So, iOrlando had been on-sale for 2 weeks when an email pings into my inbox:
“…when will you be upgrading iOrlando so that it works properly on an iPad?”
This user has bought iOrlando after being recommended it by a friend but she has bought it to use on her iPad. When she ran it she was disappointed to find that it only runs in a small window on her iPad and was wondering when we would be upgrading the app to run full screen.
The expectation of this lady that we would be releasing an update to make iOrlando a universal application got me thinking about the dilema that we keep facing with regards to our various applications with the release of the iPad. I wrote her an email to explain why we wouldn’t be making iOrlando a universal application and I thought I would set out my thinking here in case anyone else is wondering why as developers we aren’t rushing out to convert our apps.
For those who don’t know, although the operating system on an iPad is the same as on the iPhone, the application has to be written differently for it. When you run an iPhone application on an iPad you end up with a smaller version of it running in the middle of the screen. This is nothing to do with the application specifically, it is just how the iPad deals with running iPhone applications.
Currently, there are two ways of converting an iPhone application to run natively on the iPad. The development community and the user community are very very split as to how should be done.
The two methods are:
1. A Universal Application – You purchase one application and it works natively on the iPhone and the iPad. (examples include IMDB app) – this sounds great at first glance but not many people are going this route for reasons I will explain.
2. Separate iPhone and iPad applications (tend to be called HD applications) – this means even if you own the application you have to buy it separately for the iPad. (examples include Flight Control, Angry Birds, EBay, Shazam etc.)
So, which method to use?
Well, naturally the consumer expects a Universal app (option 1). They consider they have bought the application therefore they should own it for both devices. This is a natural reaction that we can all understand but when you look at it from the developers point of view it’s not quite so simple.
Why not? Take iOrlando. As a team, we have written an application which people have bought. Then the iPad is released.
Although the iPad runs the same operating system, it also has a major difference over the iPhone – the size and resolution of the display. All of the graphics used in an iPhone application would not be anywhere near a high enough resolution to simply scale up to the iPad screen. That means in our case the splash screens, the icons, the park photos, the park maps, the opening hours, the icons would all have to be recreated. We would also find that our simple iPhone interface would look lost on an iPad so we would also need to redesign the UI to make the most of the new screen space.
All of this incurs high cost for the developers:
* Hiring graphic designers to redo the graphics elements
* Redesigning the UI
* Cost of coding the new parts of the app
* Project management costs
Essentially you are creating a whole new, better, richer version of the application yet users expect you to do this for free. Does this make sense?
If the application is very, very simple and it is just a bit of graphic optimisation work, then it could make sense to build a universal application but this raises another issue. Size, and as we know in iPhone development size does matter! When an application trips over the 20MB mark it can only be downloaded via WiFi or iTunes and you lose a whole impulse purchasing opportunity. The graphics on iOrlando are already 16MB (before any of the new elements we want to add). If we were have to do another set of everything at four times the resolution, the size of the application will grow by a LOT. This then means that when an iPhone user (who doesn’t have an iPad) wants to download our app they will still need to download all of this extra data as currently apple offers no clever way to only deliver the iPhone graphics or only the iPad graphics depending on which device you are using. A universal app contains all graphics in one package and all users have to live with this extra overhead when downloading the app and the extra space it will fill on their devices.
So that brings us to option 2. We release iOrlando HD a dedicated iPad version. This is feasible and makes the most sense. The issue is we will have users who already own the iPhone version being upset with having to pay twice, and based on past experience they will complain a lot. If you look through the reviews of the top 10 iPad apps you will see people complaining about it a LOT but it is currently (in my opinion) the only viable option at the moment.
Until Apple sort this out properly and come up with either a way of allowing a user to buy a Universal app but then it only downloads the iPhone graphics onto the iPhone and the iPad graphics onto an iPad or a way of “upgrading” for a discounted fee to the HD version we are all stuck between a rock and a hard place.
This is an issue that the whole dev community is facing and it is not yet 100% clear how it will pan out. What everyone is trying to do is protect the profitability of the industry. When the iPhone came out, intense competition and desire to be the best selling app drove the average price of iPhone apps so low it’s very, very difficult to make proper money. Currently iPad apps have a much higher average price point and if users get used to this and the idea that iPad and iphone apps are separate (most of the time) it will be much better for the industry in the long run.
At a purely business level if we are having to re-make all the graphics and redesign the UI do we really want to give it away for free? Probably not. Microsoft don’t give away Office 2007 to anyone who has bought Office 2003 and I don’t really see that this is much different.
On that basis, we decided that a Universal App was not an option for iOrlando and if we were to release an iPad version then we look at releasing iOrlando HD. I am sure many people will think this is just greed but ultimately we are trying to run a business.
Time will tell how this will pan out but the best solution will be for apple to look at ways for us to have more flexibility than is currently on offer. In my opinion the ability to upgrade to an HD version would be a perfect balance between the time spent by developers being rewarded while also rewarding the consumers who already own the iPhone version of our apps.