Feature bloat vs. graphics bloat

Apple’s release of the new 15" Retina MacBook Pro by many has been called a thing of beauty. I have yet to see one and I am sure it will make my eyes envious. I am sure Mac application developers will be working quite hard in the coming days and weeks to improve the images in their applications to take advantage of the absurd [1] amount pixels.

This got me thinking about size in general of overall applications.

When the Retina iPhone was released developers were quickly forced to update their applications to this new format to make them look decent. The apps did grow in size purely from the digital assets alone but it seemed insignificant overall. The same thing was true of the new iPad (3rd generation). This caused for much larger applications to the point that some who were comfortably running on a 16 gig models ran out of space. I think this was compounded with the release of the new textbooks that were created in iBooks Author. Another example was in newstand and other magazine applications. Previous magazine downloads were approximately 200–300 megabyte range. After receiving retina graphics treatments some grew to a gigabyte or more.

The same will be true of the applications for the MacBook Pro. I suspect size will not be quiet the issue but it is telling the direction we are going. Applications are growing much larger to provide a better reading experience and take advantage of these amazing displays without functionality changing that much.

I was thinking about this because I remember watching versions of popular applications like Microsoft Word, grow and grow in size. In this case it was not because they were making them beautiful, easier to read on screen or better for the user but because they were attempting to throw everything including the kitchen sink into these applications. In my opinion this resulted in a lot of bloated applications. But, in this instance it was all code based - functionality. After using Word for years (before switching to Byword exclusively), there are still a zillion things I do not know how to do with the application. You learn what you need to know and all the rest becomes noise. Somewhere down the line you may need to look up another function and learn how to use it for a particular document but that “new” thing usually does not become part of your application vocabulary.

The choice is clear for me. If my applications are getting larger make them better looking. Make them more useable. Take advantage of the technology. Do one thing well. Don’t grow your application by adding feature after feature into it. If it has to grow make it be as beautiful on screen as it can be so that I enjoy working in it even longer.


  1. I mean absurdly amazing !  ↩