Sneak Preview: Inside The iPad App Store

Sneak Preview: Inside The iPad App Store

Apps, obviously! But not just a few. And not just good ones, either. From the start, here’s what the iPad’s section of the App Store will be like.

Plenty of developers are flaunting their blood pacts with Apple by publicising details about their apps before iPad launch, and the results have been mixed. We’ve got obvious winners, like big studio games, Instapaper and Panelfly, and out and out gimmicks like the Star Trek iPADD. What we’ve seen, though, is just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s what to expect, based on leaks, and discussions with developers.[imgclear]

There Will Be a Ton of Apps

preliminary list

Everything Will Feel Familiar

There will be some very pleasant surprises come Saturday morning, but you can expect to see a ton of ports of existing iPhone apps – especially games – coming from large studios. Granted, Apple’s been adamant that they want ported apps to feel like different apps, not just scaled up versions of iPhone apps. In particular!

You should not view the large iPad screen as an invitation to bring back all the functionality you pruned from your iPhone application.

This is exactly what a lot of developers are doing, by the way.

And it’s not just apps that you’re going to recognise – it’s the store itself. The interface has been adapted to the iPad, obviously, but the current categorisation of the App Store remains.

The Wall Between iPhone and iPad Apps Is Flimsy

Developers have a couple of options for launching an iPhone app. They can either keep the packaging the same as their iPhone app – a “universal” app – or they can launch a separate one, with different branding. The first option is convenient and tidy, but generally means that the developer is offering the iPad version for free to existing customers of an iPhone app. The second option is the easiest way to market a new app, with a separate pricetag, even if it’s just an upscaled version of the iPhone versions. This is where we see the “HD” and “XL” apps (and even, seriously, “Large!”), and where things get messy during browsing – especially if you’re browsing iPhone apps, too.

Thankfully, as you can see in the above video, there’s an “off” switch for iPhone apps, which eliminates anything that’s not upscaled in resolution to fit the iPad’s 768×1024 screen.

Apps Won’t Be Cheap
For a variety of reasons, these apps are going to be more expensive that iPhone apps. Some companies are keeping price parity between iPhone and iPad apps, but others are peeling their apps off under new names, and charging more.

Devs will cite greater design costs and new investment and reasons to hike prices, which will be justified, sometimes. Other times, it’ll be pure gouging.

But a Lot of Them Will Suck
According to devs, Apple has been receptive to just about any app that met its requirements, and that was submitted before the March 27th deadline. This means straight up gimmicks, like silly face apps, standalone clocks, wallpaper apps and endless variations on sketchpads will all be making appearances. One developer, who merely ported a second-tier game you’ve never heard of that can’t have gotten more than a few thousand downloads, described the approval process as “fast”. The app shown below, which lets you high five a video of a hand, will probably be there too:

Basically, if a dev could code an app within two months and is reasonably good at following directions, he’s got a good chance at making launch.

The Best Apps Will Take Time (Because Nobody Knows What They’re Doing Yet)

While the iPad will launch with plenty of original app concepts, but the truly innovative stuff won’t show up until later, after the studios have had a few months to work. So basically, sit tight. Then sit tight again, for much longer. Even developers that hit the deadline for submitting launch apps are admitting that it’s going to be a while until apps truly mature, not just because of the development time needed to make a complicated app, but because nobody has really spent any time with an iPad yet. Game developers call this “coding to the metal”, and it’s important for establishing basic usability, especially on handheld devices. Marco Arment, on his Instapaper app:

I’ll probably move the reading-view toolbar to the top in the future, like most iPad apps, but I don’t yet know how I’ll hold the iPad when reading.

Ha! But yeah, these apps will be rough drafts, even moreso than new iPhone apps usually are. Not to mention the fact that Saturday’s launch isn’t even the real launch – it’ll be the end of April before the 3G, GPS-equipped iPad hits stores, which will beget entirely new categories of apps. You know, pretty much anything with location services.

The First Wave Will Still Surprise You
The best of the first wave is stuff you probably haven’t heard much about, or seen screenshots of. These are the big guys; the companies Apple wants to have in the App Store when the iPad ships, and the companies that’ve been double-sworn to secrecy. Major news apps, franchise games, etc – a lot of big names are going to be there. They might not be perfect, and they might change quickly, but they’ll be there, and you’ll probably be happy to see them.