Retina Artwork Bloats iPad Apps To More Than Double Their Size

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A retina, surrounded by an eye. Photo Bodey Marcoccia (CC BY-SA 2.0)
A retina, surrounded by an eye. Photo Bodey Marcoccia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The new iPad appears to be all upside: A retina display, 4G connection, no loss in battery life and a potentially great new camera. But there is a dark side lurking in there somewhere, one that you won’t see until developers start to update their apps to be retina ready, and those apps start to gobble up your 16, 32 or 64GB of storage by the Gigabyte.

What am I talking about? Bitmap images. When quadrupled in size to look nice on the hi-res screen, bitmaps bloat the apps containing them. For example, iMovie for iOS jumps from a merely large 70MB to a terrifying 404MB. That 16GB iPad is starting to look a little small, right?

Vietnamese unboxer extraordinaire, Tinhte.vn, has compared the sizes of Apple’s updated iWork and iLife apps on its prematurely-arrived third-gen iPad. To confirm them, I dug into my backups, comparing the old app sizes with the new retina-ready apps released last week. Here are my numbers, which you can confirm yourself by checking the old and new versions:

App iPad 2 Retina iPad
Keynote 110MB 327MB
Numbers 104MB 375MB
Pages 89MB 331MB
iMovie 82MB 404MB
iPhoto N/A 129MB

Scary, right? Clearly, the culprit here is the inclusion of theme templates and graphics, as text and vector graphics are the same size however large they are rendered. Oddly, though, iPhoto manages to be the smallest of these iApps, despite packing a rather overworked interface and including a few themes for the Journals section.

Then again, those themes are simple tiled background textures, and presumably iPhoto was the first app to be created especially for the retina display, and is perhaps better optimized.

One upshot of this awful bloat — apart from forcing people to skip the 16GB iPad altogether — is that I expect to see a lot more vector graphics in the UI elements of iOS6. Anything else is just messy.