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Developing for the iPad vs. the iPhone

March 24, 2010

I read an interesting article from The Apple Blog talking about the difficulty that Marco Ament is having developing for the iPad.

Ament tells The Apple Blog:

It looks like Instapaper Pro, but bigger, and with slight interface tweaks and redesigns where appropriate.

When everyone else was stalling their iPhone development for months in order to redesign entire applications for the iPad, I made the obligatory cardboard prototype and mocked up a bunch of radical interface departures.

Ultimately, none of them were very practical. Some worked well, but only with ideal content (which, in practice, is rarely the case except in the Editor’s Picks folder). And I didn’t want to commit to any huge risks because I don’t have an iPad to test them on.

iPhone and iPhone 3G by Yutaka Tsutano.In other words, Ament can’t promise that his app works well, given that he doesn’t have an iPad to work with. Which brings me to the realization of the genius of Apple’s initial iPhone release. Remember, 3rd party applications were restricted to webapps for the first year. This allowed developers to get the device in their hands in a controlled fashion without having to have the large amount of security that we have seen for the third party developers large enough for Apple to send a test iPad. Realistically speaking, it is not possible to have such a release twice, so there is little choice other than the path that they are doing now- a very limited release to developers, with a test app to allow the remainder to do some preliminary development.

What this all means for the general user is this: most third party iPad apps will most likely have a beta quality interface on the day of the iPad release. Depending on the guesses made by the developer, this may be easily remedied, or take some time to get tweaked for the larger screen. I personally wouldn’t expect that 3rd party apps will truly use the larger screen well for the first few months after release. This is not to say that the release is bad, nor is it saying that the developers have much choice other than making these guesses. It just is what it is.

I just wish that Apple would have shipped an iPad to Ament.

Additional Thought

It would have been nice if Apple would have repurposed the regional test labs that they scrapped with the change in Mac Development, so that developers could use one of those labs to test their apps on an actual iPad. Of course, this would have greatly increased the number of people that had access to the device, but it would have reduced the imminent UI problems.

Photo by Yutaka Tsutano

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