New iPad’s Retina Display Could Increase Data Usage


The new iPad brings with it a never seen before, 2048 by 1536 pixels retina display, which Apple promises would make everything on the screen “more lifelike.” However, the enhanced viewing experience comes at a cost — storage.

Just like the iPhone 3GS to iPhone 4 upgrade, developers would now have to bundle higher resolution images, appended with the “@2x” suffix, with their apps. An increased image resolution, as you might have guessed, translates into a higher file size. And although image sizes don’t follow a 1:1 correspondence with resolution, thanks to image compression algorithms, they do increase in size quite a bit. Sadly the physical storage on iPad remains the same as before, which means that Retina optimized apps would occupy a larger portion of storage than before.

Apps for the new iPad

Not all apps would be equally affected by the Retina display to the same extent though. For instance, an  app which primarily uses the default UI elements won’t be affected much, since there is a single, system-wide copy of those graphics already shipped with the OS. However an app, which heavily relies on custom UI elements would have a greatly increased size.

Moreover, apps that feature a lot of image (Camera apps, image editing apps) would gradually start growing in size due to the higher resolution screen as well as the increased camera megapixel count, and the HD videos it can shoot. For example iMovie, Apple’s video editing app went up from a mere 70MB to a giant 404MB. While some of that increase may have been contributed by the new “trailers” feature, a large portion of it still comes because of the increased pixel count. Another example, as noted by CNET is Pages, Apple’s word processing app. It increased its size by more than a factor of two, going from 95MB to 269MB. Tweetbot, due its usage of a custom interface, grew from 9MB to 25MB.

Unfortunately, older iPad owners would also have to deal with these increased app sizes, even though they won’t be able to enjoy the enhanced viewing experience the new iPad provides. In case of universal apps, this disadvantage extends to iPhone and iPod touch owners as well.

We’d like to see the impact this has on the average iPad user’s data usage pattern. As you might know, a study found that an iPhone 4S user on an average consumes twice the data as compared to an iPhone 4 user. And remember, both the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4S have the same display, which means there wasn’t a significant increase in app sizes. In fact, Apple (as well as a few bloggers) already anticipated this, and increased the download limit for over-the-air apps from 20MB to 50MB. This increased usage may not just be because of increased app sizes, but due to the general browsing on Safari as well.

Cloud Four took a look at how Apple’s web page delivers retina optimized image for the new iPad, and found that for each request that the new iPad sends, two versions of the same image are downloaded. One is the standard normal resolution image, while the other is targeted for the new iPad. This is pretty inefficient, and in case of Apple’s web page, increases the download size from 502.90KB to 2.13MB. Fortunately most web publishers won’t target the iPad in the near future, due to the extra load generated on their server per request. For a more detailed description of how Apple currently handles image targeting via Safari, head over to Cloud Four’s site.

If you want to see which apps have been updated to look good on the new iPad’s retina screen, visit this link.

(If you’re an older iPad or an iPhone user, and feel adventurous, you could try manually deleting the retina iPad files from your device using SSH or iFile. You could however corrupt your app if something goes wrong.)

Have you opted in for a higher capacity iPad due to this reason?

Also see: The new iPad’s retina display under a microscope.

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