Apple is half-assing the iPad mini

Without the manic, price-be-damned, attitude of Steve Jobs, Apple just doesn’t know how to make or launch a new product.

The new iPad mini is a great idea. Finally, you can do all the cool, iPaddy stuff you have always wanted to do, only in a more convenient, 7 inch, form-factor. Except it is going to look awful, because Apple only put half of its behind into its oft-extolled Retina display technology.

Don’t get me wrong, the jump from the iPhone 3GS to the iPhone 4 was amazing. It looked great, and the hardware that came together to give you 326 pixels per inch revolutionized the industry. But the software was another story. All they did was double the size of the images in apps, and use simple 2x scaling, which works, as long as you scale your pixel sizes accordingly.

Enter the iPad, then the Retina iPad, then the Retina MacBook, and then the iPhone 5. By this point, you would think that Apple would have ways for developers to make apps that would intelligently scale based on the display they are shown on, because none of these devices has the same resolution, or even the same aspect ratio. You would think that by the sixth revision of iOS, which now accommodates a 16:9 display on the iPhone 5, apps would be coded with some sort of getDispResX(), getDispResY() system so there would only be ONE version of the app for ALL iOS devices. You would think so, but you would be wrong. Now, if the developer hasn’t updated an app for the iPhone 5, you get ugly black bars.

On Android, you can play Robo Defense on nearly any screen, nearly any phone, nearly any tablet. One beautiful app.

Which brings me to the iPad mini. 1024×768, at a whopping 163 ppi. Pretty lackluster when compared to the rest of Apple’s lineup, and even worse when compared to the rest of the 7 inch tablet market. For example, the Nexus 7 comes in at 216 ppi and costs $130 less than the iPad mini.

Apple could have stuck a 1600×1200 display in the same space, and bumped the iPad mini up to 253 ppi, but then they would have had to come up with a whole new range of apps to accommodate a device that they didn’t want to make in the first place. With this lame display, they can recycle all of the apps designed for the original iPad. Using apps for an older device also means they can cheap out on the processor, mitigating the risk of releasing a new device with none of their usual hype and fanfare. 

What they should have done, way back in iOS 4 with the introduction of the first Retina display, was create a responsive framework that allows apps to look nice on any reasonable display. Instead, the developers of three quarters of a million apps have to scramble to fix their apps every time Apple makes a new device.

It’s kind of funny. First, the original iPad was just a giant iPod touch, and now, the iPad mini is just a small iPad 1 made out of glue.

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