iPad in hands (two-up, iPad, iPad mini)

With each passing day we learn more about the subtleties and under-the-hood tweaks that have made their way into the third beta of iOS 7. Today, I want to talk about the iPad’s 2x compatibility mode. Hasn’t it always bothered you how iPhone apps run pixel-doubled on your iPad mini and other non-Retina iPad devices, resulting in jagged corners and edges and just all-around pixelated appearance?

You can tick that issue off as iOS 7 Beta 3 added a new feature that makes every iPhone app look very clear running on an iPad 2 or iPad mini, in a manner reminiscent of a tweak for jailbroken devices by Ryan Petrich, called RetinaPad…

iDB, along with other publications like MacRumors, received a tip about this feature.

Rather than pixel-double iPhone apps, iOS 7 now appears to take advantage of Retina assets included in the app’s binary. Since Retina iPhones currently top out at the iPhone 5’s 640-by-1,136 resolution, the trick allows for a much smoother and crisper appearance on non-Retina iPads which have a 768-by-1,024 screen (the iPad mini, iPad 2 and the original iPad).

Here’s a side-by-side example of the App Store storefront app on an iPad mini in 2x mode on iOS 6 (left) and default 2x on iOS 7 (right).

iOS 7 2x mode comparison
Click for larger.

Notice how the fonts, the user interface elements and the bitmaps all appear crisper on the right image. Interestingly enough, whereas Retina iPads continue to offer the 2x toggle, the button is gone now on non-Retina iPads as those devices automatically lock iPhone apps in 2x mode.

Here’s Jeff’s video highlighting 2x handling on Retina and non-Retina iPads.

It should be noted that Apple since the arrival of the iPad 3 started using Retina assets in iPhone apps to smooth out their appearance in the 2x mode on the tablet. iOS 7 Beta 3 seems to have brought this improvement over to non-Retina iPads.

As of May, all apps are required to support Retina iDevices (iPhone apps must support the four-inch display on the iPhone 5) so this will go a long way toward improving their presentation on non-Retina iPads on iOS 7.

Back when Steve Jobs took the stage in January 2010 to introduce the iPad to the world, the tablet had only a handful of apps specifically tailored to its bigger screen. Apple didn’t want to limit app availability so its engineers devised a way to upscale iPhone-only apps.

Hence, the 2x mode was born.

iPad introduction 201004 (Steve Jobs demo 001)

In a nutshell, the trickery is in taking each pixel of an iPhone app and turning it into a two-by-two square block.

The approach helped render 480-by-320 iPhone apps as 960-by-640 on the iPad’s 1,024-by-768 screen, filling up way more of the tablet’s screen.

More importantly for Apple, the 2x mode allowed the then 150,000 iPhone apps to just work on the iPad. Fast-forward to 2013 and we now have 375,000 apps tailored to the iPad’s larger canvas.

But with 900,000 apps in the App Store, we still have 525,000 iPhone-only apps so you could make an argument that the 2x mode is relevant today as it was back then.

Speaking of the RetinaPad tweak, Jeff lauded it as “simply one of the best tweaks for the iPad” in his  January 2012 list of the best jailbreak tweaks for iPad.

Should you happen to run a bunch of iPhone-only apps on your tablet, it’s a must-have for it adds clearness to the iPad’s 2x mode, which makes a huge difference with certain apps.

  • Leroy Jenkins

    They should have done this a long time ago

    • felixtaf

      Should have… But appreciate that they have done it now!

  • Andyxyoona

    Though this feature is 3 years late, but I would say that it is an essential 😉
    Better than nothing

    • CPVideoMaker101

      All we need now is battery percentage on the iPod Touch. It’s just one simple line of code apple has to change .-.

      • Tony Klapatch

        The battery percentage on the iPod touch is quite inaccurate though :/ It goes up and down, for example if I play a game on 80% battery for 5 minutes it can go down to 70% but when I quit it it goes back up to ~75-78%.

        It’s why I don’t use numerical battery on my iPod touch, and without showing the numerical battery I don’t worry about my battery much.

      • CPVideoMaker101

        When I had an iPod Touch 2G, it might give the percentge wrong at times, but it’s still better than having nothing.

  • Roxifox1

    Well, Forstall’s departure wasn’t that bad after-all.. Ive is bringing a lot of new and useful stuff.. It will be interesting to see what he has in stores for us next year as he will have more time to develop iOS 8

    • Liam Mulcahy

      I am thinking the same thing

      • onebyone_

        same think too. and would be the next name for OSX?
        OS11 ? interesting in terms of design 😉

      • KNS

        OS 10.1.0? lol

    • Dominik Odobašić

      One of the things I appreciate(d) about iOS in the past was the consistency. The stitching and other thingies were a bit too much, but overall, iOS was amazing.

      For example, this. goo_gl/qOVHB Can you tell if that is a screenshot of a Mac, iPhone, or iPad when the battery is drained? You can’t tell because the indicators are the same, and I love that. I love that the thickness of the scrollbar appears constant throughout iOS and OS X. I love how the linen background represents the sort of a foundation for the rest of the UI. All the windows and the background wallpaper are on top of it. But they got rid of it. Game Center experience (UI) is the same on all Apple devices, but not any more. Now it’s broken. It’s all these little things that make the ecosystem experience amazing, and they’ve completely ruined it.

      • Piyush

        Wow , when people said ios is so stale , its got boring and now apple changes effectively with greater features and new experience people still complain , just great , well there is a saying “haters are gonna hate”.

      • Dominik Odobašić

        Are you saying people wanted change just for the sake of change? Because this is exactly what we got. No, people wanted change for the better. Everyone wanted more features, like biteSMS, maybe Lingual or even Safari Download Manager. But what did we get? Couple new features just like every year so far, plus a redesign that leaves even less room for improvement and addition of new features. Yippie.

      • Piyush

        they didnt just change , they gave new experience wth os 7.

      • Dominik Odobašić

        It may look better, but it certainly doesn’t function better. It leaves very little space for improvement and additional features. In some areas, the experience is worse. For example, only 3 lock screen notifications, and the wasted screen real estate… Like I’ve mentioned before. It would definitely work great on a large (4.5″+) display, but definitely not on a 3.5″.

      • Piyush


      • Liam Mulcahy

        Well I guess not everyone wanted the change I just wanted more jailbreak features

      • Piyush

        thats what they have given , with better UI

      • felixtaf

        Sad part is most of them wanted a change and dint know what they really want…

    • Mohammad Ridwan

      I think we can thank Craig Federighi for this…

  • czbird

    It was about time…

  • Mohammed Sahib

    I’m afraid that they plan to release more non-retina iPads in the future. iPad mini 2 perhaps 🙁 .

  • SimonReidy

    I think everyone agrees that this is a massively overdue, but very welcome addition. I still remember the first time I used Ryan’s RetinaPad tweak on my old iPad 2 and being blown away by the difference. Particularly for games.

  • Gustaf

    Now i hope they’ll make it so that there is a iPad keyboard in the enlarged iPhone apps, instead of the zoomed in iPhone keyboard that is now

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