Why a Retina Display iPad Changes Everything…

Ever since the Retina Display was unveiled on the iPhone 4, one question has been on everyone’s mind: when is it coming to the iPad? One of the most-rumored features of the iPad 2 was this high-resolution display, and many (including myself) were disappointed that this wasn’t the reality.

With the iPad 2’s release almost a year ago, we’re due for an upgrade some time late winter or early spring. I’m willing to bet that the next iPad will have a high-resolution display, and I’d like to talk to you about how such a display would make my favorite device even better!

Viewing My Favorite Content

With its size and light weight, the iPad is my ideal device for watching videos by myself. Being able to hold the iPad in bed, or in a chair, or while I’m walking across the house means that I rarely need to pause what I’m watching because I’m moving. It also means that with the right pair of headphones or external speakers, one could be in cinematic bliss without disturbing anyone else in the house.

Having a better display would most obviously impact this aspect of the iPad. If they were able to keep the iPad at the same weight (though I certainly wouldn’t complain about a shift in weight in either direction) with a high-resolution, 1080p display, I could see the iPad becoming the premier method of watching videos. As internet connections continue to get faster, this could mean that you have access to tons of content for purchase and for streaming, effectively putting whatever video you want directly in your hands.

While this is already possible with the current iPad, it’s frustrating to watch a movie and have all of those pixels poking you right in the eye…


High definition gaming on the iPad could be the game changer in the, well, game industry. There are already blockbuster games (as well as casual, pick-up-and-go games) coming out for the iPad, and having a high definition screen would definitely entice game makers to create versions of their games for the system.

Beyond the flexibility offered by iOS itself, this could benefit users by drawing game makers to the platform, period. With the ease of use of the App Store, and iPad owners’ willingness to part with their money, the iPad could become the gaming platform once a high-definition screen is included.

The only other way I could think of improving the gaming experience would be to down the traditional route and add physical buttons, but as we get more and more comfortable with touch screens and developers think outside the box, they’re hardly necessary at this point – and certainly not something Apple would let within a mile of the drawing board!


My iPad is my favorite device to read on. While I enjoy reading on my iPhone 4S and my MacBook, neither quite matches the iPad in terms of comfort and screen size. The sole advantage that the 4S has over the iPad in this regard is its Retina Display, if this jumped ship to the iPad it would cement the iPad as the best reading experience anywhere.

Imagine for a second that your favorite RSS-feed reader had the same print quality as the New York Times, or that the book you bought from the iBookstore was as legible as its comparable print version. As more people switch to digital publishing, the iPad gaining a better screen would make it the most enjoyable reading experience for many people.


Consider photo editing for a moment.

When your iPad has a higher-definition screen than your computer, most people would be fine with editing whatever photos they may have straight on their iPads. With more and more apps being released every day, I believe that developers would be able to leverage this screen in ways that I can only imagine. Suppose Apple created an Aperture for the Retina iPad, or the Pixelmator team created an application for the iPad; photographers everywhere would have a powerful tool that weighs only a pound and a half.

iCloud also makes this easy; imagine that you’re walking around the city and find something that you’d like to share with your friends, with iCloud and a high-definition iPad, you would be able to snap a photo with your iPhone, view it in stunning quality on your iPad, and edit it right there. Assuming you had the 3G version, this could be possible just about anywhere, meaning that you could be more mobile than ever before.

I’m not even a photographer and that seems fantastic.


Of course, not everything would be awesome just because the iPad gained a new screen. With a new screen comes new challenges, including new backlighting, an impact on battery life, and possible weight changes.

Fortunately, I believe that the reason we aren’t seeing the iPad HD or Retina iPad, or any of the other things I’ve called it, this holiday season is that Apple is busy solving those issues. If anyone is capable of creating a device as powerful as the one described, it’s Apple.

Unfortunately, they aren’t the only players in this game. By adding yet another resolution, developers would have to scramble to port their existing apps to take advantage of the new screen, and for cross-platform apps they may end up designing their application many times. I believe that most developers would welcome this change (I get the impression that these designers want pixel-perfect designs, something hard to accomplish with the current display) and adapt quickly, but there would be a transition period.


All in all, I believe that the Retina Display-equipped iPad would be a game changer across the board. When you combine the portability of the iPad with a high-resolution screen and presumably a more-powerful chip (the A6, I would imagine) you end up with a powerful, all purpose machine.

If I were to add an external keyboard to the mix, I believe that I could replace the majority of what I currently use my Mac for. While I only dabble with photography and video-making, my main activity, writing, is already easily accomplished. I will probably own a Mac for some time, but I believe that a high-resolution iPad would become the perfect computer, reading device, gaming device, and video-watching device for most people, at half the price of a PC.

The biggest change that the Retina Display iPad will bring about will probably be making every other device (with the exception of the iPhone) more of an option and less of a necessity.

Your Thoughts

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts – simply post a comment below! What are you most looking forward to about a, probably inevitable, Retina Display iPad?

  • http://dark-acre.com Dark Acre Jack

    Great for users, pain in the butt for developers unless the IDE/SDKs allow for easy export from a single asset.

    I’d love it but man, the mobile world is swiftly becoming as complex to develop for as PC with all of its differing hardware.

  • Jake

    I don’t think we’ll see a retina display on the iPad for a while. The resolution of a retina iPad would be higher even than a 21″ iMac—2048×1536 vs. 1920×1080—and the iMac is way more powerful than the iPad. The processor power and memory needed to draw to the display would be ridiculous, especially for graphics-intensive things like games. And even if they somehow managed to make all of that work, the drain on the battery would be crazy.

    Bottom line: a retina display on the iPad would be awesome, but I think we’ll need to wait a few years.

  • Patrick

    Hey Nathaniel,
    I’m also looking forward to see and buy a retina iPad when it comes out, but from my developers point of view there is also challenge of making games and apps that runs fast enough on a full hd device.

    Hope Apple will take this huge disadvantage into account when they’re producing the next-gen iPad.


  • http://www.philippegaboury.ca Philippe Gaboury

    I kinda agree with Jake on this one on the challenges of a Retina Display iPad. I’dd add that I already feel a bit cramped in my current 64Gb iPad2 so if every asset suddenly becomes 5-10 times as heavy, it would certainly cause a problem for me.

    The iPad will not go Retina until we can get much bigger disks.

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  • tickbite

    Honestly, as long as they can’t get color calibration right for iOS I couldn’t care less about retina displays …

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  • Dl

    I like my Ipad 2 just the way it is as far as display. I do wish that I had purchased the 64gb. My husband and I each purchased a 32gb for each other as gifts. OUCH! A 128gb might be possible without too much trouble for the next generation Ipad. If such a display were to be released, it would not be enough to make me purchase a newer Ipad unless there were significant additions such as the storage size. Remember not that long ago a 64gb computer was HUGE. LOL How times change and rapidly!

  • http://kmcatl.tumblr.com Tom Howe

    Retina display makes a whole lot more sense on an iphone/ipod touch.

    The smaller screen means you’ll be looking at it a lot closer to your face. Big pixels look really really bad when you look really closely.
    iPads are bigger! you don’t need to get as close to it. You’re not meant to. look in the ads for iPhones and iPads, the iphone users spend much more time holding the thing in one hand 1-2 feet from their face. The ipad users don’t, they like sit back on a couch and such.

    So, uh, I don’t really care if ipad gets a retina display or not…

    I mean, I’m not upgrading anyway, $$$, but I wouldn’t deem it a necessary feature.