The two-year lifespan of an iPad

27 Aug 2013

How long should an iPad last? When you’re paying up to £740 for a tablet, how long can you expect the device to remain in active service?

Judging by my experience – and that of several of my Twitter followers – it's starting to look like the useful lifespan of an iPad is little more than a couple of years.

I bought my iPad 2 in August 2011, a few months after the device was launched. Only two years later, it’s already creaking. The operating system is continually juddering, apps regularly stutter and crash, and the Home button often fails (although I’ve found an odd, short-term workaround for the failing Home button).

The original iPad is about to be cut loose entirely

I’ve got the OS fully up to date, and a couple of gigabytes of free storage, so there’s no obvious reason why performance is suffering so badly. It appears we've simply reached the point where the software is outstripping the capabilities of the hardware.

It’s even worse for my correspondents who bought the original iPad, which launched in the spring of 2010, but was still on sale last year.

“My £700 iPad 1 is virtually unusable now,” wrote @KeithRadcliffe. “I won't buy another iPad, which is exactly what [Apple’s] Genius told me to do!”

“Was disgusted that my £700 investment in original iPad was toast after 18 months,” wrote another correspondent,” @MarkTechArc72. “Re-sale £200. Pathetic.”

“You should try my iPad 1,” chorused @db298 when I bleated about the sluggishness of my second-generation slab. “Between lag and crashes it's almost unusable... From warm restart, 13 secs to open App Store, 19 secs before Facebook App is responsive...  No idea how Apple manage such obsolescence.”

Indeed, the original iPad is about to be cut loose entirely: the device won't be supported by iOS 7, which will likely be released next month. Even the iPad 2 cannot support all the features of iOS 7, such as filters in the Photos app and Siri. (Correction: the original iPad was actually cut loose in 2012, with the launch of iOS 6. Thanks to @CraigGrannell for correcting me.)

I’m not arguing that Apple has misled anyone over the longevity of the iPad, nor that any of the first-generation Android tablets have fared any better. But is two years or so of active service really all people expect from a device costing that much? Certainly, if you’d bought a £700 Mac two years ago, you’d expect it to be ticking along merrily today.

iPads, it seems, are closer to smartphones in longevity than they are PCs. Hardware refresh cycles just started spinning a little faster.

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