Are @1x images for “mobile” even a thing anymore?
I’m starting to believe that @1x for “mobile” screens might be a thing of the past. Using the handy screensiz.es, I’ll explain my thinking:
92.8% of all “mobile” screens are @1.5x or higher.
That’s a lowest common denominator of 480px (320px * 1.5).
The Galaxy S is 480px wide, @1.5x the size of a non-retina iPhone.
Only non-retina iPhones (3.2% of devices) would receive the wrong image size.
To me @1.5x (I dunno, 480px?) baseline for “mobile” images seems like a reasonable average. Unfortunately, tiny devices with expensive screens are at odds with their low bandwidth.
A New Friend
Phones and tablets are the present and the future. But what led to their dominance? Some might argue that it’s the price point. You can walk out of a store with an iPhone 4 for $0, and quality tablets have collapsed to $199. These cheap devices also do not require a sacrifice in user experience unlike Linux Netbooks.
Others may argue that convenience is a significant factor. The phone is always with you, ready for action. It works everywhere. However, price and convenience do not justify the universal addiction and acceptance of our phones and tablets.
Ultimately, I would argue that the number one reason for their success is these are the first usable computers. Yes, the first truly friendly user interfaces.
But wait! I know what you’re yelling right now. “I’ve been using Macs since OS 7.5.5! That was usable.” No, it wasn’t. It was complicated. It IS complicated. Windows 8, once you skip around the Metro app, is still chugging along with the old metaphors. Same with OS 10.8. Files, folders, saving, mouse, keyboard, settings, etc. Think about how many metaphors and devices are required to interact with modern computers.
We have been liberated. It’s difficult to credit Steve Jobs with the first liberation: the GUI. The mobile liberation? Definitely Jobs. A grid of icons. Tap to open. Tap the big button to return. The user can’t get lost; one can either be inside an app, or home. Cryptic errors are gone. Files are gone. Saving is gone. Configuration is gone. The metaphors from the 1970s and 1980s have been pushed to a secret layer that we know and trust.
Industry giants are no longer relied upon to create the perfect interface. Design and development are decentralized. Remember the old days? Walk into a store to purchase software. Go home and rip the shrink wrap apart. Install once and, sadly, never update.
Now? Any developer can launch the next hit, and people are one tap away from installation. No discs; no errors; no compatability issues. This means our devices can instantly evolve with new apps and interfaces. In addition to simplicity, our devices provide us with an element of suspense. Who knows when the next Instagram is going to launch to create an entirely new way to interact with my friends. One can certainly argue that the same logic applies to the Windows and Mac App Stores, but I believe we are still waiting for a hit app that transforms the desktop experience.
Meanwhile, the desktop is slowly becoming a workday-only metaphor. It’s clunky and cumbersome next to its mobile counterparts. Each year more tasks will be capable through touch. I dream of the day I can walk into work, sit down at my desk, and dock my iPhone to start my day. A large display fires up, shows me a familiar state, and I get to work. Sure an input device may be required to complete complex tasks like design work or data entry, but when it’s time to leave the office, all of that complexity stays behind. The usability of our phones and tablets has already triumphed in our personal lives. It’s only a matter of time before usability triumphs in the office.
Originally posted on Medium