App developers love to get picked for the Featured section in Apple’s App Store. Getting a spot can turn a struggling app into a sensation, but it all depends on how Apple picks those apps, and, like many things Apple, that’s a mystery.
However, when Apple announced the new iPad, what was once an opaque process suddenly became much clearer. Upon the release of the product, Apple would surely be looking to feature apps that showcase the tablet’s retina display. If an app could upgrade to retina quickly, it had a much better shot of getting picked.
That’s exactly what happened to Oyster. As soon as Apple unveiled the new iPad, a week and a half before its launch date, the company went to work on upgrading its app for retina resolutions. Oyster, a guide of about 3,000 popular hotels worldwide, includes several photos of each one. It was a relatively straightforward — if lengthy — task to upgrade all those photos to retina resolution.
“I think Apple’s looking for apps that showcase the retina display and i know ours definitely does,” says Oyster CEO Elie Seidman. “So we hustled to get all those images retina. [Apple] promoted it to the featured section of the app store, and it’s been there ever since.”
Oyster began updating its photos to retina resolution soon after the announcement and submitted the upgraded app to Apple on the iPad’s launch day (the company needed to get one of the new iPads in order to test the app). Apple approved it within two hours — virtually instantaneous, as approvals go.
Almost as soon as it was greenlit, Apple put it in the Featured section in the App Store. The effect was tremendous. Oyster says its downloads went from 100 downloads a day to more than 1,000 — some days as high as 2,000.
Besides its ability to hustle, Oyster had a couple of other things going for it. First, the app is very visual — much of the experience is dependent on those big photos. Second, it had planned well: When it first started photographing hotels back in 2009, it decided to shoot everything in RAW format with full-frame DSLRs. With such high-res pics, it had the material to easily upgrade to retina.
“What’s unique about Oyster is that it’s a very visual experience,” says Seidman. “The retina display makes a big difference. Even if the ipad increased its resolution by 4x from today, we’d still have enough resolution to take advantage of it.”
Of course, there are many more retina-ready iPad apps now, so it’s harder for developers to stand out. But there’s no doubt that when Apple picks apps to feature, it’s going to heavily favor anything that makes its new tablet looks good.
What retina apps are your favorites? Give them a shout-out in the comments.
BONUS: The Best Retina-Ready iPad Apps
The New York Times
Looking at the updated New York Times app (free for 10 articles/month) on a new iPad beside the old app on an old iPad, and you can really see the difference. Text -- headlines, body text and captions -- is visibly sharper, and photos really pop. The Times app, which has a top-notch photo viewer and plenty of multimedia content, serves as the textbook example of what retina can do for a news reader.
Alternative:The Daily (free, $39.99 annual subscription)