7 Ways the Retina Display Changes How We Use the iPad

Non-Retina Apps Look Worse Than Ever

Everybody knows that the new iPad’s retina display features double the resolution of the iPad 2. It stands to reason that apps designed to take advantage of this gorgeous interface would look, well, twice as pretty as their lower-res counterparts on an iPad 2. And they do. The updated apps designed for the new iPad, including Apple’s own iPhoto app, and games like Mass Effect Infiltrator, look predictably stunning: smooth, slick and shiny. Text looks nearly surreal—like a letterpress machine’s typefaces rendered with a laser.

But wait ‘til you get a load of some of the neglected apps. They’re dogs, and there are three breeds. First, the iPad apps that haven’t been given the high-res treatment. On our testing day, that included apps like “Jenga HD” (a beautiful launch title a year ago with the iPad 2), and ShopStyle—a photo-heavy fashion browsing tool. These once pristine apps were suddenly rendered ever so slightly blurry. Images and animations have a softer edge and text doesn’t glide like it should. Frankly, these apps look kind of crappy on the new iPad. Depending upon what your favorites are, it might take weeks or months before your top tier iPad apps get the upgrade.

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Second are the iPhone apps that never saw the iPad treatment to begin with (even if they were updated from iPhone 3GS resolution to iPhone 4 retina resolution). We all have favorites in this category, but on the new iPad, you’ll barely be able to bring yourself to launch them. For us, this includes things like turntable.fm, banking apps, and camera apps such as Hipstamatic and Camera Awesome (and, ironically, owning the new iPad with its much-improved camera means you might actually want to use one of these camera apps, for once). iPhone apps never looked great on the iPad 2—the 2x enlargement button always pixelated the heck out of them, but now…now they’re practically unbearable to look at. They look like 8bit.

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And don’t even get us started on those ancient iPhone apps that haven’t even been updated to accommodate the iPhone 4 retina display—that could be a 4x magnification (but there aren’t too many of those in wide circulation). It reminds us of when people became horrified upon seeing their favorite aging actresses in 1080p. Instead of fine lines and wrinkles, here you get fat clunky pixels.

So, until some of these app-makers invest in an upgrade, you might want to avoid some of your favorites. Hey, look at the bright side: in the interim you might discover some new favorites unleashed by quick-acting developers.