Apple announced the iPad 2 earlier this week, alongside an update to its phone operating system, iOS 4.3. We sat down with three leading UK app developers to find out what the new device offers interactive designers and app developers.
While the iPad 2 boasts a design that's thinner than the first version, it's the doubling of processing power and huge increase in graphics power -- according to Apple -- that matters most when creating apps and sites for the new device.
"From a gaming perspective it means we can now fully put the pedal to the metal," says mills of ustwo, whose apps include one for clothing brand H&M, Moshi Monsters Mouth Off, and the Granimator wallpaper design tool as used by illustrators including James Jean and Jon Burgerman. "We can increase the load on the system, take advantage of the better graphics with advanced game play to follow.
"From a utility perspective and UX point of view, the added performance will allow us to create the smoothest and most seamless of experiences."
"Any jump in performance helps in the ‘no boundaries’ approach to app design and development." agrees Dean Johnson, creative director at Brandwidth, whose recent work include the Guinness World Records: At Your Fingertips app that allows users to challenge three world records.
"The beauty of developing for the iOS platform is that, unlike a website or low-spec rival mobile platform, we’re not continually catering to the lowest common denominator," he continues "Browsers, plug-ins, screen resolution/ratio and purchase mechanism aren’t issues on Apple’s hardware -- but we’ll still face a transitionary period where there will be a two-tiered experience."
The addition of front- and rear-facing cameras allows studios to create apps that are more immersive, says Jamie True, founder of Grapple, which has created apps for BT, T-Mobile and a multiplayer game app for the launch of Fable III.
"The cameras pave the way for inclusion of augmented peality apps as well as features such as barcode scanning which is fast becoming a familiar experience for consumers," he says.
Another addition that app developers are going to find innovative uses for is the three-axis gyroscope, as found in the iPhone 4 and latest iPod touch. This sits alongside the accelerometer and digital compass so the apps can know exatly what position the device is being held in.
"The advanced gyro system will be perfect for game controls going forward," says mills, "but also for some more novel experience focused entirely around that feature."
""The combination of the gyroscope and dual-core A5 processor will allow for innovative use of 360° navigation within a variety of apps - [and not just first-person gaming]," says Dean, noting that "most features [on the iPad 2] are enhanced rather than revolutionised -- so if you’re a designer or developer relying on the the new spec list to improve your apps then you’re probably not going about this in the right way."
"Developers who create apps in web-languages will benefit from the increased performance," says Jamie. "The speed increases across the board will enable all developers to take the platform to the next level."
The studios have varying plans about updating their apps or iOS 4.3. Jamie says that Grapple's apps don't need immediate updating, while Brandwidth's Headspin: Storybook is already optimised for iOS 4.3 as the studio has been working with the beta version in advance of the launch.
"We have an update to Guinness World Records: At Your Fingertips due out soon," says Dean, "but this adds some extra content rather than playing on any of the new features. All our other pipeline projects, including our new Top 100 Albums app for Amber Books and F:sh will begin to incorporate the new iOS feature set wherever relevant.
mills says that ustwo will ensure that their apps work as expected on iOS 4.3. "We may also add some new features but that will very much depend on if it's appropriate for the app in question," he says. "Watch this space though."
Asked about what they make of the iPad 2, Dean and mills seem pleased with its evolutionary upgrade -- especially as they don't have to redo the interfaces of their apps for a mooted high-resolution display.
"What iPad2 needed more than anything was a thinner, lighter construction and faster processor: mission accomplished. Anything else was a bonus," says Dean. "The only omission on my wish-list was a Thunderbolt connection as I had expected Apple to include this to drive sales and upgrades of laptops and desktop hardware -- [and] to speed up the increasingly sluggish syncing process."
"It's everything I wanted and less," says mills. "Unlike many consumers who were hoping for a higher retina resolution, I couldn't be happier about this sensible update. For me it means existing applications will not need graphical updates, and as developers, we can focus on making sure they work even better, taking full advantage of the accelerated performance."