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Tuesday, March 06, 2012, 02:03 pm PT (05:03 pm ET)

Apple updates iPad App Store with faster UI ahead of iPad 3 launch

Apple's revamped user interface of the iPad "Top Charts" section on its iOS App Store could possibly be in preparation of a third generation tablet expected to be announced on Wednesday.

The iPad App Store facelift saw minor tweaks in how top selling apps are displayed and a new horizontal scrolling UI, among other small updates.

The changes could be a prelude to the much rumored debut of Apple's next-generation iPad that scheduled to take place tomorrow at a special event in San Francisco.

While the majority of changes are superficial, the new top-selling paid and free app layout allows for greatly reduced load times. Instead of displaying the top 25 apps for each category, the new store only lists six apps at a time, which could explain why the "display more" option is so quick.

The move could be related to the resolution of the next-generation iPad's display, which is rumored to be twice that of Apple's current tablet lineup. If image assets within the App Store are not scaled, a doubling in pixel density would result in a perceived decrease in icon size. The change in size wouldn't be a problem with a Retina Display-equipped product like the iPhone 4S, however visibility issues could occur when using a device like an iPad that is normally held farther away from the face.

A developer recently weighed in on how scaling would affect image quality in a Retina Display iPad. "Food Run" app maker Kevin Ng noted that upscaling his game to the resolution expected from the upcoming iPad's screen would result in favorable image quality due to vector-based graphics, though icons would have to be be submitted separately.

Currently, developers are required to submit 512x512 pixel icons with their apps, and the new interface will most likely take advantage of the resolution bump if and when a Retina Display iPad is released.

iPad App Store


In early February, Apple sent out a note to third-party developers asking for screenshot upgrades that would better support the Retina Displays in the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and iPod touch. The app makers were informed that any future updates of their software would not be approved unless a 960x640 pixel screenshot was submitted.

Apple's newest tablet is widely thought to include a 9.7-inch 2,048x1,536 pixel display with a perceived resolution nearing that of the company's 3.5-inch 960x640 pixel Retina Display.