Non-updated text is distracting and hard to read on the new iPad. It’s a bit like watching standard definition content on a high-definition TV. Just as standard definition TV looks worse on a high-definition TV than it does on a standard definition one, the same effect happens on the iPad. It’s not that apps need to be updated to look even better on the new iPad; it’s that if they aren’t updated, they’re very hard to look at.
I’ve found that apps that haven’t been updated are not worth using. The text is so hard to read and distracting that it ruins the reading and news consumption experience. It’s hard to imagine someone who enjoys the typography of print getting into such a pixelated reading experience.
Some magazines are more known for their visual flair than The Economist. Vanity Fair is now taking advantage of the higher resolution display to feature higher resolution photos that show off more detail. Many users and app developers had concerns, however, that the new iPad would lead to magazine issues that were too big.
Vanity Fair, Wired and others had large file sizes, sometimes 500 MB or more. The smallest iPad has about 13.5 GB of usable storage space. At 500 MBs an issue, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for many issues or other apps or movies. And that was 500 MB per issue on a device that needs to push four times less pixels than the new iPad.
Vanity Fair recently switched to a bundled PDF format from a PNG format, which has allowed the magazine to use higher resolution art assets while also reducing the file size of their issues. Its May issue weighed in at 135 MB.
Art Director Chris Mueller said in an email that Vanity Fair also rethought some of the apps’ usability. Issues now feature less scrolling content. The Table of Contents page is several individual pages instead of one big, long scroll.
“We’re adapting and working through other quirks as they come up, but overall the huge improvement to the appearance of type and images on the tablet is worth the effort,” Mueller said of the changes made to the Vanity Fair app for the new iPad.
The Washington Post is another iPad app in transition. The text looks great, but photos are low resolution. Joey Marburger, designer for mobile and new digital products at the Post, said in an email that higher resolution photos are on the way. He cautioned that a balance needs to be struck between high resolution photos and download speed.
He said that offline storage is another issue that iPad news app makers need to take into account. (iPads hold a small fraction of what desktops and laptops can hold.)