An example iPad 3 app screenshot simulated using the Retina Simulator tool. Click for larger.

The forthcoming March 7 announcement of a third-generation iPad will (again) force third-party developers to update user interfaces with high-resolution graphic assets that will take advantage of the tablet’s substantial pixel density increase. Some developers took to Twitter to complain that Apple currently does not provide tools for them to test how apps will look on the iPad 3. Enter Ryan Petrich, who is an iOS developer and mobile engineer at Medialets.

With a bit of good ole’ under-the-hood pluming, Petrich put together a nifty hack that lets developers test existing iPad apps on iPad 3′s Retina Display. It reportedly maxes out at a whopping 2048-by-1536 pixel resolution. The tool is called “Retina Simulator,” and it is available free of charge here.

Developer Steve Troughton-Smith tapped Petrich’s tool to create gorgeous high-resolution screenies depicting how incredibly crisp and detailed Retina-optimized apps will look on the upcoming iPad 3. Just click on any image in this article for full-resolution awesomeness. Marvel. Repeat.

Meanwhile, a credible publication analyzed server logs and found traces of iOS 6.0 and iPads rocking Retina Display originating from Apple’s Cupertino campus.

Continue reading for more information on this and concerns related to over-the-air distribution of Retina-optimized iPad 3 apps.

By doubling the iPad’s 1024-by-768 pixel resolution, Apple is effectively squeezing in four times more pixels on the same 7.9-inch display surface. Not only is display data quadrupled as a result (requiring more powerful graphics, backlighting and power to drive those pixels), but developers now have to cope with Retina-quality artwork that will up the size of Retina-optimized iPad 3 app binaries as opposed to the non-optimized, pixel-doubled counterparts. TUAW has done a great post with lots of math detailing what exactly constitutes a Retina Display—a catchy moniker cooked up in Apple’s marketing kitchen.

As noted by MacStories, real-world issues for developers boil down to size limitations imposed on iOS app binaries. As you know, Apple is currently limiting per-app binary size over 3G cellular connections to 20 megabytes (no limit for App Store downloads over Wi-Fi). If history is an indication, we should see this ceiling raised as the iPad 3 hits the market to 40 megabytes per app. Carriers in the United States and elsewhere quietly raised 3G download limits from 10- to- 20 megabytes per app six months ahead of the June 2010 iPhone 4 release.

The move made sense as iPhone 4 brought the then-new 960-by-640 pixel Retina Display. As a result, Retina-optimized app downloads have grown in size. On a final note, Ars Technica today discovered references in its logs from mobile device visits located inside Apple’s corporate IP block in Cupertino. Per server analytics, these devices —quite possibly next-generation iPads tested by Apple employees—run iOS 5/5.0.1/5.1/6. Some also sport a screen resolution of 2048-by-1536 pixels. All told, next Wednesday cannot come soon enough.

Two additional sample screenshots Troughton-Smith created with Petrich’s Retina Simulator tool are below.


Click for larger


Click for larger

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