It seemed like yesterday that Uncle Jim bought himself a brand new iPad; the newest one in the lineup, gushed about in all the big tech journals. Now, when you go visit him, it’s a digital photo frame on his table: gone obsolete in the intervening time. It’s a nifty photo frame, but this happened fast! You’re buying a brand new iPad 10.2 with a 10.2 inch iPad case tomorrow, and you wonder, how long will it be till my iPad is obsolete?
There’s no definite date you can pinpoint in advance, but here’s the general rule: Apple makes iPads obsolete at some point between 5-7 years after they first come out. If you buy an iPad that came out this year, you’ve got a guaranteed 5 years of full use. After that, Apple may stop supporting your iPad, which means you may not be able to update the operating system. After you’ve not been able to update the operating system for a while, you’ll find that some apps no longer work on your device. Eventually, more and more of your favorite iPad functions could become problematic. If you take good care of it (think: keep it in a 10.2 iPad case and don’t abuse the battery!) your iPad will always continue to be a great music player, audiobook reader, and picture frame though!
Though we can’t tell what will happen in the future, we can look at what happened in the past. Knowing how long it took older models of the iPad to go obsolete can give us valuable information on the habits of Apple HQ. It’s not hard to extrapolate to your iPad today.
The first iPad came out in April of 2010. This may have been the shortest-lived iPad; in June of 2012 it was announced that the up-and-coming iOS 6 would not be available for the device. iOS 5.1.1 (May 2012) was the last compatible operating system, and 1st generation iPad users were decidedly miffed. Their outspoken discontent didn’t make Apple change its mind, but maybe it pushed Apple into supporting future models for longer.
The second iPad came out in March 2011 and it could be updated all the way through iOS 9 in 2015. On June 13, 2016, support was officially dropped. That gave the iPad 2 a five year three month period of relevance; far better than the original model.
iPad 3 was released in March 2012 and shipped with iOS 5.1; and was updatable through the same iOS 9 (2015) as the second iPad. In 2019, though, Apple released a special update for the WiFi + Cell model of the iPad 3 to fix a bug.
The iPad Air was released in November in 2013, and was supported up to 2019. Apple did put out a security update in August 2022, so it hasn’t quite forgotten the nine-year-old device.
What about the iPad Pro line? While, the first iPad Pro came out in November 2015. It was discontinued in June 2017, but continues to be supported with iOS updates through 2022. That’s a pretty long life span, justified by its better starting specs— and hints that maybe starting with a more expensive iPad is one way toward a longer useful lifetime.
What can you do with an obsolete iPad? We’ve touched upon three uses: turning it into an ebook reader, a music player, or just a digital photo frame.
Using it as an ebook easy is easy: just upload your books and enjoy the native Apple Books app (or Amazon’s Kindle app, if you prefer that experience). The Google Books app is another alternative. Download books from the internet, or transfer them from your MacBook when your iPad is connected with a charge cable.
Turning it into a music player is just as intuitive: load it up with songs, then use the built-in Music app to play, shuffle, or repeat as desired. You can also make it your music-streaming hub and play your music on any modern speaker system using Bluetooth and Airplay.
What about turning it into a digital photo frame? There are a few settings you’ll want to toggle, but again this will only take five minutes to set up. Start by turning on Do Not Disturb in your settings; this lets your iPad know you don’t want to see notifications on the screen. Now, go to Display & Brightness, and look at your Auto-Lock setting. You want it to be at Never, so the iPad screen never goes to sleep.
There’s just one more thing to do in settings: turn on Guided Access in Accessibility. Guided Access is a handy option that allows you to turn your iPad into a one-app machine. Right under the on/off in settings will be directions that tell you how to toggle it on within an app.
Now, go to Photos, toggle on your Guided Access, and start a slideshow. It’ll go on ad infinity, and you’ll be able to enjoy all the pictures you’ve got stored on your iPad or on the Cloud. Your iPad case 10.2 can function as a a handy stand for your brand new digital photo frame, and your memories will be well protected!
If you buy a new iPad— and especially an iPad Pro— it’ll be a long time till your device goes obsolete. Even if it does, you’ll be able to get plenty of use from your outdated tablet. Protect the lifespan of your tablet by buying a 10.2 inch iPad case (or whatever size is appropriate), and enjoy it to the full!