While nothing’s officially been announced yet, rumour sites are already buzzing over the iPad Mini, a downsized Apple tablet which we expect out later this month.Consumers who have heard about the rumours are generally excited to have more options.
But more options mean more headaches for app developers, who design their software to look best on a particular screen size and resolution.
For an app to be truly universal, it’ll have to support the different resolutions of the iPhone 3GS, 4/4S, and 5; old and new iPod Touch models; the iPad; and the expected iPad Mini.
It wasn’t long ago when it was much simpler to design iPhone apps. One thing developers like about Apple’s mobile platform versus Google’s Android is that there was much less variation among devices. That’s not as true anymore.
What do developers think?
“Apple has gone to great lengths to make sure developers have the necessary tools and frameworks to support multiple screen sizes and resolutions,” says Joey Soto, founder of iOS development firm Tendigi. “As new devices are introduced and the iOS SDK [software development kit] continues to evolve, I believe we will see any initial headaches quickly resolved.”
Brandon Pollett, whose development team at F5 Games turned out the App Store hit Pocket Heroes, is even more optimistic because he expects the iPad Mini to have the same resolution as the iPad, which should simplify development.
If this ends up being the case, developers likely won’t have to worry about updating their apps to support yet another screen size.
Compare this to the iPhone 5, which introduced an entirely new aspect ratio form the iPhone 4S. Developers had to “teach” their apps how to run on a differently shaped screen. At the very least, they had to recompile their apps and resubmit them to Apple for inclusion in the App Store—otherwise they’d appear in an awkwardly letterboxed format.
If the iPad Mini maintains the same aspect ratio as the iPad, an update will almost certainly be unnecessary. Apps can run as they normally would on a smaller (but similarly proportioned) display.
The real winner here, Soto adds, is the user. New form factors and sizes will lead to “truly innovative user interfaces and user experiences that behave as expected and adapt to the hardware they are running on,” he says.
“The developer tools are already there now and it is up to developers and designers to work together to find the solution to any new screen sizes and resolutions.”