New iPhone apps show HD art in iPad 2X emulation mode

New iPhone apps show HD art in iPad 2X emulation mode 1

Though Apple has not officially enabled Retina Display emulation on the iPad, certain recent iPhone and iPod touch applications have started to display artwork in higher resolutions on the iPad screen, iLounge has discovered. Normally, iPhone and iPod touch applications run on the iPad in an emulation mode limited to the native 320×480 resolutions of Apple’s prior-generation screens. Users can optionally hit a “2X” button that merely increases the size of each dot from 1×1 to 2×2, resulting in pixellated images. Applications designed for the Retina Display on the iPhone 4 and iPod touch 4G have fared no better, still presenting the lower-resolution graphics designed for the older models.


Recently, however, some new applications are displaying higher-resolution assets when rendered in the iPad 2X mode. The most notable example is Napster, an iPod touch- and iPhone-formatted application without a native iPad mode. Although most of the user interface elements in the Napster app are clearly being scaled up when seen in 2X mode on the iPad, the album artwork is clearly being displayed at a higher iPad-native resolution. iLounge editors have observed several other recent iPhone and iPod touch apps showing similar behaviors, whereby some—not all—assets are being rendered in higher resolution when displayed on the iPad in 2X mode. It is unclear at this time whether developers have found some way to provide this capability or whether it is a function of compiling applications with the recently released iOS 4.1 SDK, but it is a positive sign that the iPad’s seemingly limited iPhone and iPod touch emulator is capable of more than it previously demonstrated.

  1. This is a gradual thing. Early adopters may have seen noticed this on a smaller scale prior to the retina display. I did, when i used the iPhone version of Beejive on my iPad, the service icons (AIM, GTalk, Jabber, etc) appeared crisp and native resolution, not pixel doubled. This hinted to me that Apple was not blindly scaling up graphics even at the start of the iPad’s life. Resolution independence has been in there already, and some apps had been code up to use it. With the deliberate addition of higher resolution resources for the retina display, this behavior has become more common and obvious. I actually don’t think this has changed on the SDK front, it’s simple devs are including higher res resources.

    Further evidence that this is a work in progress is the text. Font glyphs are readily scalable, and Apple even stated that properly compiled apps will “just work” in that regard. The screenshot above clearly is scaling the toolbar or album information text, not rendering them to native pixels. But it will, either by SDK updates (requiring a recompile) or by an OS update (runtime discovered automatically, maybe requiring proper coding, or just by OS intelligence)

    As a similar unrelated, but relevant sort of runtime improvement via OS update rather than recompile, there is a report (CNet I think) that Pandora’s universal app supports background audio on iPads running the 4.2 beta. Which means either Pandora was already linked to 4.2beta for iPad (nope, not in a shipping app guys) or the playback engine was coded to detect and use background services when available. ObjC allows for that kind of runtime detection. The app and UI are still intended for iPad 3.2, but coded to be 4.x-savvy.

  2. Except that it’s not automatic… There are many apps available now that have higher-resoluition assets like icons for the Retina Display that do not scale up when running in 2X mode on the iPad, so it’s not something that’s simply appearing as the result of higher-resolution artwork being included in the app. In the same vein, we’ve noticed recent games that show a mixture of low-resolution and high-resolution assets on the same screen, yet all noticeably render in Retina Display resolution when run on an actual iPhone 4 or iPod touch 4G.

  3. The iPad displays high-res pictures in iPhone apps for months, now…
    For example, the Amazon app displays high-res product photos under iOS 3.2 since many updates.

  4. AFAIK it’s not Apple’s doing. In this case, it’s that the album art is high resolution, and the iPad’s emulator is just displaying it that way. The way retina display capable apps work is by adding a nameofpicture@2x.png file along with nameofpicture.png, where nameofpicture.png is for older devices and the @2x one is for retina devices. The iPad’s emulator does not search for @2x files when loading images, but the album art in this example is not provided as an app provided image (it’s downloaded from the web, and it’s obviously not 320×480.)

    You can test it for yourself on a jailbroken iPad. In any retina display app take the @2x from all images inside the .app bundle’s (and backup or delete the non-@2x ones) and tap the 2x button when running it and you’ll see that it displays in retina res 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *