Steve Jobs told us last week that most iPhone apps should work on the iPad right out of the box, reassuring users that there will be a huge base of apps for owners to tap into right from launch day. But how well will these apps work scaled up from a 3.5-inch screen up to a 9.7-inch screen?
This thought came to me earlier today after reading Ed Bott's latest piece on apps for the tablet PC:
So what Apple is doing right with the iPad is insisting that the only apps you’ll be able to install will be those that are designed from Day 1 with full multi-touch support, either for the iPad itself, as Apple is doing with its base software package, or for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
This got me thinking about the third-party apps that I use on my iPod touch and how well these might work scaled up. I'm not a huge "app rat" but I use my Twitter clients (Twitterific and TweetDeck) often, and have a small handful of games installed that I turn to when there's nothing else to do, but experience with these gives me an insight into problems that iPad users might face.
One problem I see is that while on the iPhone/iPod touch, you're controlling most of thee apps with the flick of a finger or thumb (I'm pretty adept at using my iPod touch one-handed), on the iPad this is going to translate into quite a big hand gesture. Not only are larger hand gestures less precise, they're also more tiring on the wrist, especially over long periods.
Another problem is to do with games. A lot of the games assume that you can use your thumbs on the side of the screen to interact with the on-screen controls. The iPhone is only 4.5 x 2.4 inches, but the iPad is much bigger, at 9.56 x 7.47 inches, and weighs in at 1.5 pounds. At those dimensions these thumb-driven actions become a lot trickier. In fact, on games such as Resident Evil 4, I just can't see how the UI will work on the larger tablet.
I also think that scaling is going to be plain crazy for some apps. Imagine a calculator or notes or fart app spread across a 9.7-inch screen ... it just doesn't feel right, does it? Another problem is going to be fonts. I can see the text on some apps being simply huge.
While I can see why Apple has decided to stick with one platform (for now), I do think that apps are going to be a problem and that developers are going to have to put the legwork into fixing them up so the UI works on the iPad. Otherwise there's going to be a lot of unhappy people out there.
Apps running, and apps being usable are two very different things.
So, iPhone/iPod touch users, whaddya think?