The iPad officially turned 10 years old yesterday! Hurray! A full decade has now passed and so much has changed with the hardware and software of the iPad and how I use them. It’s natural to look back after a milestone, so now is a good time to do just that. (You can see my previous strolls down memory lane here and here.)
I was extremely happy over my first two years with the iPad and found myself extremely impressed with how flexible the first two generations of hardware were. I also felt that the larger screen set aspects of iOS free more than the much smaller iPhones of the time could.
I discovered the keyboard case and the iPad 2 quickly became my device of choice for writing. Because of this, I actually ended up reviewing as many keyboard cases as I could get my hands on at a previous site. I also embraced gaming on the larger screen of the iPad and found out just how good of a classic gaming machine a jailbroken Apple tablet could be. I did most of my reading on the device and it basically became my de facto home computer by mid 2011.
However, things started to change with the third gen iPad. While it was supposed to be an iPad 2 with a Retina Display added, it wasn’t quite that simple. It was a little bigger and heavier. The battery life wasn’t as good, especially if you were doing something that taxed the display. It ran hot. Noticeably and uncomfortably hot. While the iPad 3 wasn’t a bad device, there were more tradeoffs than either of the first two generations had. Let’s face it. There’s a reason that Apple released the fourth gen iPad only a few months later to improve the processor and overheating issues.
I kept my iPad 3 until Fall and I still used it a good bit. However, I didn’t use it as much as the iPad 2 because of the overheating and lesser battery life and my usage fell off more and more over time. Apple just sacrificed a little too much to get that Retina Display out the door a few months earlier. However, the tablet market was still a legitimate battle back then, so I’m sure that played a large role in that decision.
Things really changed later in 2012, as Apple finally responded to the influx of smaller, less expensive tablets with the iPad Mini. I initially scoffed at the price, but after putting my hands on the hardware, I decided to give it a shot. I sold my iPad 3 and accessories and was able to buy a Mini with plenty to spare a few days before Thanksgiving.
Initially, I LOVED the portability of the Mini. It was so easy to carry around. I no longer needed the extra bag that I had carried my previous iPads and their accessories in. It was perfect for reading. It was small enough that playing games was a little easier than on the larger, heavier iPads. My wife ended up loving mine so much that we got her one for Christmas. Other than the fact that the display was a step down from the Retina, the Mini seemed like a home run.
In fact, it was for many people. The design was very popular and drove the continuing growth of the iPad, overall. However, I figured out over time that it was not the device for me. That started when I reviewed a few keyboard cases and covers for the device. They were all too small and too cramped and did not work well at all, especially for someone with big fingers, like myself. It was simply more difficult and less convenient to use the iPad Mini to write so my iPad usage dropped even further.
When the iPad Air was announced the following year, I knew I had to go back to the bigger size. It just made sense. I would get the Air and a keyboard case and go right back to using the iPad the same way I had two years before. It would be that faster, less cluttered device next to my laptop that I could use to be more productive. However, things had changed over those two years since I had the iPad 2 that affected how I would use one, and they would continue to change.
First came the iPhone 5 in the Fall of 2012. The modest growth of the screen to 4″ didn’t seem like much at the time, but as I grew more detached from the iPad Mini, I found myself just sticking to the iPhone more and more for reading and surfing. In some cases, it was just easier to use one device rather than switch between them.
The bigger change for me when I got my first Windows ultrabook in early 2013. It was a first gen Lenovo Yoga. It was also my first touchscreen laptop and my first with a Solid State Drive. It was a thin, light convertible with a great keyboard, a good screen and decent battery life. It was such a good machine that it can still boot up in 10 seconds today, seven years later.
Right off the bat, I’ll say that the touchscreen did absolutely nothing for me. I wanted it to be a big deal and help me at work, but it just isn’t that big of an add on a Windows machine. The real difference was that I went from an aging Dell that had some horsepower, but still took around 4 minutes to fully boot up and get going, to a machine that could be usable in around 10 seconds thanks to that SSD. That was a game-changer for me at work. Add that to the portability of the machine and it was a huge change for the better.
Because of its speed and size, the Yoga encroached on more of that territory that the iPad had once occupied. I didn’t need an iPad for work tasks anymore because my laptop was now fast enough to do them all on one machine. I still bought the Air in the Fall of 2013 and I did really like it. It was thin and light and had the great screen without the sacrifices of the iPad 3. However, I just didn’t have any great need for a traditional tablet anymore. I did go back to doing a lot of writing with it. but that and basic home use were really about it.
I ended up selling my iPad Air before the Air 2 came out. However, when the Air 2 was announced, I did something I hadn’t before. I just didn’t buy it. The iPhone 6 Plus had come out a month earlier and I decided that its larger screen was enough for me at the time. The room I had for a third device between the phone and the laptop was just gone because the phone and the laptop had changed so much between 2011 and 2014, crushing that space between them from both sides. I went from a hardcore iPad fan to pretty apathetic in just three years.
When people talk about the iPad and its place today, I always think back to the time that I walked away from using the device. When I read opinions about how the iPad is somehow a failure because it continues to evolve from its previous design, I remember how limited it seemed before that evolution truly began with the first iPad Pro. When I hear people say they would like to see the iPad return to what it was, I think about how short-sighted that seems to me.
There is a reason that I stopped using the iPad for the better part of two years. I certainly wasn’t alone either, as iPad sales plummeted around the same time and for many of the same reasons. There is a very clear reason that I came back as well, and that is the road that Apple is now on. They decided to value the power user again and make hardware for us. They have listened and have delivered more capability and flexibility than I would have ever believed possible six years ago. I came back and I’ve stayed because the iPad ecosystem has a direction and a forward momentum that it lacked years ago.
When I look back over a decade with the iPad, I think of a few personal milestones with the device. I remember when I got the original iPad and how eye-opening that was, how much my use and love of the platform exploded with the iPad 2, and what you have read above. I remember walking away and, as sales across the platform continued to fall, thinking that it would likely end up like the iPod- a once popular device that was no longer needed and would eventually fade away. I am so glad that I was wrong.
Here’s to continued growth and new features across a second decade for the iPad!