On January 27, 2010, the late Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, presented a device to the world that looked a lot like a giant iPhone that didn’t make calls. A few months later, the first iPad was made available to the public, more or less kicking off a tablet revolution, the effects of which can still be felt today.
By now, every big name in tech has some me-too product resembling the iPad in its portfolio. Some of which are budget-friendly and accessible, while others are more experimental and eye-catching. Regardless, it’s impossible to deny the impact that decade-old Apple announcement had on the tech landscape.
To celebrate, we decided to put together a list of things you may or may not know about the Apple device that helped carve out a previously undefined space between phones and laptops. The iPad has had a fascinating first decade of existence and we thought it might be worth recapping it as we head into the 2020s.
If at first, you don’t succeed…
While the iPad was a big hit that launched a successful product line, it wasn’t Apple’s first attempt at a handheld, touch-based computer. That honor belongs to the Newton MessagePad which launched in 1993 at the exorbitant price of $900.
By today’s standards, it was more of a personal digital assistant, or PDA, than a tablet. But the MessagePad was a bold step for Apple, a stylus-based portable computer that used handwriting recognition software to translate what users wrote into on-screen text. The only problem is that it didn’t work very well. The MessagePad soon became the butt of jokes in popular cartoons like Doonesbury and The Simpsons because of its inability to accurately translate what you’d written into text.
Apple kept producing new MessagePad models until 1998. But, after that, it would be another 12 years before the company revisited the idea. You can read more about the life and death of this odd little device in Wired.
Second time’s the charm
The original iPad launched in the U.S. in April of 2010, but it was a far cry from the powerful tablets Apple sells now. It started at $499, had a measly 1,024 x 768 resolution, and only offered up to 64GB of internal storage. For comparison, a current-generation iPad Pro model can go up to a 2,732 x 2,048 resolution and allows for up to 1TB of storage.
Features like FaceTime, multitasking, 4K video capture, AirPlay, and plenty of others we take for granted in Apple devices now weren’t available at the iPad’s launch. In fact, its biggest claims to fame were arguably two-fold: It had the ability to use existing iPhone apps (albeit on a bigger screen) and the iBooks app, an Amazon Kindle rival.
Don’t get us wrong, the original iPad was still extremely cool at the time. But when you look at what the line can do now, the OG is rather quaint in comparison. It’s kind of like how the first of The Fast and The Furious movies was about stealing DVD players and, now, they’re basically superhero movies featuring cars.
The hilarious awkwardness of iPad photography
The ascension of the iPad as a popular consumer product also brought about the somewhat hilarious trend of iPad photography. Make no mistake, modern iPads have powerful cameras that can produce incredible photos and videos, much like their smaller brethren, the iPhones. But there’s still something a bit funny about seeing someone take a photo with a big tablet.
In fact, iPad photography is so humorously unsubtle that websites like this one have run pieces about how to do it in public without looking like a jerk or making people uncomfortable. Nowadays, it feels like the golden age of iPad photography (if ever there were one) has ended with how powerful iPhone cameras have gotten. But it’s a safe bet you probably have at least one memory of someone looking goofy in that regard.
Maybe we should bring back iPad mirror selfies in the new decade. It could be fun.
Not too cool for school
It makes a lot of sense that iPads were popular in schools in the early part of the last decade. They’re more portable than desktop computers and today’s kids are indisputably more adept at using touchscreens than they are at traditional mouse-and-keyboard setups. Apple tablets and laptops ate up a huge chunk of school device orders in 2013, but a New York Times report showed that, by 2017, they’d effectively been replaced by cheaper alternatives.
Apple has since released a more education-focused iPad model, but the point remains that the trend of iPads in schools rose and fell over the course of just a few years. Whether it was price, accessibility, or some other combination of factors, schools decided the grass was greener over where Google’s Chromebooks live.
Of course, iPads are not totally dead in the educational water. A 2018 feature from The Verge showed that plenty of educators still like what iPads have to offer, but the competition is definitely stiffer than it used to be.
Still king of the hill
The good news for Apple is that a decade after its debut, the iPad is still wildly successful. The ubiquitous tablet crossed the 400 million sales mark in 2018, and there’s no reason to believe that momentum will stop anytime soon.
To put it in a different way, Strategy Analytics found that more than 26 percent of all tablet shipments in the third quarter of 2019 were iPads. No other brand of tablet had higher than 13.9 percent. The combined power of all Android tablets dwarfed iPad shipments, but no individual product line was more popular than the one that arguably started it all.
After a decade, it’s obvious and inarguable that the iPad experiment worked out for Apple. It’s still the most recognizable tablet despite the number of competitors and there’s something to be said for that. We’ll just have to wait and see what the second decade of the iPad brings to the table.