As you just might be aware, Apple have this week unveiled their third generation iPad. We’re looking forward to getting our hands on one and putting it through its paces, but for now we can speculate on what sort of effect it’s going to have on the wider world of iOS games and apps.
One of the main challenges that the new iPad introduces to all iOS developers is the enormous 2048×1536 display. This means that iPad-only apps will now have two screen resolutions to target (equivalent to the situation we currently have on the iPhone), and universal apps will have to support up to four distinct screen sizes.
I expect that in the fullness of time supporting the iPad retina screen will become another standard feature apps will be expected to include, but it’s possible that this shift will be a gradual one.
Support for the iPhone retina display was accelerated by rapid uptake of the iPhone 4/4S and iPod Touch 4, as well as the fact that 960×640 screen was close enough to the iPad 1 and 2’s 1024×768 screen that assets could often be reused. While the new iPad will undoubtedly see rapid uptake, it will still start out as a minority device in the wider iOS ecosystem. Furthermore, Apple are keeping the (non-retina) iPad 2 on the market at a reduced price, further ‘growing the pie’.
It will be interesting to see whether apps and games (particularly cheap or free universal ones) that omit support for the new resolution will meet resistance.
The new iPad also introduces a number of improvements under the hood, with a new A5X CPU, quad-core GPU and (not confirmed as I write this) 1GB of RAM. The device will definitely need this extra horsepower to drive the display, but it will also further extend the high end for iOS games, moving it ever closer to the standard of PC and console games.
This development has been met with dire prognostications from some quarters. Surely this will be the device that finally shifts the balance on iOS to the big traditional publishers, raising consumer expectations to the point where no developer without a multi-million dollar budget will be able to compete?
I’m sceptical of this. Every new mobile device since at least the Nokia n-gage has been heralded as the one that will finally ignite this shift in the market. But as the App Store charts have consistently proven, glitzy 3D graphics aren’t a necessity for a game to be a mainstream success. While I have Infinity Blade and GTA on my iPhone, I’m just as likely to play a polished 2D game like Jetpack Joyride or Magnetic Billiards.
Finally, a more unambiguously positive development is that Apple have raised the file size limit for apps downloaded over 3G networks from 20 to 50mb. All the data we’ve seen suggests that making your app obtainable over the cellular network results in more downloads, and now many projects already in progress (throughout the industry and within AppyNation) will avoid the interminable hassle of trying to slim down their apps to fit the old limit.
Although, of course, if you opt to support the 2048×1536 display that will quickly eat up that extra space…