Why Building Instagram for the iPad Is Tougher Than You Think

It's a lot of work

Key Takeaways

  • Developing an app, even if it’s a port, requires a lot of time and resources.
  • The app would need to change its layout, adjust for different screen sizes, and be optimized for additional hardware.
  • A project like this would also require an entire development team, which would likely mean pulling people away from other work.
An app developer working on project mockups in an office setting.

S Rawu Th Ni Rothr / EyeEm / Getty Images

Developing an official Instagram app for the iPad would indeed be a lot of work, even with an existing iPhone app and website to work from.

Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri recently stated that we don’t have an official iPad Instagram app because the company can’t devote the resources to it. This isn’t a hand-waving excuse, either—it turns out app development is quite complicated.

Even something as seemingly straightforward as a port would still require an awful lot of work. It’s way more complicated and involved than the average user might expect.

"There are more factors to consider in bringing the Instagram app over to the iPad," said Katherine Brown, founder of Spyic, in an email interview with LIfewire. "No company has unlimited resources, and it would be more than a simple matter of adjusting for the new screen dimensions."

The App

It’s easy to assume a port of something like Instagram from the iPhone to the iPad would be a simple matter. The app already exists on one Apple platform, so it shouldn’t be that tough to bring it over to another one, right? Well, no, not right.

Besides the iPhone and iPad being physically different, a lot of time and effort would need to be spent on making sure the experience is the same across both. This means ensuring photos are the right sizes, buttons line up properly, notifications work, and so much more.

A development team working on an app, diagraming functionality on a whiteboard.

Christina @ wocintechchat.com / Unsplash

Making sure the app displays correctly on a larger screen with slightly different dimensions is an involved task all on its own. "They would have to ensure that the user experience design looks good on both devices and go through the code modifying it for the new device," said Mark Varnas, chief technology officer of Red9, in an email interview.

"This may include changing layouts and design, updating the content for the new size, adding new features, and optimizing the app for the new screen size."

Development also would take time that could be spent working on other projects for the app and website that already exist and have almost 1 billion active users. And to keep all those users, Instagram needs to keep trying out new features and refining existing ones.

Pulling teams away from that work for several months could create more significant problems than not having an official iPad app.

The People

A project like this wouldn’t be handed off to a single developer—Instagram would need to devote an entire team to it. Multiple people would need to be available to test everything out, troubleshoot, and do all the other developmental minutiae we tend to take for granted. This would also likely reduce the effectiveness of established teams if someone is assigned to work on a new app.

A design team meeting about an app design.

Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

According to Brown, "A reasonable estimate for the size of the team needed depends on the time and scope of the software development process." So even if Instagram could shuffle people around, it wouldn’t necessarily know exactly how many it would need. And if it guessed wrong, that could make things even more challenging.

"While it is hard to estimate the time and team size, it may require a team of at least 4-5 people working on it simultaneously," said Varnas, "In order for porting to go smoothly, a developer needs to work with an experienced team of software engineers and designers. This team would be there for support in case any bugs, design flaws, or other issues arise during the porting process."

So it seems like, for now at least, we’ll have to keep making do without an official Instagram app designed specifically for the iPad. As Mosseri originally implied, a project like that would require a lot of time and resources that are best used elsewhere. It’s unfortunate, but at least it is possible to use the iPhone app on the iPad while we wait.

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