iPad sales break records in Q1; math suggests no retina for iPad 2

by Phil Hornshaw

Apple (AAPL) is reporting record-breaking earnings for the first fiscal quarter of the year, raking in more than $26 billion and moving 7.3 million iPads, 16.2 million iPhones, 4.1 million Macs and 19 million iPods.

In fact, there’s all kinds of big news surrounding Apple and its many mobile money making machines. You’ve likely heard that the App Store is currently approaching its 10 billionth download -- a number that’s staggering, and suggests the kind of money that is funneled through iOS devices, not just for downloading, but also through advertising.

The App Store pushing toward a new milestone has prompted Apple to take a look at its best-selling apps of all time. It’s an interesting list, especially from an iPad standpoint, since the new list features apps that are completely different from its 2010 best-selling list -- and the iPad has only existed since April 2010.

That suggests that either Apple counted its money wrong with the first go-round, or that huge influx of iPad owners over the Christmas season has had a significant effect on the app sales since then, pushing up apps that previously wouldn’t have made the Top 10.

For comparison, here’s the Top Paid iPad Apps for 2010 list:

1. Pages

2. GoodReader for iPad

3. Numbers

4. Angry Birds HD

5. Keynote

6. Glee Karaoke

7. WolframAlpha

8. Pinball HD

9. Friendly for Facebook

10. Star Walk for iPad

And here’s the new Top Paid iPad Apps of All Time list:

1. SoundHound

2. StickWars

3. FlightTrack

4. Backbreaker HD

5. Calorie Tracker

6. BlocksClassic

7. iFart Mobile

8. GoodReader for iPad

9. Cro-Mag Rally

10. Ambiance

If you really wanted to analyze the data from these two lists, you might draw the conclusion that lots of kids, or at least adults with low-brow senses of humor (iFart) and an interest in gaming, are now proud iPad owners.

Math makes an iPad retina display unlikely

An analysis over at DaringFireball.net is a bit of a bummer, saying that despite reports from Engadget and others, it’s highly unlikely iPad 2 is getting a retina display.

The reason: math.

The current iPad runs on a resolution of 1024x768, and to double that -- which is what happened when the iPhone went retina -- it would put the iPad at a resolution of 2048x1536. That’s kind of huge, the blogger argues, and would require a big hike in the iPad 2’s display dedicated RAM. Resolution like that will likely be costly for Apple, especially this early in the iPad’s life cycle as a product line.

And despite other sources saying there will be an increase in display resolution, blogger John Gruber doesn’t think so because it would require graphic designers working on all kinds of apps to scale their graphics by different increments in order to match the new display. Gruber is of the opinion that there will be a retina iPad, but the iPad 2 isn’t it -- and it’s unlikely Apple will want to make user interface graphics several times, at several resolutions. It’s not easy, and it’s unlikely the company will be asking that of its app designers, or of third-party designers, as well.

Gruber’s logic is pretty sound and compelling, if disappointing. Apple has been known to move slowly on altering the tech on its mobile devices: the iPhone and iPhone 3G, for example, were virtually the same except for 3G network support. The 3GS was a step forward in a lot of ways, and so was the iPhone 4, but the company likes to release new versions every year, so a massive leap forward in cost and technology is unlikely.

So it’s a rumor about a rumor, but it seems more likely for Apple to stick with 1024x768 than whip out an iPad 2 with a retina display. Try not to look too disappointed.