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Here's why apps won't be ready for the new iPad

The new iPad's Retina Display is definitely arriving this Friday, but will your favorite apps be ready?

Jason Parker Senior Editor / Reviews - Software
Jason Parker has been at CNET for nearly 15 years. He is the senior editor in charge of iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.
Jason Parker
4 min read
Retina Displat
Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET
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Last week Apple showed off the new iPad's higher-resolution display and showcased a series of new apps that take advantage of those added pixels. If you have an iPad, I'm sure you're relishing the chance to see the new display in action, but before you get too excited, don't expect to get the full experience on day one.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but don't be surprised if some of your favorite apps aren't ready to hit the ground running, even if you are.

Crystal clear consequences
So why do we wait? For starters, the new iPad has four times as many pixels as the iPad 2 (for a total of 3.1 million pixels), which makes for extremely sharp text and richer colors whether you're reading a book, browsing photos, or playing a video game. While the iPad renders things like text for the sharper screen automatically, other parts of applications like textures and other art assets need to be redone to better utilize the extra pixels.

As a result, some applications have ballooned in size, which includes Apple's own apps. For instance, Pages--the word processor app in Apple's iWork suite--went from 95MB to 269MB while Numbers--Apple's spreadsheet app--increased from 109MB to 283MB. So in addition to the extra work for developers, users will see longer download times and they'll have to consider the impact on their iPad's available storage.

To help alleviate that first point, Apple last week increased the data limit for over the air downloads, going from 20MB to 50MB for 3G- and 4G-enabled iOS devices. Not much can be done about the larger file sizes taking up more space, however, so we'll be interested to see how this plays out as some of the more graphically intensive apps are updated for the Retina Display.

Apple's apps are the first to take advantage of the new iPad's Retina Display. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Apple's apps and those games
Immediately after announcing the new iPad ,the company updated all of its iOS apps to take advantage of the new display. That includes the iWork apps (Pages, Keynote, and Numbers), the iLife apps (GarageBand, iMovie, and the new iPhoto), and Apple's education apps like iTunes U and iBooks.

Though the company used the new iPad to demonstrate two updated games at last week's unveiling event, it also said that the new versions of Infinity Blade: Dungeons, a hack-and-slash action RPG, and Namco's Sky Gamblers, a dogfighting air combat game will not become available until later in the month. So even developers with early access are not quite ready for launch day either.

Third-party apps
As for other third-party apps, CNET has contacted a number of top app developers about their plans to update software for the new tablet, but not many had solid news on when they will have a Retina Display ready version available for iPad. Many said they were already working on it, with several noting that they were scrambling to bring existing apps up to date, while keeping file sizes down. PopCap games--publisher for popular titles that include Plants vs. Zombies, Peggle, and several others--says they won't have Retina-ready titles for about a month. EA is also working furiously, as reported by Macworld, but will not have the higher resolution version of games like Real Racing or other hot EA titles for iPad launch day. Not surprisingly, most developers don't want to give hard dates on when those updates will be available because they want their games to have the biggest splash when they finally launch.

Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation
Gameloft's Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation is one of the games we're waiting to see with Retina Display support, but we might have to wait. Jason Parker/CNET

We've seen this all before
Looking back at the iPad 2 launch last year, which brought a graphics boost of its own, only a few developers upgraded their games for the new device in time for launch. Firemint, makers of hit game Real Racing 2, and Veyan Arcade, makers of Space Miner: Space ore Bust, both updated their graphics right away to take advantage of the updated hardware.

Yet, many other developers simply put focus into new and upcoming titles. Part of the reason is the very basic fact that there are simply more non-Retina Display iPads out there, and at the end of the day, most developers who are focusing on iPad right now will want the biggest possible audience. With that said, there's a whole new crop of buyers out there looking to give their new gadget a real workout, so the first apps out of the gate have a real opportunity to make a splash.

It's certainly possible that we'll hear some surprise announcements for Retina-ready apps on Friday, but if you're hoping to really push your new iPad to its limits, you may have to give app developers a little time to catch up.