So here's something cool you may not have noticed about the new iPad: If you're playing an iPhone game (or using an iPhone app) that has Retina Display assets for the iPhone, it will use the higher resolution set of assets. On previous models of the iPad, this functionality required the jailbreak utility Retina Pad. It actually makes a massive difference.

It's a little hard to do that accurate of a comparison without just looking at both devices side by side, but I've doubled the resolution of the iPad 2 screenshots on the left to be the same size as the new iPad on the right. It may seem exaggerated, but the difference is even more noticeable when you've got a game like Flight Control running on two iPads side by side.

If you remember, back when the iPad was first released to make up for the complete lack of iPad-specific apps, Apple added the pixel doubling functionality to allow iPhone-specific apps to run full screen. The results were always a pixelated mess, and while it worked, it was a pretty terrible overall user experience. Now, with (almost) every iPhone app coming bundled with Retina Display assets, this new fullscreen functionality actually results in surprisingly decent looking upscaling.

Of course, iPad apps and games that are actually designed for the Retina Display of the new iPad look tons better, but now you don't need to essentially write off any non-universal app as being a huge pixel party.

UPDATE: Here are some shots of Real Racing 2, an iPhone-only game with Retina Display assets as well as Real Racing 2 HD which is optimized for the Retina Display of the new iPad:

iPad 2 running Real Racing 2 pixel doubled:

New iPad running Real Racing 2 utilizing iPhone Retina Display assets:

Real Racing 2 HD running on iPad 2:

Real Racing 2 HD running on new iPad:

There are differences in lighting between the screenshots since each version of the game seems to render the scene at a different in-game time of day. Also, the iPhone versions running full screen on the iPad have a slightly different UI so I tried to line things up as close as I could. Regardless, the jump in quality is just astounding, and it seems like the image quality between iPhone Retina Display-ready games and non-Retina Display iPad games is pretty similar.

  • anthony simmons

    thanks for the info Mr. Hodapp. left a few iphone games off my device cause they looked like crap without retina pad on my ipad 2. gonna do some syncing!!

  • JesseeA

    I guess I don't really understand why this is a story. Why wouldn't they use an iPhone app's Retina assets if they were available on a Retina iPad? I get that they didn't use them on the older iPads, but that's a little different.

    The Retina assets on the old iPads were only even relevant in 2x mode. And while I do think that Apple should've utilized them in that mode, it was inevitable that they would use them in this situation. In fact, the only reason I can figure for not using the Retina assets on older iPads in 2x mode is so it would look just as bad (relatively speaking) as the new iPad's 2x mode.

    • Ken Carpenter

      It's a story because it's a new and much better behavior which people should know about.

      The reason for not using them on the old iPad is that you can't load 2x resources when in 2x mode and then load the normal assets when switching back to 1x mode.  The frameworks just don't support that.  Scaling the 2x images down to 1x is not a good choice either as it could result is other visual problems (e.g., 1 pixel lines could be completely lost).

      Now that the iPad has enough resolution to show the 2x images at 1x scale without loss of detail, the feature is feasible.

      • JesseeA

        Thanks for the explanation on 1x/2x on the old iPad. Good to know.

        Wasn't trying to be critical (though it probably came off that way). I guess in my head the story worth printing would've been "Apple Doesn't Use Retina Assets for Non-Universal Games on New iPad", because that would've been the surprise. I figured it was expected they would use Retina assets for iPhone-only apps. 🙂

      • Laszlo Tuss

        false, the reason were only marketing, with this move, Apple get more money from developers who sells a lot of pointless "HD" versions with nothing extra ( Rovio+Chillingo, EA, Gameloft, and many others) but with 2-3-4-5X Price

      • Ken Carpenter

        So the reason for showing BETTER quality images was to get more money from HD versions?  What sort of logic is that?

        If they left the feature out you might have some ground to stand on, but as it is, your argument makes zero sense.

        Furthermore, how is it in any way "pointless" for developers to make new versions of their apps that support the new features?  If they included those new 4x graphics in a universal build of the same game, people would be complaining about the developers wasting so much space on their non-iPad devices.

      • Laszlo Tuss

        omg, have you forget that Apple sells iPads for about 2 year?
        I talk about they refuse to use the higher resolution on the original and on the second iPad, and now the enabled it only on the new iPad. And thats only for marketing.


      • Leroy

        the developer frameworks simply can't switch between 1x and 2x graphics while the app is running. it's not that difficult to understand. Deal with it.

      • Laszlo Tuss

        Maybe the jailbreak utility, named retinaPad using magic power to switch :O
        Go, deal with that.

      • Phillip Platt

        Except retinapad works wonderfully.

      • IMNS

        What apple earns from AppStore is less than pocket change for them. Just take a look at what apple earns from AppStore and compare it to their profits from the iDevices. Its less than a rounding error n their balance sheet.

      • IMNS

        Good point except, who in their right mind uses the 1X mode? It's unusable, period.

    • Eli Hodapp

      You can find our editorial guide on what does and doesn't qualify as a story worthy of TouchArcade here-

      • JesseeA

        Nice! 🙂

      • Noam Rathaus

        We need this in Retina quality!

      • Eli Hodapp

        Much like Hamster Dance already exceeds the quality of any display that could ever be created by man.

  • Adams Immersive

    We now have four different resolutions for games running on iPad. I know which one I like best 🙂

  • IMNS

    Yes! This is something which always pissed me about iPads. Having to run an iPhone app in 320x480 even when the app had retina assets for iPhone 4/4S. This is how it should have been from day one (atleast for ipad 2 if not the OG ipad).

    As much as I like apple and it's products, they do add such weird limitations for no real reasons other than maybe holding back features just to make the new device sound better. Holding back features like Reyna iPhone apps, siri or cheap upgrades like more ram (anyone who says 256mb ram was enough for ipad 1 is just flat out lying) can't possibly be doing them any favours IMO so I hope they stop doing it and focus on making every gen of devices as capable as they can.

    Anyways, good to know its finally here!

    • JesseeA

      Nothing has really changed in terms of quality though. This is to the new iPad as the non-Retina assets were to the old iPads.

      • IMNS

        It's apple. They could have still kept I at non retina graphics for iPhone apps in the new iPad. You never know!

        So yeah, it's still a relief to know that we won't be using upscaled 320x480 apps on the new iPad.

    • The Danish Texture

      I can find one perfectly valid reason:

      If Apple were to allow Retina apps on non-Retina screens, some developers would probably not take the time to make a specific tablet app - just look at Android.

      • IMNS

        Completely disagree. First of all, this wasn't going to be an issue when the first iPad was launched as there was no retina iPhone. All iPhone apps were 320x480. So all devs HAD to write apps natively for iPad screen unless they wanted it to look like crap in 2X mode.

        Secondly, iPad AppStore doesn't show iPhone apps in top lists. So no matter how usable your retina iPhone app was on your iPad, it'll never show up in the iPad AppStore charts. So again, devs had no choice but to write native apps.

        Thirdly, such limitiom still doesn't stop devs from using retina iPhone apps, add a border around it and repackage it as an iPad apps. A lot of devs still do this (like donut games iirc). So devs can still be lazy and apple can't do anything to stop them. Worse part is that now they could charge twice for (practically) the same app.

        Finally, and most importantly, android tablets don't have native apps coz android tabs don't sell (not yet, not in big enough numbers to make it worth the trouble). The few which do sell a bit are smaller ones @ ~7 inches. With most android phones being 4+ inches, its not really that big a difference between a 4.3 inch phone vs a 7 inch tablet. iOS on the other hand has two screen sizes only. 3.5 and 9.7. So even if apple did allow the retina apps on iPad 2, it wouldn't have made any difference as far as native iPad apps are concerned. Devs had to rewrite the apps for the much much bigger screen anyways.

        So no, I don't think that reason is valid at all.

      • Laszlo Tuss

        On the IPad, you can switch to the iPhone top list, just 1 click!
        Donut Games make their game updates with retina res and universal support, they wont charge you if you owned a prev version.
        The ones you talk about is EA, GL and Chillingo.
        They just resold the high resgames they already have for twice the price.

      • IMNS

        Read it again. I didn't say you can't access iPhone top lists on iPad. I said that your iPhone app won't show up in top charts no matter how well it looks/works/sells on the iPad. So if yo want to target the ipad market, there is no other way but to build a native app. 

        About donut games, I just used them as an example of how devs can still cut corners and use the same iphone retina apps as iPad apps. Which is exactly what they are doing. Then I said now they could charge twice for the same app. Notice I used "Could" he instead of "did". I know donut games don't charge twice for their iPhone apps as HD versions but others could and did and are still doing it. All I'm pointing out is such a limitation from apple doesn't do jack shit to encourage native iPad apps which was the previous poster's "valid" reason. 

        And about ea, gameloft, or other devs creating hd apps and charging twice for it, I don't mind that at all as long as its optimised for iPad screen (not just the higher res but the bigger size too). I actually prefer paying extra for that instead of a free upgrade which just enables the higher res for iPad wit the same user interface as the 3.5" iPhone.  And it's the AppStore. Just add the app to your appshopper wish list if you think it's too costly. Everything goes on sale here!

      • Laszlo Tuss

        Okay, if there would mostly universal apps with an iAP for buying rescaled new UI for 0,79, then i would pay for it, but thats should be my decision!
        With this "HD" craps and no native retina resolution support for older iPads, i have no other choices than Jailbreak, play with crap res or paying more ....

  • jeffyg3

    Does it still have that crappy icon on the bottom to put it to iphone screen size? That thing is so crappy, it makes it so it doesn't take up the full screen of the iPad when it's on 2x mode and I can accidently hit that stupid button, and for several apps it's much easier to do that. Hopefully Apple got rid of the icon for the new iPad, it's such a bad design.

    • Eli Hodapp

      Yes, there's still a black border too because of the differences in aspect ratio. Sort of unavoidable, really. You need to be able to exit full screen mode, and a weird gesture to do that might break existing games/apps. 

      • jeffyg3

        Well my iPad 2 used to be jailbroken and I did have that retina app that makes iPhone apps upscaled to fit the entire screen on the iPad. Much of the games I've tried didn't work as well, but the ones that did looked beautiful. The iPad 2 is more than capable of handling it to resize to fit the aspect ratio of the iPad.

    • JPhilipp

      I figure Apple also doesn't want to subject users to low-pixel apps without some sort of "disclaimer" -- this 2x button along with the smaller original size is the perfect visual, non-verbal disclaimer as to what's happening, and how this "isn't the iPad's fault/ display limitation".

      • jeffyg3

        I wouldn't call it perfect if it makes it possible for people to accidentally push the icon while playing more tap heavy games (it can get annoying) and have it resize when they don't want it to and along with that comes with a black border. A better way I would think is to have a brief disclaimer pop up for a sec while the game is loading then disappear. Quick and easy disclaimer and it's not right in front at all times. Also would be better to have an option in the settings whether the user would like it to remain full size, or have the option to resize if they want. Seems like that would be a much better setup than the one they have now

  • Nicholas Pollender

    It always pissed me off when a game had retina graphics but was not using them on the iPad. That's why the first version of King Cashing supported such a feature and I remember people wondering how we made it look so good at x2 on iPad. But that was before the game was universal. Glad to see this is now fixed on the new iPad!

  • Laszlo Tuss

    That was one of the most greed step from Apple, refuse the iPhone apps to use their retina resolution pictures when upscaled.
    They say, they prefer universal apps, but the refuse to force the developers to make universal apps with the move of making the apps using native retina resolution.
    now they enabled it, because the standard iPhone resolution would look like crap on the new iPad. nice

  • Ed Orman

    I noticed this last night with Plants vs Zombies. It's a very welcome change - I've never even noticed that the lily pad had eyes before!

  • Linuxuser1

    "Real Racing 2 HD running on new iPad" -> OMG, awesome!

  • Rirath

    Awesome.  I've specifically held off on buying Retina Pad for my iPad 1 because I was hoping this would be native some day.

  • Christopher Taylor-Davies

    I have seen this on recent iPhone apps on the iPad 2 as well. For instance Delve displays some images as Retina quality when pixel doubled. Which is very nice.

  • drekkerd

    Is the article accurate with the terminology?  If I'm speculating correctly, the new iPad runs iphone retina apps with ZERO upscaling, rather an exact pixel doubling to 1920x1200 and it's the iPad 2 that has to not only run such apps without the retina assets but has to use nasty scaling to get it to fit in a 1024x768 frame.

  • Zephram

    I don't see any significant difference in the above pictures between iphone retina/new iPad and RR HD on iPad 2.Not to mention that the iPad 2 picture is more zoomed in than the other(as evidenced by the sideview mirror not showing),thus making it look slightly more pixelated.

    • IMNS

      Not sure if serious o_0

      • Zephram

        I'm not talking about the difference between iPad 2 and iPad 3 retina, which is very noticeable,rather between iPad 2 and iPhone retina as displayed on iPad 3.

  • Dalie

    If the iPad's were a lot more affordable, I would def upgrade to the new iPad. I just wish a lot of the games on iOS were on par with at least the consoles, ie. long gameplay with a good storyline.

    • Leroy

      and you would pay $/€30 to $/€60 for them, wouldn't you? Thought so. Not to mention that playing games on iPad/iPhone is hardly ergonomic. The gaming audience for mobile devices is simply the casual one. Buy a PS3/PS Vita, or play on a computer if you want triple-A games.

      • Laszlo Tuss

        triple-A PS vita game? I don't get it.

      • Dalie

         I'm a gamer. I play games on the PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PC and on my iOS systems.

        Since "handheld" gaming is still fairly new, the games are pretty simplistic compared to their console/PC counterparts. However, that is changing as the handheld systems gets better and more powerful. That also means that bigger and larger gaming companies wants in on the action.