The evolution of the ipad
The iPad wasn’t Apple’s first foray into tablet computing. Back in 1993, the company launched the Newton MessagePad.
Around 300,000 iPads were sold on the first day it was available.
Apple has released 20 versions of its flagship tablet since its premiere in 2010. Here’s how it has transformed and evolved. The original iPad came out in April of 2010, and featured Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + 3G editions. This first-generation iPad functioned almost the same way as the iPod Touch did at the time.
So how has the device that made tablets a thing changed since it was first announced a decade ago? We look back at the history of the iPad.
Apple iPad (2010)
Announced in January 2010, the original iPad offered an aluminium build with square edges – much like what we see on the current iPad Pro, though the new models are much slimmer. It came with an 9.7-inch display, measured around 13mm thick and weighed around 680g.
The 2010 model featured a 1GHz Apple A4 processor and it came in 16GB, 32GB or 64GB storage capacities, whilst also promising a 10-hour battery life. Pricing started at $499 and there were accessories including a keyboard docking station, as well as a standard docking station to turn the iPad into a “great photo frame”.
Apple iPad 2 (2011)
The second generation of iPad was unveiled a year after the first, offering a 33 per cent slimmer body – now 8.8mm – and reducing the weight by around 50g to put it it under the 600g mark. It also had a new dual-core A5 chip, which was said to perform at twice the speed of the original, with 9x faster graphics, and a repositioned speaker.
The biggest difference with the iPad 2 compared to the original model though: cameras. It had a front camera and a back camera, allowing for FaceTime and video calling. While that’s pretty standard now, it was big news at the time.
Apple iPad 3 (2012)
The third-generation iPad arrived in 2012 but while the design remained largely the same as its predecessor, the screen technology vastly improved. Apple called it a “Retina display” – a phrase it continues to use now – and it offered 4x the pixels of the iPad 2, as well as greater colour saturation.
A new A5X chip was also introduced for the third-generation iPad, which saw the graphics processor upgraded to quad-core, and the resolution of the camera also improved – moving up from 1-megapixel to 5-megapixels. Dedicated apps on the App Store were around 200,000 when this model launched and it ran on iOS 6.
Apple iPad 4 (late 2012)
Only 6 months after the launch of the iPad 3, Apple announced the iPad 4. It was pretty much the same as the iPad 3 meaning the same 9.7-inch Retina display, a metal build that measured 241.2 x 185.7 x 9.4mm and weighed 652g, but this is the iPad that ditched the 30-pin dock connector and introduced Lightning.
The display on the iPad 4 was the same as the iPad 3 – a Retina display with a 2048 x 1536 resolution – though Apple did equip the iPad 4 with a new A6X processor, which was said to be 2x faster than the iPad 3. It also made a move to support dual-band Wi-Fi and a new front-facing camera arrived, bumping up from VGA to 1.2-megapixels.
Apple iPad mini (late 2012)
Apple launched the first iPad mini alongside the iPad 4, marking new territory for iPad. Retaining a premium metal build, the iPad mini was significantly smaller and lighter than the standard iPad, measuring 200 x 134.7 x 7.2mm and weighing 308g – so half the weight. The bezels surrounding the display were reduced and Apple programmed iOS to ignore accidental finger presses on the edge of the screen.
The iPad mini had curvier, rounded edges than the original iPad, but it opted for the iPad 2’s resolution in its 7.9-inch screen – 1024 x 768 pixels – rather than the Retina display. It also used the A5 processor, meaning it wasn’t quite as powerful as the iPad 4. That said, it might have been mini by nature but it was mighty in what it offered.
Apple iPad Air (2013)
The fifth generation of Apple iPad was called the iPad Air and it came with a whole new design, borrowing the curved edges from the iPad mini. It was 20 per cent lighter than the iPad 4 at 469g compared to 652g, but it was slimmer too – 7.5mm compared to 9.4mm – and shorter, making for a more portable device.
The 9.7-inch display was the same as the iPad 4, but Apple reduced the bezels surrounding the display by 43 per cent, meaning a larger viewing area. The same cameras as the iPad 4 were on board the iPad Air, but Apple put a new A7 chip under the hood of the Air, which had 64-bit architecture that allowed for faster autofocus, higher video frame rates and faster photo capture, among other features.
Apple iPad Mini with Retina display (2013)
One year after the iPad mini launched, Apple introduced the iPad mini with Retina display. The design remained the same but the display moved from a 1024 x 768 pixel resolution to a 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution, making it the highest resolution around for a tablet of its size.
It was a little thicker and heavier than the original iPad mini – 7.5mm instead of 7.2mm and 331g instead of 308g – but the design didn’t change otherwise. Storage options included a 128GB option, and Apple also upgraded the chip to A7 – which was the same processor found on the iPad Air and iPhone 5S.
Apple iPad Air 2 (2014)
The second generation of iPad Air offered a similar design to the original Air model but it slimmed down even further to 6.1mm, giving it the title of the slimmest tablet you could get at the time. It was also lighter than the first-generation Air, weighing just 437g.
Whilst the size and resolution of the display remained the same as the first Air, the Air 2 introduced an anti-reflective coating, whilst also upgrading the chip from the A7 to the A8X. The biggest change between the Air and the Air 2 though, was the introduction of Touch ID. It wasn’t known then, but the Air 2 was last in the iPad Air line.
Apple iPad Mini 3 (2014)
The iPad mini 3 arrived alongside the iPad Air 2, but at the time, Apple glossed over it quickly in the presentation, focusing on the larger model instead. The design remained the same as the iPad mini 2, though Apple did add Touch ID to the iPad mini 3 and made it available in gold.
There was no processor upgrade though, no camera improvements and it didn’t get the laminated and anti-reflective display or faster Wi-Fi that the larger iPad Air 2 did. Ultimately, the iPad mini 3 was a minor upgrade to the iPad mini range.
Apple iPad Pro (2015)
The original Apple iPad Pro launched in 2015, again marking new territory for the iPad. Offering a huge 12.9-inch display with a total of 5.6 million pixels and a variable refresh rate to help save power, the iPad Pro was a monster of a tablet. It had a four-speaker audio setup compared to the dual setup on the iPad Air 2, allowing for 3x the volume and a 64-bit A9X chip meant the iPad Pro was 1.8x faster than the iPad Air 2.
On the edge of its premium metal build, the 6.9mm slim iPad Pro had a Smart Connector for connecting a dedicated keyboard, allowing for power and data transfer. The first Apple stylus was also introduced alongside the iPad Pro called the Apple Pencil. It could be charged directly from the iPad Pro’s Lightning port.
Apple iPad Mini 4 (2015)
The Apple iPad mini 4 succeeded the iPad mini 3 in 2015, though no one knew back then that it would be the last mini for a while. It was slimmer and lighter than the iPad mini 3, and it got a fully laminated display, as well as an anti-reflective coating like the Air 2.
Apple also upgraded the chip in the iPad mini 4 to the A8 processor with M8 motion coprocessor, and it got a bump in the resolution of the rear camera too. Other than that, the design remained the same as the previous iPad minis. Rumours have been floating around for an iPad mini 5 though…
Apple iPad Pro 9.7 (2016)
Many presumed this iPad model would be called the iPad Air 3, but instead it joined the iPad Pro line up. The 9.7-inch device, called the iPad Pro 9.7 was a smaller model of the 12.9-inch model that launched the previous year. It offered the same slim aluminium build and the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, but it came with a new colour option: rose gold.
The iPad Pro 9.7 had the same size and resolution display as the iPad Air 2, but it added 25 per cent greater colour saturation and it marked the start of Apple’s True Tone technology – something that is now available on the latest iPhones too. Camera specifications were also upgraded for the iPad Pro 9.7 and it had the same power as the larger 12.9 model too, making it considerably more powerful than the Air 2 it replaced.
Apple iPad (2017)
This Apple iPad model was quietly announced in March 2017, sitting above the iPad mini 4, but below the iPad Pro range. Essentially, it was the model that replaced the iPad Air 2, but Apple dropped the Air name. It had the same design as the iPad Air 2, albeit a little thicker, but that was down to this model lacking a laminated anti-reflective display.
The Apple iPad (2017) also lacked the True Tone technology found on the iPad Pro models and it didn’t come in rose gold either, nor did it offer the bump in rear camera resolution. Apple did drop the starting price of this iPad though.
Apple iPad Pro 10.5 (2017)
The Apple iPad Pro 10.5 arrived at WWDC in 2017, alongside a spec update to the Apple iPad Pro 12.9. The iPad Pro 10.5 was designed to replace 2016’s 9.7-inch iPad Pro model, offering a 20 per cent larger display and a 40 per cent reduction in bezels. It featured offered many of the same characteristics though, including the four-speaker setup, Smart Connector and rose gold colour option.
Under the hood was the A10X Fusion processor and M10 motion co-processor, which was claimed to be 30 per cent faster in performance than the A9 and 40 per cent faster in graphics. Storage models included 64GB, 256GB and 512GB and it was compatible with Apple Pencil like the old 12.9-inch and 9.7-inch Pro models.
Apple iPad Pro 12.9 (2017)
Unlike the Apple iPad Pro 10.5, the updated iPad Pro 12.9 didn’t see a new design. Its bezels remained the same, as did its overall design and display size, which came as a bit of a disappointment. It was a big and heavy device so many would have liked to have seen Apple take some steps to make it more portable, such as a reduction in bezel size like the 10.5 model.
The iPad Pro 12.9-inch update only saw internal upgrades though. Replacing the A9X chip was the A10X Fusion processor – the same one found in the 10.5-inch model. The new 12.9-inch model also offered the same camera specifications and software offerings as the 10.5-inch iPad Pro.
Apple iPad (2018)
The 2018 standard iPad was designed as a successor to the 2017 model, offering the same design as the iPad Air 2. Once again, it forgoes a fully laminated display and anti-reflective coating, but it added support for the first-generation Apple Pencil.
It misses out on a number of the iPad Pro features, including the Smart Connector and True Tone display technology, as well as no rose gold colour option, but it remains significantly cheaper than the Pro models, aimed at students. It also bumped up the processor of the 2017 model to the A10.
Apple iPad Pro 11 (2018)
The Apple iPad Pro 11 arrived in 2018 but it was designed to sit alongside the iPad Pro 10.5 model rather than replace it. Offering a complete design refresh, the iPad Pro 11 squares off its edges, reduces its bezels and ditches Touch ID in favour of Face ID. It also swaps Lightning for USB Type-C.
A Liquid Retina display fills the footprint of the 5.9mm slim aluminium device, offering a 2388 x 1668 resolution and the iPad Pro 11 is compatible with Apple Pencil 2. It’s also quite a bit more powerful than the 10.5-inch Pro model, featuring the A12X Bionic processor, along with the option of a 1TB model and improved cameras.
Apple iPad Pro 12.9 (2018)
Unlike the first update to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the second update announced in 2018, made some big changes. It not only made some huge reductions to the footprint despite offering the same screen size – moving from 305.7 x 220.6 x 6.9mm to 280.6 x 214.9 x 5.9mm, but it squared off the edges too, like the iPad Pro 11.
The 2018 iPad Pro 12.9 also reduced its weight by 44g, Face ID replaced Touch ID, Lightning was replaced by USB Type-C and the second generation of Apple Pencil meant the stylus could attach magnetically to the edge of the iPad Pro 12.9 and charge wirelessly. A Liquid Retina display was also introduced featuring rounded corners and the A12X Bionic chip was placed under the hood. A 1TB option was also made available – like the smaller 11-inch model.
Apple iPad Air (2019)
2019’s Apple iPad Air is much like the iPad Pro only without FaceID, uniform bezels and the Type-C port. A big, sharp 10.5-inch 1668 x 2224 resolution display, a battery that’s capable of lasting all day and support for both Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboards make the iPad Air a great option. Even more so considering the reasonable price point.
We found the 2019 iPad Air able to strike a perfect balance between power and value for money.
iPad mini (2019)
The Apple iPad mini 5 – not an official title – is basically a small iPad Pro and despite the large bezels it remains a very compact tablet. The spec is very powerful with unparalleled power for its price point, the 2019 iPad mini retains the device’s most recognisable features: the 7.9-inch screen size alongside the Touch ID Home button.
Apple iPad (2019)
The 10.2-inch iPad Apple released in 2019 replaced the 9.7-inch iPad from 2018. It also was designed to make the most of Apple’s new iPadOS operating system while still being the company’s most affordable and familiar tablet option.
It’s not the most powerful or feature-rich iPad available, but it still boasts some decent specs including a 2160 x 1620 resolution and a chassis constructed from 100 per cent recycled aluminium. As such, the Apple iPad continues to be the logical choice for many.