Native iPad apps vs. "pixel doubling" iPhone apps


How do native iPad apps compare with "pixel doubling" iPhone/iPod touch apps on the iPad? When Steve Jobs and Scott Forstall first introduced their magical new device, one of the bullet points hardest hit was that most of the (then) 150,000 iPhone apps would "just work" on the iPad -- either letter-and-pillar boxed, 1:1 in the center of the iPad screen, or with 2X "pixel doubling" that made both horizontal and vertical sizes twice as big (480x320 iPhone apps would show up as 960x640 on the iPad's 1024x768 screen).

It looked fine on the videos but people on the scene said there was a little (or more than a little) jagged edged, aliases, blurred chunk going on in there.

So we put some games and other apps to the test to see for ourselves and the verdict...

Eh, they're alright. The looks faired from okay to pretty good, but when compared to native iPad apps you really notice the lack of iPad-ness -- like watching an SD movie blown up to HD, you start to miss the details. It's almost claustrophobic at times because you know a real iPad app could just blow out of those lower-res constraints. And while the sliding screens work really well on the iPhone, once you get used to popovers and sidebars on the iPad, you miss those as well when they're not present.

  • For Universal Binaries (apps with both iPhone and iPad interfaces included), this is a moot point of course. You get the best of both and a consistent experience between devices.
  • For free iPad apps, just download the higher res version. It can be a pain to double-up on your apps but it's worth it.
  • For paid apps, try the iPhone version first but check out the iPad versions and if the extra usability or functionality is worth it to you, get it.

I ended up getting almost all native iPad apps, but I'm a sucker for UI. If you've found any iPad versions you couldn't live without, or any you wish you hadn't spent the cash on, let us know in the comments!

Videos and screenshots after the break!

YouTube link

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Native iPad apps vs. "pixel doubling" iPhone apps


I posted elsewhere my opinion of this but I'll repeat here. From finely playing with it, using the pixel doubling is painful from what I observed. I did not play many games but just the UI appearance with the obvious lower resolution was not something I would be keen on with an alternative. For me it will be binaries or seperate apps for both the 3GS and Ipad. Now I can't wAit for the 3G model

I, too, noticed the pixelation of a few of the iPhone apps that I initially tried on the iPad. In fact, I was quite nervous how my company's app, APPCityLife, would perform since our native iPad app is not yet ready. But the photos, fonts, and most other features expanded with ease to the 2X viewing. We did discover one paint problem due to sizing on the iPad which our software team is already addressing.
Although our app currently houses a single city guide (for Albuquerque, NM), we will eventually feature guides for the top 100 cities in the U.S. We are implementing several new features in the iPad version like walking tours for museums and attractions, animated in-app promotions, and sleeker graphics in the iPad app.
But all that won't happen overnight. In the meantime, I am quite pleased that the current iPhone app still performs as well as it does on the iPad. When I first opened it and expanded to the 2X, it was a real "whew" moment!

This is one of the first things I noticed with it. The 2x in The news apps was extremely painful. One turn off for sure.

While the inferior, jaggy look is clearly not as good as native, I will continue to use the iPhone version of Words With Friends for now.

What is the name of that "Kingdom" app in the screenshots? It looks like something I'd like to try.

I'm kind of surprised Apple allows the 2x versions considering how terrible they look. The part I don't understand is why text has to look so bad; is there anything raster about text, or any reason it couldn't be re-rendered on the iPad to look decent?