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The iPad Retina Display is a Complete Waste of—Everything

The newest iPad’s “Retina Display” is Stupid.

There, I said it.

Holy cow, the crispness of resolution of video or any elements “built for the Retina Display” is amazing to behold. Now, go find something—anything—that actually makes use of the technology.

In fact, ask yourself if it’s even possible for the Retina Display to matter outside of a laboratory. When high definition televisions started to take hold a few years back, and then started to grow in size as they shrunk in price, most experts in the field (as well as many people who can just see) concluded that moving from 720p to 1080p was pointless unless you had at least a 42″ screen. The iPad’s screen measures 9.7″, and the Retina Display is the equivalent of 1536p (or maybe Retina Display is 1536i, depending on how you interpret things). YOU CAN’T REALLY SEE THAT AT 9.7″.

I’m just getting started on this Stupid Marketing Trick.

Even if you believe you can “see the difference” in the iPad’s Retina Display—and I’m in a home with four televisions, the smallest of which is 26″ and is the only one that does 1080p and I’ve convinced myself that it “looks the best”—here’s reality:

There is no 1536 pixel programming

DVDs are 480 pixels deep. Blu-Ray comes in at 1080. Unless you’re planning to watch as-yet-non-existent programming, you’ll never get to use that 1536 pixels that the iPad Retina Display packs in. Literally, it just isn’t possible.

And by the way: because of the way iTunes Stores Apps are distributed, when content creators start making 1536 pixel Apps, you’re going to have no choice but download them even if you have an iPad without Retina Display technology in it—wasting both bandwidth and storage space.

What you had before the Retina Display, was, in short, good enough. So what’s up with Apple’s touting of the Retina Display on the newest iPad?

The answer is that Apple isn’t a technology company; Apple is a marketing company—maybe the best marketing company ever—and they’ve convinced the world that this thing is cool, and matters.

Apple does this all the time. They keep turning out cool products, throwing a ton of marketing dollars and effort behind them, and getting millions of people to buy pretty much whatever it is they’re selling. But the AppleTV is just not very good, iPhones aren’t measurably better than Android phones (I would argue they’re worse), and Macintosh computers get viruses, despite Apple’s continuing assertion that they do not.

I’m not, by the way, on an “Apple is Evil” rant.

Marketing drives the world. Apple is great at it. But you don’t have to succumb.

Do you?

I told you last year that the iPad is really nothing more than a toy. iPad with Retina Display is an even prettier toy when used under exactly the right laboratory conditions. Period.

So let’s get real, please.

More and better aren’t the same thing. This is why you shouldn’t be spending your time producing video for your web site. When someone offers you “more”, before you take it you should ask whether you need it, and if you don’t you might like to stay away even if “more” seems to be coming at you “for free”. Seen Apple’s plans for e-books? ‘Nuf said.

Real enough for you? Before you buy those latest generation iPads, thinking that Retina Display will change your life, give us a call. Cutting through smoke is what we do.

Like I said: you don’t have to succumb to marketing hype.


  1. macs suck; cheap graphics,expensive,crappy software,too damn simple!!!!!i need some personalization!! screw apple i hate it asjvciufhmvoevng frh weofg ahhhaahahhhhhhhhaahhhhh fuuuuu******88 apppllllee FU— APLE FKDLM9REGT NF !!!

    • Wow, Jim … tell me how you REALLY feel !!

  2. apple is indeed more of a marketing company than anything.

    wanna know what infuriates me? so when you go to the verizon store or best buy you get to play around with the newest tablets and phones, (which is nice to kill some time or test out a new purchase that you’ll make for $329384092 dollars less on Amazon)- whoaa the iPad is so much faster than (insert any Android tablet), like no lag at all!

    yea, that’s cause iOS DOESN’T HAVE WIDGETS. moreover, the android devices on display have SO MANY widgets loaded that the screens BARELY transition sometimes. in fact, many of the layouts include advertisement widgets for reasons unfathomable to me. aren’t you trying to SELL this device?! OBVIOUSLY it’s going to suck sitting next to an iPad that barely allows you to change wallpapers.

    it is in fact so mind-boggling to me that i sometimes believe it’s intentional, and that wouldn’t be a huge surprise.. BUT even stupider cause apparently Best Buy can’t turn a profit off Apple-everything!


    • I hear what you’re saying. And you’re right; part of the reason iOS seems so fast is because it’s so non-extensible. That’s a pretty advanced and esoteric topic, though.”Yeah, your iDevice is faster because it does less” . . . except iPhone/iPad users don’t see it that way; they just like it and think it’s zippy fast.

      My Galaxy Nexus, which four months after release is still the “best” Android phone, is already bogging down because of just what you describe. So yeah: Apple makes the iToys look like they’re advanced, but they’re actually the opposite.

      Oh wait you said that; it’s all about marketing.

  3. if apple devices are so great, why do their owners constantly upgrade them ? ( steve jobs own words ‘smartphone users love upgrading’ )

  4. “There is no 1536 pixel programming DVDs are 480 pixels deep. Blu-Ray comes in at 1080. Unless you’re planning to watch as-yet-non-existent programming, you’ll never get to use that 1536 pixels that the iPad Retina Display packs in. Literally, it just isn’t possible.”

    Hate to disagree with that, but I’ve written at least 3 applications that fully use all of 1536 pixels on the iPad Retina. And, yes, you can see the difference, depending on the application. One app displays artwork, and for detailed works there is a clear improvement using the hi-res image. Another app was a game, which drew a lot of curved surfaces with shadows and bloom. Initially we did the game at non-retina resolution, as we didn’t want to have to double up on the art. However, after seeing how much better the curved surfaces looked in retina resolution, we changed our minds. We also found that most of our art did NOT have to be upsized as it looked OK using GLES to pixel double w/blending.

    • No need to worry. As I said, I ‘see’ the difference that 1080p makes on my 26″ TV, so there’s sure a subjective element to this. And I’m a guy who now uses a 13″ 3200×1800 laptop, and while I don’t run it at that resolution I can absolutely see it when I run tests.

  5. I have 75/35Mbs FiOS and I’ve never had an issue seeing those speeds (assuming the other end of the connection and everything in between isn’t slower). For me it’s not always about the “max speed” for a download, but about being able to download music in iTunes (just did ~2000 songs in under 20 minutes) while watching netflix, and updating a large svn repository.

    Decided to do a quick check (bypassing Verizon’s speed test) and while I got a terrible ping (normally 11 or 12ms) my bandwidth measured 83/38. Results image:

    So, I think you would see 300Mbps with FiOS, although it would probably take connections to multiple servers (most servers are not going to be able or willing to send that fast to a single connection). I know if 150/300 ever gets offered where I live I’ll be upgrading.


    • Lane, I agree with the idea that the boosted bandwidth matters more to the “lots of devices” issue. AND as time has passed Verizon and others have gotten better at delivering their promised speeds. I still have FIOS 15/5 and it commonly shows me 22/6 (they over deliver now, on purpose, to avoid arguments with people like me), even over wireless connections.

      • Nice, glad to hear they have improved your service.

        I’ve run 1000T throughout the house, as wireless (even 300Mbps N+) just doesn’t cut it for large files. Plus, if you have a media device (AppleTV, etc.) or your wife is watching netflix over the wifi it gets plain bad (slow, lost connections, etc).

        Maybe someday, but by then I’ll probably be wanting 10000T … disk transfer rates have risen to the point 100MBps can’t keep up anymore :)

        Ah, I recall the day I was able to read a floppy disk in 2 revolutions (vs the standard 12), and how fast I thought that was!

  6. The iPad Retina Display makes a *huge* difference for reading text-heavy web pages. For video, not so much.

    • A designer friend made that point to me once. It seems counterintuitive that great resolution is about something as simple as text, right? But I hear you.

      Tell ya what, though: as I am now using a device with even higher PPI than the now-commomplace “Retina”, I can speak to the fact that yes, the screen on that thing POPS. But if we talk about how much “better” the text is we have to also acknowledge that it’s only REALLY better in a lab. I get a headache looking at that razor-sharp text on that little screen.

      I think my original points were correct; there’s no content designed for this kind of resolution, and even if there were it’s not terribly useful … maybe even a BAD idea on screens of this size.

  7. You`re such a cry-baby. Get over it. Apple`s Retina display is the new industry benchmark.


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