Retina Display Updates for Computers that Don’t Support Retina Displays?

Really, Apple?

Fellow author Jeff Carlson recently commented on Twitter:

The Retina Display is a new feature of certain Macintosh computers announced the other day at Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC). While it’s nice to know that my next Macs will have a better display, there’s really nothing wrong with the displays on my current Macs: a 27″ iMac, a 11″ MacBook Air, and a 13″ MacBook Pro. The oldest of these computers (the MacBook Pro) is only about two years old and I have no plans to buy a new Mac for at least a year. Indeed, my desktop Mac, which is less than a year old, probably won’t be replaced for at least 2 years.

Unfortunately, in order for the folks who buy these new Macs to take advantage of their hot new displays, Mac OS applications have to be rewritten to support them. Apple, of course, is leading the pack by updating its apps. Jeff, who writes about iMovie, was pointing out the size difference between the old and new versions of that app.

Wow is a pretty good way to sum up the 179% increase in the app’s size.

Software Update Woes
Great! Now I can use iMovie in Thai!

I wondered whether the update would be pushed through to all Macs, regardless of whether they supported the new Retina Display. My answer came this morning, when I ran Software Update. If I wanted to update the Mac OS apps on my iMac with the software announced at WWDC, I’d need to download almost 2 GB of updates — most of which would not benefit me in the least.

Really, Apple?

This is the best way you can come up with to roll out updates for new hardware features? You can’t create an “HD” version of your apps and let the folks with new machines upgrade to that version? You can’t have Software Update distinguish between computer models and roll out the updates specific to that model?


I’m on the road this summer. I get all my Internet access for my desktop Mac through a hotspot connection to my New iPad. It’s 3G here and I pay roughly $10 per gigabyte of data. That means these “free” updates — which will not benefit me at all — will cost me $20.


And if I don’t update, I won’t be able to take advantage of new features in those apps as they’re rolled out.

I’m fortunate that I can take my two laptops to a nearby coffee shop for updates. At least the $20 I’ll spend there will buy me lunch. Still, a portion of the limited disk space on my MacBook Air will be gobbled up with assets I don’t need.

Thanks, Apple. You might not have as many updates as Microsoft does for Windows, but yours certainly hurt more.

5 thoughts on “Retina Display Updates for Computers that Don’t Support Retina Displays?

  1. Let me offer a counter point. I am looking at this from not only the standpoint of a long time Mac user, I am also looking at this from the standpoint of a Mac OS X and iOS developer. I might add, I am also looking at this from the standpoint of a highly experienced Windows user, so I know how the primary competition handle similar issues. The way both App Stores are currently designed, if there was going to be an HD version as you proposed specifically for Retina display Macs, you would have to re-purchase iMovie because it would be a different App. Devs have the same issue to consider when we publish Apps to the iOS App Store. We can make any app just for iPhone/iPod Touch, or just for iPad, or we can create an App that is optimized for all 3 in one app. The advantages for the universal version to the user are: 1) One purchase for all models, 2) One app to worry about for things like updates. For advanced users like you and I, that second point is easy to discount. For the more common users, this is a fairly significant point. The down side for users if we make the app universal is that the file size for the app will be larger. The larger size is primarily because of things like images for the UI need to include the single res iPhone version for the older iPhone models, double res version for the Retina display iPhones, single res versions for the iPad 1, & iPad 2, and double res version for the new iPad. This all adds up. As a developer, I WAS (past tense) inclined to have a seperate iPhone and iPad versions of an app for the specific reason of keeping the app file size down for users. Once I actually got an iPad, and found out how much of a pain it can be to have to re-buy an iPad version of an app I had already purchased for my iPhone, and maintain both updates for my iPhone and aslo my iPad, I tend to lean towards making universal versions of apps. It greatly simplfies things for users, and Apple puts a high priority on simpifying things for users.

    The bottom line is that there are different needs, and desires across the user community. Any solution that Apple or a 3rd party developer choose will please some users, and upset others.

    As for me, it will be a few years before I get a retina display MBP. I am happy to know that for the price of a free download (even though it is a very large download), I get the new copy of the app that makes use of the new features. In the mean time, I will also get free new features that do benefit me. In fact, I have gotten several waves of new features across the iWork and iLife app families without being charged an additional cent. Each one of the apps (if purchased from the app store), have been ridiculously inexpensive. Additionally, Apple will be making the next major upgrade to Mac OS X for only $19.99. I have not seen what the price point for iOS 6 will be, but I bet it will be the usual $0. And… Apple lets me install all of my iOS and Mac OS X apps on multiple devices at no additional charge for each, and promotes that competitive advantage in their marketing.

    So… I can’t say that I side with you at all on this complaint.

    • So Apple deserves the blame for not meeting the needs of your particlar, fairly a-typical situation. I have been following your blog for a little while now. You have made some life style decisions that have had certain impact on various aspects of your life. There are some things you are doing that I think are very cool. I have been kicking around the idea of moving way out in the country to allow me to do a bunch of things that are difficult to do in an urban environment. The deal-breaker for me, given my line of work, is having to live with the kind of Internet connectivity you currently have. I am diligently watching the developement of technologies that would allow me to have my cake (live out away from the city), and eat it too (have fast unlimited bandwidth Internet access). But… If I choose to take that much of a performance hit on Internet access, are the companies offering services that require faster Internet access really to blame for my problem?

      I am not faulting the direction you have taken. In fact, in many cases, I am envious. But… I am faulting your logic of where blame lies in the problems you are facing now. There were reasons why Apple chose to roll all of the functionality into one app, and make it available as a free upgrade. The reasoning was motivated to provide what should be a welcomed offer to a larger segment of their customer base.

    • Lighten up, Don. You’re taking this way too personally and I’m not sure why.

      There’s no good reason why Apple couldn’t create a new HD version of the software and offer that as a free upgrade for iPhoto/iMovie/etc users with new Retina Display computers. Why penalize the rest of us by making us download software that won’t do us any good? It’s inconsiderate to a largely loyal user base.

      My MacBook Air, which is only about 18 months old, only has 120 GB of storage space — and will NEVER support those new features. Why should I have to bear the disk space burden of updates that will never benefit me on that machine?

      Let’s agree to disagree. But bashing me for my opinion won’t do you a damn bit of good here.

    • I do agree to disagree. I wasn’t taking it personally at all. I was just sharing a much less critical perspective, and trying to help you and your readers, understand the flip side to your position. That’s all. I’m done.

What do you think?