic in the app sitting on your device that you’ll never see (340×480, 960×640, 1024×768, 2048×1536), and just the largest of these on its own, as we demonstrated above, could be inflating the app size to anywhere between three and ten times what you actually need to run the app.

So we are of the opinion that iPad3 apps really ought to be a seperate download for the benefit of everyone else who isn’t buying for ipad3. As keen iDevice owners/app buyers ourselves, we hoped other developers will adopt this stance too. Unfortunately, as we said, what we’re seeing in the App Store so far would indicate this is not the case. We’re seeing our apps get a whole lot bigger – and our iDevices are feeling a whole lot smaller :(

The downside of the ‘non universal’ approach, of course, would be that iPad3 users who wanted native apps for their new device may have to buy the app a second time. But then that’s been pretty much the case for non universal apps, where  a HD version is offered and is often priced higher – we think you’ll begin seeing a third tier of ‘super HD’ apps. Whilst that’s not the trend we’re seeing in this first week or two after release of the new device, we believe (hope?) that once this reality sets in with developers and consumers, this will increasingly be the way to go in future, because it just seems daft to try and make a one-size-fits-all universal app when screen resolutions now vary so drastically.

So that actually goes for the rest of us, too – you’ll probably also end up spending more money on apps if you have more than one device in future, now that the concept of a universal app is becoming highly impractical. But which is preferable? Bloated universal apps eating up all your storage and having to carefully choose which you want loaded at any one time? Or the prospect of paying for the same app in different ‘sizes’ if you own multiple devices? We think the latter, as it affects less people overall.

Whilst it’ll likely never happen, what Apple really ought to do, in our opinion, is allow multiple versions of the same app to be grouped together and classed AS the same app – so that an app isn’t one, single, universal application, but that there are two, or even 3 versions available WITHOUT rebuying the app.

Even if the app has different price tiers – which is entirely fair, since there’s a lot of work involved in creating all new graphics for a new, high resolution device – anyone buying the higher resolution version should be able to also download the lower resolution versions for free for the other devices they might also own; so, if you buy the ‘super HD’ version, you can also download the ‘HD’ and ‘standard’ versions for free. This way, you’re only downloading the necessary files for the device you’re loading it onto, and not paying the price for OTHER people who have shiny new higher resolution toys!

(And if Apple would stop price gouging us for storage capacity and put an SD card slot in their devices, that would help a lot too as people eventually upgrade.)

So yeah. That’s our thoughts on what the new iPad means for the rest of us, at length. Thanks for reading this far!

  3 Responses to “News On App Updates… and why the new iPad is bad for the rest of us iDevice owners.”

  1. There are actually a couple of other possibilities:

    - Use resolution-independent graphics: that’s the one Apple has pushed the last few years, but most SDKs just don’t have this capability.
    - Have hires graphics as a separate download, for free but also as In App Purchase: this way, user investment is safe, but at the same time it’s possible to get the most out of the new HW.

    • @Paolo

      Yes, there is a problem with a lot of the common sdks using resolution independent graphics (the problem being they’re not really resolution independent, cuz they look naff when scaled!)

      Your idea of IAP for high res is a neat one, though. We haven’t really investigated the whole IAP thing yet, but it’s definitely something that will figure in our next anticipated release. As long as the high res IAP is effectively available ‘forever’, that really would be an excellent way to go. Universal apps without the ‘fat’… unless you WANT the fat! :)

  2. I second the comment about “super” HD assets being offered as a Free download or IAP for iPad 3 users.
    I had sort of already considered your points about app sizes when considering the iPad3, but you make a sound and convincing argument, yet another example of Apple completely disregarding anyone and everyone who isn’t prepared to cough up yet more cash the moment they release a new piece of kit.

    I don’t know why they just don’t stop selling equipment and ship it all out on lease hire instead with a monthly plan that automatically replaces your equipment every time an update is released.

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