Three and out: Why I'm finally saying goodbye to my first-gen iPad

Three and out: Why I'm finally saying goodbye to my first-gen iPad

Summary: How is the active life of a piece of computer hardware? Three years, four or five? Well if my beloved first-generation iPad is anything to go by, three years may be all you get.

TOPICS: iPad, Apple

I loved my iPad. It was love at first sight, more or less. It appeared to be the perfect device for me and so it has proved to be; my iPad and I have been inseparable.

But now it appears that my love affair with the iPad is ending and not because I am tired of it. No, after three short, bliss-filled years our love is coming to an end because my first-generation iPad is no longer up to the job.

It's hardly breaking news that the oldest iPad model is no longer the centre of Apple's world, of course. In June 2012 Apple announced the launch of iOS 6. And as part of the announcement, it noted that iOS 6 would be available for all iPads — except the first-generation model.

Thus, because my iPad runs on iOS 5.1.1, it can go further. Now this is increasingly a  problem for me and I am not alone; according to Apple, 71 percent of people who have bought iPads are now on iOS 7, the latest version of the operating system. No doubt a fair few of the rest are those of us languishing back at 5.1.1.

How long is the average life of a gadget?

From a certain point of view I really should not complain too much about this. According to a report by analyst Gartner last year, Market Trends in consumer device replacement, we expect iPads, along with other tablets and phones, to have pretty short lifespans.

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When asked how often they would expect to replace their tablet computer, half of those surveyed said they expected to replace it within two years. They said the same about their mobile phones — replace within two years — but interestingly they expected other electronic devices such as printers, desktops and laptops to last much longer. Only around 20 percent believed that they would replace those devices within two years.

This still meant that around half of those surveyed expected their devices to last three years or more. So three years or more for laptops, desktops and so forth seems the expectation but two years or less for iPads and other tablets is their norm.

And yet, if I want to get back to the state of the art I'll need to splash out £579 for the equivalent iPad Air model. I can send in the iPad I have currently and they will recycle it and send me £70, although I could find a better deal elsewhere; these tablets still manage to hold some value and are available on eBay for between £50 and £150.

Now Apple has updated the iPad since I bought mine three years ago. My first-gen iPad doesn't have a camera (although I do — from basic snappers to sophisticated SLRs). So no, I don't need a camera, or a video camera. I don't especially need Siri either. I could get an iPad with greater capacity, but the 32GB in my iPad has comfortably covered all my requirements.

So what else would a new iPad offer me? It would be smaller, lighter and more powerful than my Mark 1, with a better display. Does that sound like it would be worth £579 to you? I am still thinking about it.

What will I miss if I don't upgrade?

The bigger problem is what I will miss out on when it comes to apps, one of the main reasons why my iPad is on its way out. On my iPhone my subscription to The Guardian comes with a cool new interface. Sadly it will not run on my iPad, which is stuck on the older version so I cannot solve the The Guardian crossword. Similarly, I cannot pick up new music stations that need a higher version of Apple's iOS.

Games are an issue too and now are not getting updated. I know that this is happening but once again I only know through omission; it used to be that I would get half a dozen app updates for my iPad every week, but over the past months this has slowed to a trickle, so now I no longer know what I am not getting!

I can understand what is happening. Over time, what for now is a pretty minor irritation will eventually cause me to bite the bullet and get a new iPad.  

For me there's another conflict, between the human desire to make a buck and the other desire to save the planet — or at least to safeguard its precious resources. Like most people, I try to go easy on resource, to look after my stuff, to make it last. I am careful about recycling as much as possible.

Last year I replaced my main computer. I had the guts completely replaced by a friend who can do this stuff, and the new stuff went into the old case. The computer I was replacing was six years old.

My other computer stuff — various PCs, tablets and so on — is of similar vintage and here is the irony. The only new stuff I have is Apple. My PCs have lasted five years or longer. My first gen iPad is three years old and is on borrowed time.

What am I going to do?

Do I ditch the old iPad and buy a new one or hang on to it? The answer, it appears, is I should do both: buy a new one and hold on to my old one.

The reasoning behind this is simple enough. I still get a lot of functionality out of my iPad — I use it every day — so I should get a new one to keep myself up to date. The old one can then become the spare that friends can use when they come and visit.

They need to check some emails? No problem. We need to look up the name of that film we have all forgotten the star of? Likewise.

Now that is a good idea, don't you think? Isn't it wonderful how it only took me some 1,000 words to talk myself into giving Apple a few more hundred pounds. Damn, and I was so geared up to being cross with them.

More on the iPad

Topics: iPad, Apple


Colin Barker is based in London and is Senior Reporter for ZDNet. He has been writing about the IT business for some 30-plus years. He still enjoys it.

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  • Apple

    Apple has done a great job in telling people that their two to three year old equipment cannot run the newest OS. If Microsoft did that people would cry bloody murder. Personally I am confused why a tablet cannot run the latest OS like a computer can (within reason).
    • I think you didn't get the memo

      Microsoft can and have done this. There's always been a minimum requirements creep for the "latest version." Also, Microsoft aren't alone in this, it's a disease present in every purveyor of shiny tech. That and if you try and run the newest shiniest code on older tech, it should be no surprise that it doesn't run as well, as fast, or even at all.
      • The last 3 versions

        have needed less specs than Vista, so no, that isn't true - and is one of the problems with poor PC sales, people don't need to replace their old PCs, because Windows has gotten faster on lower spec machines.
        • MS uses a different strategy

          Windows is designed to get unstable and slow down over time...........This is often what drives ignorant users to upgrade because their old computer is "worn out"....... when in fact all they need to do is back everything up, Fdisk, and reinstall Windows to make it like new. MS has made this increasingly difficult by making it difficult to locate and back up things like bookmarks and email messages, etc, without special utilities that do not come with Windows. They also encourage peripheral manufacturers to incorporate new "features" only available in the newer versions of Windows, and software programmers to limit backward compatibility. Each version is more bloated, making it less likely to operate on an older system. MS conspires in many ways to drive the upgrade cycle.
          • What?

            Your message reads like the Luddite manifesto. Perhaps we shouldn't ever have new features, or new hardware, or better connectors, or smarter devices? Would you be happy, or would you then complain that the market had stagnated?
          • Not to mention

            That windows vista actually had lower minimum requirements than 7.

            Additional requirements have also been added, for example windows 8 machins must wake from sleep within 2 seconds to be certified.

            Tech moves on, coding moves on...

            This seems like a silly debate? Whats really happened is hardware on the pc/laptop platforms have out stripped what we do with them - a 2007 core 2 duo desktop chip will do everything the average family user is likely to do on a day to day basis.

            As for the ipad, it was a generation ine product; it defined a new era of tablets, but that field evolved fast. Internally it was akin to an iphone 3gs, the exponential growth in mobile tech development left it behind at ios 5, whilst the 3gs with a smaller screen to power limped into 6.

            This is not uncommon. Ms dropped windows phone 7 as soon as 8 came out, google provides 18 months of os updates on average to their bexus line, many oems manage far less. In the mobile market this far, apple have actually supported the longest with os updates. What the future holds we don't know, i would forsee us soon reaching a point where again the mobile tech
            Components performance again outstrips our base usage and mobile device support from os developers is prolonged.
          • less of a conspiracy than just bad design

            I agree that Windows performance degrades but it's more due to poor design than to some planned thing. I just expect to reinstall every 6 to 12 months and having that attitude means I'm pretty good with keeping back up stuff on hand.
            John in Brisbane
        • Windows on old hardware

          Very true. I have run XP, Vista, W7, W8 and W8.1 on aT61 with 2 gb Ram. The latter 3 work just fine. (vista is a dog).
      • You're the one that missed the memo

        Microsoft has redefined requirements for next gen OS: New OS requires less hardware than previous OS. They did this with both 7 and 8. Seriously, 8 runs faster on less hardware than XP did on the same hardware.
        • Faster

          Yes, but who wants to relearn everything they had learned over 20 years using Windows? It has prevented me from considering purchase of a new computer, but rather, repairing my old ones. If MS will change Win8 so that I never have to see their 'modern' interface, or dealing with its integration of things that I don't want integrated, then I might buy a PC to replace this one, next time it breaks down.
          • Just

            Make your next purchase a Win 7 machine. $400 will get you a decent replacement.
          • Relearn?

            Really? Using windows 8 for you means relearning Windows all over again(20 years).To me it sounds like you just hate windows 8 or your lying...
      • Your up to your ears in idiocy ego.sum.stig.

        "Microsoft can and have done this"

        Ya, sure they have. What a misleading thing to say. Pretty darn close to being an outright lie, but I'll give you credit for parsing your words enough that you avoided that.

        Lets look at whats been said up to here that drew out that stupid laughable comment by you.

        1. The first iPad was released on April 3, 2010

        2. as the writer points out "In June 2012 Apple announced the launch of iOS 6. And as part of the announcement, it noted that iOS 6 would be available for all iPads — except the first-generation model"

        Simple math- time span between first iPad and a new OS that COULDNT BE MADE TO RUN ON IT= 2 years 2 months.

        3. schultzycom says " If Microsoft did that people would cry bloody murder. Personally I am confused why a tablet cannot run the latest OS like a computer can (within reason)."

        Clearly the implication is that 2 years and 2 months is not within reason in schultzycom's mind. I suggest many would agree.

        Its purely ludicrous to imply that MS has ever, EVER brought out an OS that could not operate well on reasonable two year old hardware. Never mind simply not being able to operate on such hardware at all. Biggest difference in OS hardware requirements seems to be between XP and Vista. Now lets be clear here, while Vista had some issues on lower end hardware it ran perfectly fine on some decent midrange hardware and higher end hardware and the time difference between the two OS's was about 4 years. I know this as I seen Vista upgraded on a number of 3 and 4 year old midrange PC's that could still perform well.

        And the whole argument is moot as decent PC's can often be upgraded in some part of their hardware without having to start over from scratch with all new hardware.

        And, the whole stupid comment about MS already doing this in the past, deals not at all with schultzycom's point hat if indeed MS ever had actually had done such a thing they would be absolutely crapped on, particularly so by MS haters who would hold it out as irrefutable proof that MS was purposely exploiting the situation to drive more new PC sales. MS took plenty of crap over Vista where after 4 years there was low end hardware that struggled with the OS.

        The anti MS rhetoric gets just a little sickening and very stupid after awhile. We all know that MS is a long way from perfect, as all these companies clearly are all a long way from perfect. One would just assume there was plenty enough genuine negative ammunition to let people to rely on instead of conjuring up nonsense to make every issue that arises to be a MS problem even when we all know fully well its not at all the truth.
    • I am inclined to agree

      I have an iPad Air and I used to have a first generation iPad and I loved both of them. I have owned many tablets in between both Windows and Android and the iPad is the only one that I find myself carrying and using all of the time. Frankly I know that Android and Windows tablets are capable of much much more functionality but I have always found that they try to do too much at the expense of the core functions I want like web browsing and reading.

      That said, no one ever complains about fragmentation in the Apple ecosystem like they do with Android even though my old Android phone running a version of Android that is 2 years old can run 99% of the same apps as my brand new Android phone. It is even worse with MacBooks. My 5 year old macbook which is running Lion cannot run most of the apps in the mac app store, even the core Apple apps.
      • I recycled my iPad 1.

        And replaced it with a Dell Venue 8 Pro. The iPad 1 became less and less functional over time, couldn't run as many apps, and the apps it did run were crashing more frequently, particularly Safari. It was of little value by the end, so I traded it in at Walmart and got the Way Cool Dell Venue 8 pro which I expect will have a much longer lifespan that the iPad 1 did.

        No, I don't miss the iPad. The DVP 8 plays flash videos, prints to almost any printer, runs circles around the iPad, supports Miracast and DLNA out of the box, has a real digitizer and optional Digitizer Stylus, has a USB 3.0 port, Has 64 GB of storage built in and an SD Card slot allowing it to expand another 64GB, runs a million more apps than my iPad ever could, can play videos directly across my network share, and more.

        No, I don't miss my iPad.
        • And thats the issue.

          I said this when the iPad first came out. It just cost way way too much for what would likely amount to a short lifespan for a limited product that runs hobbled software, cannot play a DVD and/or do many of the most common things a $500 laptop could.

          I get the attraction, but I do not get the broad attraction at the horrific price for what you are genuinely getting. Its a toy for the well off.

          I know this as an ABSOLUTE FACT. I know people without lots of money who bought one. I know them, Ive seen them with their iPads and I see them with their iPads less and less because the majority of the world, the vast majority that bought one of the multi millions of these things that sold didn't really know what they were getting. I know actual living people who didn't know squat about IT and they really thought they were getting a full blown Windows style computer in this little tablet back when they got their first iPad.

          I also know two, count them, TWO Mac book users who thought they were going to get OSX or some very close version of it on their iPad. One honestly returned it the next day when he figured it out.

          These iPads cost a fortune for what they do. Its an enormous price to play for mobility on such a wickedly hobbled device. And their life span is rudely short for the cost.
    • OS X Mavericks

      Will run on any Mac made in the last five years. The situation with tablets is very similar to the early days of the PC. There was so much growth in hardware capabilities that obsolescence was rapid.
    • Too little memory

      The 1st Gen iPad has way too little memory to run the current iOS. 256MB if I recall. All the later ones have more. I sold mine to Target for $200 when they had a special deal back in November.

      I just traded out my iPhone 4 for a 5s. It would run the latest iOS but it was getting very slow. And some apps would crash a lot as they ran out of memory.

      I expect my iPad Mini Retina and iPhone 5s to last 3 years or more. Lots of ram and a very fast CPU compared to older models.

      There's nothing new about this. And it isn't just Apple. Look at other vendors tablets and smart phones and see how they stack up in terms of updates to current versions.
    • Yeah, my iPad 1 is coming up on 4 years old in April

      And it still runs very well from a hardware perspective. I still get over 8 hours per charge on the battery and the screen and body are like new though I use it at least 2 hours everyday. But at iOS 5.1.1 I'm no longer getting any updates and that makes for an insecure and less compatible platform as time marches on. BTW, when I spend $500+ for a device I damn well want it to last much longer than 2 years!
      • Yeah...funny dat

        My iPad of similar vintage does everything exactly the same as when new and still holds 8hours + battery life after continuous use by family for up to 12 hours a day. It owes me nothing. Not many consumer products come anywhere near that.