back to article The Fat iPhone, 11 years on: The iPad's over a decade old and we're still not sure what it's for

Eleven years ago this week, Steve Jobs introduced the iPad to a bemused world. We say bemused, because at the time, nobody really knew what it was. It was as though the tech chattering classes were cut into two opposing camps: those who saw it as the future of computing, and those who dismissed it as a "beefed-up iPod touch …

  1. Wellyboot Silver badge

    It's for

    Watching Cat videos and ordering triple guava chai lattes

    1. Spanners Silver badge

      Re: It's for

      Looking cool and forcing coolness upon others.

      Tablet computing if you don't know that equally good tablets can cost far less.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: It's for

        They seem to have given up forcing coolness on others than fuck. It seems Android has better faster changing social meeja. Whatsapp lasted about 9 months with the kids and Signal is about to be dropped by the sound of it.

      2. JDX Gold badge

        Re: It's for

        I never saw another tablet as slick as iPad. If you want to use a tab for twitter and Netflix and news and buying crap on Amazon, a £100 one is pretty sweet. I have one for just this.

        For actually using apps, Apple ecosystem is way ahead. At £300 the iPad is also pretty affordable.

    2. Snake Silver badge

      Re: It's for...

      kiosks. It feels like over 50% of the iPad production must have been taken by customer-facing service and shopping kiosks, judging from the fact that it seems to be the only place I [constantly] get exposed to them at a significant rate.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: It's for...

        It's better than a laptop if your application is better suited to a touch interface. For example, many bands use the iPad as the control for a mixing desk. Why? Because the sound technician can stand amongst the audience during the gig (all iOS devices have wireless MIDI baked in since the first iPhone). Other musicians use it to display sheet music. Leica site survey gear only works with iOS/iPadOS (indeed, the only time I ever saw a pre-ipad Win XP TE tablet in the wild was in the arm of a surveyor)

        Anyone looking for a single 'killer app' is seeking in vain since their premises is faulty. However, there are hundreds of damned useful applications that people use.

        1. anonanonanonanonanon

          Re: It's for...

          I do feel a lot of the sneery attitude some techies have towards them is severely misguided, we design for them in construction, inspection and agriculture industries, particularly with drones, but now branching out into using their AR Tools, the addition of a LiDAR sensor has opened up a lot of possibilities.

    3. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: It's for

      It's for playing Civ VI on the sofa. Nuff said.

  2. Dinanziame Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Phone for the living room

    Compared to a phone, it's unwieldy to carry around. But to consume media while sitting on couch, it's the best form factor. Larger screen than a phone, more convenient and less bulky than a laptop.

    Work? Maybe to replace a notepad. Couldn't imagine any other use case.

    1. Persona Silver badge

      Re: Phone for the living room

      Spot on. It's a couch media consumption device for people whose eyesight makes a phone unsuitable for that purpose. With relatively few exceptions their value as a "work" device is questionable, except as part of the justification to get a media consumption device.

      1. AMBxx Silver badge

        Re: Phone for the living room

        When they first became widespread, I would regularly see them in a corporate environment. Project Managers would carry them to meetings and make notes. Now, they're strictly for home use as we've all grown up and realised you need a proper laptop.

        1. ravenviz Silver badge

          Re: Phone for the living room

          I use an iPad at work for meeting notes and access to the internet, it's very handy in meetings, and afterwards with all your notes either in one place, and even cloud replicated if you can work with that.

          1. AMBxx Silver badge

            Re: Phone for the living room

            I guess you're a PM?

      2. Giles C Silver badge

        Re: Phone for the living room

        The previous place I was contracting at was using them as a production line monitoring system, and they are useful for making notes on.

        But primarily mine is used for browsing and occasional notes as my computer is sitting upstairs and it is easier when watching tv to do this - winterwatch has just started as I am typing this.

    2. CollyWolly

      Re: Phone for the living room

      Notepads are quick and easy to use and won't run out of battery.

      1. WolfFan Silver badge

        Re: Phone for the living room

        I use mine all day. It doesn’t run out of battery. I use it for:

        Maps and music in the car; the iPad display is easier to read than the display in the car, and the iPad can play from its playlist over the car speakers.

        Network admin apps; it’s good for quick a overview of the network, detailed work means going to a desktop. I used to haul a laptop around, it’s smaller, lighter, handier.

        Notes. It has Pages and Word and Teams and DropBox and OneDrive and iCloud and (shudder) Excel and OneNote and Zoom. And a keyboard, a real keyboard, not the stupid not-a-keyboard virtual keyboard. I can type stuff, enter things in (shudder) Excel, access files remotely, and do the distance collaboration thing.

        Books, including tech books. I have my entire tech library parked as de-DRMed EPUBs in Marvin, an excellent ebook reader (which is not, repeat, NOT like Kindle or Apple Books/iBooks/whatever they’re calling it today. It’s actually usable.) and I can quickly grab what I need when there’s a tech problem. Again, I used to do this with a laptop, but the iPad is a _lot_ easier to use for reading. I also have several thousand books available for reading for entertainment, all de-DRMed. (Yes, several _thousand_ books. I have been reading ebooks since the 1990s and have converted lots from DRMed crap and scanning them in and OCRing myself. Fuck Amazon and Apple and their DRM.)

        General web stuff. It’s faster and easier to look stuff up on the web with the iPad, as it’s usually right there and ready to go. I’m using the iPad to write this right now. Same with email and texts and the like; Apple has made it easy to have texts intended for my phone show on the iPad as well. Outlook and Apple Mail do an acceptable job with multiple accounts running IMAP, POP, MS Exchange, and more. Gmail used to moan that I needed to use Google’s Mail, I solved that by dumping Gmail. Fuck Google, harder than Amazon and Apple.

        Remote operations. I can remote into Windows, Mac, and Linux devices using assorted tools from Apple, MS, and 3rd parties. The iPad can do most things that, for example, MS Remote Desktop can do if I was on a desktop. If I really have to I can use desktop tools that I normally use an a desktop, but I usually go to a desktop with a nice big display and a full-size keyboard for that, I use the iPad only in an emergency. Having it has saved my ass several times over the last few years.

        Entertainment. I am currently playing as Victoria in Civ VI; Poland declared a surprise war on me, and the mighty British Empire (none of that ‘Commonwealth’ nonsense) crushed the attack and counter attacked, taking several Polish cities, whereupon the dastardly Georgians and Aztecs entered the war. After two nuke strikes the Georgians dropped out and the fleet is reducing the Aztec coastal cities to rubble. The Poles are trying to sue for peace. I’m driving to render them extinct, they really shouldn’t have attacked me. When I’m done with the Poles, time for the Aztecs. Rule, Britannia! Betchya Queen Liz wishes she had my fleet! Movies and TV live on the desktop, not on the relatively small iPad screen. Seriously, I just do games and books for entertainment on the iPad, I never have seen the attraction of a small display for movies.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Phone for the living room

        >Notepads are quick and easy to use and won't run out of battery.

        But need a pen or pencil...

        Don't know about your house, but for some reason in mine, pens walk and not sure where the pencil sharpener might be...

    3. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

      Re: Phone for the living room

      Well, I have to confess that under a former username (my real name, a user that I deleted a few years ago due to realising what a tool of a commenter I was in general in those days, so it's now listed as AC – the giveaway is the "FAIL" icon), I said this:

      iFail to see the niche. I'll enjoy watching this one crash and burn.

      In my defence, I got five upvotes and no downvotes, so nobody else seemed to be dissenting at that point. But I'll say it now: I was wrong. I was very wrong.

      But I still don't want one.

      1. SuperGeek

        Re: Phone for the living room

        Well said. It takes a big (wo)man to admit his/her mistakes, and an even bigger one to correct them openly. Respect to you. We've all been daft in our younger years. Just that most don't admit it. :)

        1. sgp

          Re: Phone for the living room

          Pity your real name isn't Hubert Cumberdale though!

      2. VicMortimer

        Re: Phone for the living room

        I watched the keynote when it was released.

        Shortly after, I had a discussion with a friend. I said something like "This is useless and stupid. It's hopelessly crippled, and outside of a few niche applications it's utterly pointless. They're going to sell like hotcakes, it'll be a huge hit for Apple."

        I was 100% correct.

        Oh, and my friend agreed with me about it being useless and stupid. He insisted it would be a flop. He still owes me a beer.

    4. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: Phone for the living room

      In Bioscience you need to go into the animal house and deal with your animals the management of which is via a database. I have built a number of FilemakerPro apps to do this. Take a laptop into the animal house? behind the infection barrier? with a keyboard? Nope. You can wipe down an iPad and back in the noughties at least it ran Filemaker.

      Solution. Goodbye paper and having to update the desktop afterwards. No connectivity is required either. Which was good. The whole place, especially the animal house was buried in the hillside. There were skylights. We had to go to the end of the corridor of the main lab space to find a mobile signal.

      I doubt they have wifi in there now.

    5. Getmo

      Re: Phone for the living room

      That's exactly what makes the product so odd - as soon as you admit it's only real consumer use is being a media consumption device, perfect for the couch/bed and nowhere much else, you'll also realize how horribly over-priced and over-powerful it is. The most resource-intensive app that device will probably ever run in its life is Facebook.

      Because it's so expensive, you'll rarely want to take it outside of the house. And what would you do with it outside the house anyway? Only thing I can think of is loading it up with movies for kids in the backseat during a long car trip. Which yet again, now that we're talking about grubby children's fingers on the device, brings to mind how god-awfully expensive the thing is. It all screams, "buy a different tablet for 1/10th the cost that will do exactly the same things."

    6. BebopWeBop

      Re: Phone for the living room

      My partner carries an iPad Pro running Affinity Photo for on-site viewing and editing the photos she takes (professionally). Works for her (along with a convenient word processor, web browser, and spreadsheet).

      1. Mike Moyle

        Re: Phone for the living room

        Photo and Designer on iPad and Pencil make going to a client's site, and creating rough sketches and layouts MUCH more convenient than a laptop. IMO, the combo is a godsend for those of us doing freelance graphics.

    7. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Phone for the living room

      Larger screen than a phone, more convenient and less bulky than a laptop.
      I dislike web browsing on the things even more than on a phone. Full size screen being served limited mobile webpages by default.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Phone for the living room

        They're not served mobile websites by default though. Ever since IOS 12 or so (might be earlier) the default on iPads has been 'Desktop', and on iPhones it's been 'mobile'.

        Some sites can over ride that, but the only ones I've seen do that in living memory was Android Police, and they stopped doing it a while ago now.

    8. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Phone for the living room

      > Work? Maybe to replace a notepad. Couldn't imagine any other use case.

      Can't you imagine use cases where multitouch is the best basis for the UI? Mixing desks, for starters. There's many more, if you stretch your imagination or keep your eyes open.

  3. NogginTheNog

    Tablets vs PCs

    A friends works for a logistics company that supports Lenovo and HP hardware. She said they're mad busy as everyone is buying laptops at the moment, having realised tablets don't cut it for working from home!

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Tablets vs PCs

      Funny that, for one client, have been rolling out laptops (Lenovo) and iPads. The laptops are for the usual Office applications. The iPads for Zoom and always on/accessible email.

      After a year and exploring various configurations, my partner now typically has the iPad on a stand above the laptop so that she can use the laptop whilst also using Zoom on the iPad. This configuration also allows her to take the iPad 'walkabout' - so she can consistently Zoom from anywhere with little setup being required.

      From the user viewpoint, there is no comparison between the audio and video quality of an iPad and your typical Windows laptop (that includes Lenovo Thinkpads); just as there is no comparison between using MS Office on a laptop and trying to do the same on an iPad.

      This approach does mean the phone is pretty much, just a phone and MiFi (for laptop and iPad, so don't need the expensive mobile enabled variants).

  4. John Robson Silver badge

    It's long been a productivity device for those who want to use it as such...

    I've mentioned this before, but my wife wrote a book on an iPad2 with an external keyboard.

    I still use that same keyboard when travelling, because the iPad is rather easier to use on a train or plane than a laptop.

    I have a Mini4 which I've used for many years, although as phones have grown it has seen less and less use, but it is still useful.

    There is something weird about everyone who reviews stuff doing so on youtube, because it means that the only workflow that is ever discussed is video production...

  5. 45RPM Silver badge

    's 'orses fer courses, innit?

    I have a desktop computer. I can't be bothered with these fiddling laptop things, no matter how powerful. The desktop gets used for development work and admin and the like. I regard it as essential, and one day I'll buy another.

    I have a fiddling laptop thing. I take it on holiday with me, and I use it on the train, where it gets pressed into service as an ersatz desktop. My heart sinks at the thought that one day I might have to buy another - I can think of things that I'd rather spend money on.

    I have an iPad Pro. As a means of vegging out and consuming - video, and in particular newspapers, magazines and comics, it is peerless. But when I add a keyboard (Brydge in my case) and mouse (Logitech) it's very nearly the equal of my laptop - but it's lighter and easier on the battery. I use it for all kinds of work then. And I may not need to buy another laptop - I'll just get another iPad - and I have no objection to doing that.

    I have a Kindle. As a means of reading pulp fiction it's great. You know the thing - thrillers, adventures, crap prose but an exciting story. For the books I want to savour and enjoy again and again, works of art, I'm an avid supporter of tree murder.

    For my use case, I don't need iPadOS and macOS to be any more integrated than they are already. For that matter, with iCloud installed on my PC, I don't need Windows and iPadOS to be any more integrated than they are already. I like my iPad a lot. The laptop I'm meh about.

    Your use-case is probably different to mine - so isn't it great that we have a choice?

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      > As a means of vegging out and consuming - video, and in particular newspapers, magazines and comics, it is peerless

      Which is what most people (me included) use it for. Also for kids to play/watch movies on a long trip. It's a tablet's only really convincing use case, one where everybody has to admit that yes, a tablet form factor is optimal for that use.

      Of course it can, with some effort, replace a laptop for many people, but there is no situation I can think of a real laptop wouldn't be better, if only because of the choice of software you can use on it.

      1. 45RPM Silver badge

        Again, I'd argue that it depends on the use-case. Even with the keyboard, it's lighter than my MacBook - and the battery lasts considerably longer. As a cyclist, the least weight that I can stuff in my panniers the better. So it has largely supplanted the laptop for me. I have several IDEs on it, video editing, photo editing, word processing, spreadsheets - for me, that about covers the mobile use case. And when I get to my desk, the 'real' computer can take the load.

        1. ThatOne Silver badge

          > Even with the keyboard, it's lighter than my MacBook

          True, and I myself use a tablet/keyboard combo as a makeshift light laptop during vacations (my actual laptop being a 7+ kg monster I definitely don't like to lug around).

          But it all depends on what you need your computer for. You won't use AutoCad on a tablet, for instance, or run a VM for some proprietary custom-made program requiring Win2k...

          So yes, it depends on the use-case, as you say. But I still think a light laptop would be better for nomad work, if only because of the integration of all components in one.

      2. Getmo

        > if only because of the choice of software you can use on it.

        Not the form factor as well? That's an easy #2 that puts laptops firmly in the "media creation" category and keeps tablets in the "media consumption" one. Namely, an adjustable hinge for angling the screen, keyboard, and mouse are all built into the device, while for a tablet all of those things are separate pieces. You know, the pieces necessary to actually use the thing on your lap. Meaning if you actually wanted to use a tablet like that, you'd need a laptop bag to carry all those pieces together...

        That's why I think the Microsoft Surface tablet at least had a much more complete vision, by integrating a kick stand into the device, and having keyboard cover ready to ship day 1.

        1. ThatOne Silver badge

          > Not the form factor as well?

          Sure. The big/only advantage of the tablet (IMHO) is that you usually already have one, and a Bluetooth keyboard costs peanuts.

          If I, as I said above, use a tablet/keyboard combo as a light laptop, it's only because I'm too stingy to shell out additional money for an ultralight laptop, given I already have an (ultra)heavy one. The already existing tablet was the obvious solution for casual computing on the road.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            >I'm too stingy to shell out additional money for an ultralight laptop

            Personally, for some years now, like you, I've had a 'workstation' laptop and paired it with an iPad for easy/quick usage particularly when on the move. Previously, I had tried to use a netbook - which the iPad2 easily outperformed...

  6. Blergh

    Still good for what it's designed for

    I just realised that our iPad2 is therefore almost 10 years old. It still works fine and is used daily for the kids to play games and streaming video. I was pretty sure the battery should have given up the ghost by now, but it can still keep a few hours of charge.

    I've always wondered why anyone would even bother to compare it to a laptop. It's always been an at home consumption device (games, streaming and video calls) and for that it is simpler and easier to handle than a laptop. However if you need anything other more complicated than that just use a proper computer.

  7. Nick Pettefar

    I have a keyboard on it so it’s like a small laptop. I use it at work as my personal computer either on guest WiFi or 3/4G. I’ve successfully used this over five different contracts. No need to get permission to visit certain websites or access personal e-mail as I have my own little computer with me on my desk. Never had a problem with managers complaining about my “iPad”.

  8. Rosie Davies

    Tablets can be Useful

    I know not an iPad but I've a Galaxy Tab 6 and whilst it wasn't useful for much more than Netflix and games without anything extra installed on it a couple of apps have helped it a lot.

    Nebo is great as a replacement for a (paper) note book. I can happily scrawl away but end up with something I can search through easily. Which dead handy when someone asks me about something that came up in a meeting 4 months ago and had a like span of about weeks before fading into obscurity. Until it became urgent again.

    Ibis paint is also a lot of fun. Plus it has the advantge of infinite undo for the utterly hopeless artist (raises hand and pleads guilty).

    Both Nebo and Ibis come in Apple flavour as well so I think the comparison stands, provided you get an iPad with a stylus.

    So far as plain consumption goes. The screen is nicer to look at and the sound quality much richer than my phone. So from that point of view, not really a must have but a nice addition if you're prepared to trawl around eBay looking for a decent second hand one.

    Buy new? Don't be ridiculous!


  9. Tony W

    Everyday device

    With a good stand and a bluetooth keyboard, my 10" tablet is my everyday device for most computing activity: email, browser, language learning, writing short documents and streaming videos to the TV. It starts almost instantly, and having the top of the screen at eye level makes it ergonomically much better than a laptop. I was doing many of these things on a phone but the awkward posture gave me nasty aches and pains. I still go to the desktop for spreadsheets, graphics work, and photo and audio editing.

    1. Geoffrey W

      Re: Everyday device

      I never really understood this "starts almost instantly" thing. It only starts instantly because it never normally gets turned off; it goes for a nap and the screen is turned off. If I completely shut down any of our tablets then they take several lifetimes to open their sleepy eyes again. My SSD laptop starts almost instantly too, so long as I don't shut it down. And if I do shut down the laptop then it only takes a single lifetime to return to sentience rather than several. "Starts instantly" is a dubious claim to fame for a tablet at best.

      Anyway, what do I use mine for? Having a walkthrough for a game open alongside my main screen as I blast my way through a stupidly difficult level. Reading emails without getting out of bed. Reading news without getting out of bed. It's a bed time device!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They're pretty good for sucking down public sector money especially in schools.

    Also they're very good for educating children that they should never ever know what is going on under the surface of their devices, just consume.

    It's dismaying that tablets, especially, are seen as a way to teach children everything, when it turns out teaching them how to read and write, formulate an argument or look up informaiton in a book might ultimately be more useful.

    I'm ranting after seeing the whle focus of education seem to get pointed at the supply and maintenance of digital devices. IMHO this should come AFTER basic teaching. The money this tech sucks down is unbelievable. There wold be no shortages of books and paper if they didn't spend X Million every year on unnecessary tech.

    I've had to teach my son how to use the index in a book, his teachers point him at wikipedia. Kids are taught to use Twitter (in breach of it's Tc and Cs) before they are taught to use full stops.

    This tech is often good for kids with additional needs, but that's about it.

    [wanders off muttering about the good old days]

    1. 45RPM Silver badge

      No disagreement here. Paper books, and proper programming languages (I'll allow Python, but not Scratch) are what's required! But take that with the (large) pinch of salt that comes with the admission that I'm not a teacher, although I have enough experience to know that I'd be a very bad one, and therefore I may be talking out of my hat since I don't appreciate the problems that they experience.

      Just because I was taught how to use a slide rule doesn't mean that the kids of today should be forced to learn how to use one too.

  11. Christopher Reeve's Horse

    The other obvious usage cases

    I can't believe no-one's mentioned that they double up as high quality wipe clean kitchen chopping boards...

    1. Martin

      Re: The other obvious usage cases

      And very elegant teapot stands.

  12. Tempest8008

    Portability is key

    We have customers who use them to perform on-site reporting and inspections.

    The iPads spit the data back to a website and database where managers run reports on the data collected.

    Much handier than a laptop for people in the field, though the lack of a ruggedized version is a detractor.

    We ended up building an entire separate version of our platform for places to use iPads that didn't want to use other kinds of tablets. We were forced into doing that despite our concerns over the harsh environments they were going to be exposed to and the inevitable attrition that would result. We also had to engage a 3rd party to assist with coding for the app as most of our development is NOT iOS based.

    The 'testing' iPad I brought home to do QA on new builds of the app we use has been taken over by my 7yr old. He uses it to chat with friends on Kids Messenger, play games, watch videos and install questionable apps that do odd things to his face.

    1. Tim99 Silver badge

      Re: Portability is key

      "ruggedized version" : Otterbox - Expensive, but gets the job done for most.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Portability is key

        For several years now (well since the iPad2) found the 'basic' techgear utility case to be good enough for SEN kids and adults with learning difficulties, had very few breakages. Plus there is a colour choice.

        However, after several field engineering projects(1), I've become a fan of "just enough protection" ie. just enough to protect the device from small knocks/accidents, but not so much that field engineers stop looking after their device.

        (1) I remember one handheld computer from the 1990's that came with a rugged aluminium case - it tended to be used as a substitute hammer...

  13. teomor

    It's the iPhone for home use

    I recently bought the 12 Pro Max because I had the very tiny 8 before. But after the novelty wore off (about 1 month) I started picking up my iPad again, on the sofa, in bed, even on my desk to take quick breaks while working. I can't imagine not using it anymore. It's a MUCH better iPhone. It's the iPhone for home use. Using the actual iPhone at home seems pointless, and I only see myself using it when out in the world. Otherwise, the iPad is my go to device.

    PS: If iPad apps come to the Mac then there is a real chance Mac apps will come to the iPad as well, and that means more productivity apps on the iPad. Even now, I can already write some code, push/pull/commit from GitHub (etc) and I can do that from my sofa where the MacBook is really really uncomfortable! I can't even watch movies in bed on the MacBook anymore. It seems so heavy and clunky and weeeird!

  14. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    There's no mandatory App Store to act as a gatekeeper, so you can run whatever software you want

    Not yet there isn't. Can't be long though, before Apple decides it's time to protect us Mac users from ourselves…

    1. Christopher Reeve's Horse

      Re: There's no mandatory App Store to act as a gatekeeper, so you can run whatever software you want

      But yet it's Microsoft that are actually trying to pull that kind of bullshit with Windows 10S or whatever it is... TBH for some people a good bit of restriction is probably good idea. Oh, hi Mum!

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: There's no mandatory App Store to act as a gatekeeper, so you can run whatever software you want

      ARM Macs can't run unsigned ARM binaries, there's no option which can be chosen which allows it. Developers must pay the danegeld to Apple to get a certificate if they wish to distribute ARM binaries themselves, otherwise they can distribute Intel binaries and rely on Rosetta 2. It is known... except by the author of this article, apparently.

  15. Martin

    There are a few things they are actively downright useful for.

    Music. I think it's fair to say that most serious musicians have their music on an iPad or similar. If you want an accompanying track, you've got it there on your tablet, and the main line unwinds in front of you for you to play along to. I've seen professional pianists in live performance using them instead of a normal piano score. It looks as if they've even got something that does an automatic page turn for you - the tablet must be listening and doing the page turn. Now that is really neat.

    Demonstrations at trade shows and similar. If you want to talk to someone and tell them about what you're doing - hand them your tablet with the demo and talk them through it. Much nicer than messing around on a computer.

    Basically, as said above - they are excellent for consuming media, and sometimes that consuming of media is quite sophisticated. But I'd never use one to do any actual work.

    1. Franco Silver badge

      I've seen a lot of backstage crews using iPads or tablets at gigs. Tuner apps in particular, the reason being that the big screen is a lot easier to see in that sort of environment. You also see a lot of musicians with them on their mic stands these days, don't know if it's just set lists, or the tuner, or something else that they're using them for though.

      Horses for courses though, in the early days they were a problem in search of a solution. I've just replaced a Google Nexus 7 (2013) with a Lenovo M8 and like most people it's a device for media consumption on the go, e.g. ebook reading, watching films/tv, playing the odd game and with an appropriate input device can be used for occasional "real" work if required.

    2. Jonathon Green

      This. The reason I have an iPad rather than something significantly less expensive is GarageBand, along with Positive’s Grid Bias amp modelling and a nifty little box which lets me plug a guitar in it provides me with a very handy, hugely effective musical sketch pad I can take (and use) pretty much anywhere...

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Very little pro audio software is available for Android - the issue was originally due to the high latency in Android, which was appalling (around 80ms) until Android Marshmallow, and has been merely serviceable since. The first iPhone had a low latency of around 10ms from the get go (as well as wireless MIDI.)

  16. Jim Willsher

    I use my iPad for one thing, and one thing only, and that's for watching downloaded Amazon Prime films when I am criss-crossing the Atlantic on a plane, and there's nothing I like the sound of on the IFE.

    So clearly it's sat on a shelf since last March, unused.

    When it dies, it won't be replaced.

  17. chivo243 Silver badge

    Why do I have one?

    My employer uses them, my employer supplied it to me, and expects me to support them. I use it for a few simple games, crosswords and word searches. Yeah, I'm getting old...

  18. Steve Kerr

    ipad uses

    I saw the first ipad in an apple store and thought that it was nice and what was the point

    When the ipad 2 came out, I found that it could have a use, used it to store PDF documention in the books app, was handy in customer sites and in computer rooms to read documentation when at the console of a server and needed to look stuff up in the limited space in aisles of racks rather than trying to balance a laptop.

    Got an ipad pro when they came out, the use case was for watching saved TV uploaded to it on the train in a nice form factor that meant not looking at a tiny screen, pretty much watching everyone else watching catch up TV on a small phone screen.

    As a device to consume video whilst on a train they're great without squinting at a small screen!

    Only downside was watching some things on a large 12.9 screen, "American Gods" being one and an animated series on netflix which I didn't know at the time was a bit er....rude and made it look like I was watching porn in rush hour, that was rapidly closed.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: ipad uses

      Yeah it looked like porn, but porn with uncommonly high production values. Your fellow passengers might have thought you a pervert, but a sophisticated pervert.

  19. Daedalus

    Wow. Just wow.

    I got news for the pundits: ordinary people tend to find uses for stuff no matter how much you look down on them. Seriously. OK, cat videos and Facebook are very non-U (even non-U is non-U these days), but they're what the drones like and that's how you sell hardware. Mass adoption of PC's got the prices down for all of us, now mass adoption of tablets does the same.

    There's the use as a roving terminal, showing up in hospitals and retail establishments. I signed in to vote last November on a tablet. They're great for reading while in the waiting room. You can peruse El Reg while waiting to be probed, poked, and sampled. I used to take mine to Starbucks for a sit down and a caffeine boost, before that ceased to be an option. Modern life.

    1. Imhotep Silver badge

      Re: Wow. Just wow.

      Yep, medical staff use them for charting and access to medical records. They also use them for patient registration: you're connected to remote staff via video, its camera captures a record of your insurance card, you fill out the forms - and all from your room.

      I primarily use mine for web browsing and texting, checking out ebooks from the library and catching up on the news via my subscriptions.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Know exactly what the iPad is for: ForeFlight or Garmin Pilot.

    1. NaturalApparatus

      Re: Pilots

      iPad has most of the EFB market. Mines the one with XCSoar running on it!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pilots

        Soaring! If only I had the time to maintain yet another rating...I'd go for Glider.

        Some of my airline friends ended up stuck with Surfaces running the Jepp app. But, that may have changed once ForeFlight integrated Jepp charts. The Jepp app is trash.

        I'm not sure how big the EFB market is, but the iPad mini is so perfect as an EFB that it almost seems like Apple designed it for that reason. I almost bought a stack of mini 4's when it was looking like they were not going to continue the mini line.

    2. Morrie Wyatt
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Pilots

      There's also Austin Meyer's Xavion app, which plays continuous "What if?" using plane performance data to provide best alternative airports. (Not necessarily the closest, but the best that fits the glide profile of the aircraft.) It also provides standard instruments, artificial vision, maps jet wake turbulence and many other features. (The wake turbulence feature was added after Austin found out the hard way that hitting it can be a serious pain in the neck.) It does this independently to the aircraft's avionics, so a full power outage of the standard instrumentation, providing a very useful level of redundancy for the pilot.

    3. William K Kelley

      Re: Pilots

      Right! I use an iPad Mini 4 running Foreflight all of the time when flying a Cessna 172. The Cessna has a Garmin 650 GPS built-in but the display is tiny -- the iPad is just right mounted on the yoke. The one thing I wish Apple would do is come out with an iPad Mini 4-sized iPad with an OLED display - then I wouldn't have problems with polarized sunglasses.

  21. Tim99 Silver badge


    I'm retired, but teach seniors as a volunteer (after fighting this stuff professionally for 50 years). Many of the 65+ missed out on computing, can be very wary of it, but realize that they probably "have to use it". The alternative was that their son/daughter did it all for them. In our experience the iPad works for many. We found that Android takes perhaps twice as long to teach and can require a lot of "hand holding" (Samsung - I'm looking particularly at you here). Phones, even big ones, are just too small. Almost nobody wants Windows (or Chrome, Linux etc) unless one of their children has supplied it. "Hand-me-downs" PCs and Android tablets are almost useless (they were handed down for a good reason). An iPadAir at AU$899 (£579) is affordable by many, the new iPad at AU$499 (£329) may be a bargain (particularly over 5 years).

    The assistive technology is very useful for people with poor motor skills (Once the punter has wrested with Siri, many seniors also have limited typing skills). "Life savers" include: ordering (groceries), on-line banking, CentreLink, FaceTime, Photos (particularly when children/grandchildren are locked down inter-State), games, crosswords, etc.

    I normally show them DuckDuckGo to get rid of most of Google's sales crap. For people who are plagued by web adverts, I demonstrate FireFox Focus - The free content blocker can be used by Safari.

    On a personal level, I now use an iPad Pro more than any other computing device. Would I use it for large spreadsheets? (No) - Adding a bluetooth keyboard is useful for writing reports, and the ability to use a mouse and an HDMI adaptor is a good teaching and demonstration tool. Downsides include not being able to use plain text (I copy/paste from "QuickText"); having to load a PDF into Books to search for content; and too many websites assume that I'm using an iPhone...

    1. cosymart

      Re: Seniors

      The problem (is it a problem?) is that many people, especially the Seniors (hate this but it works) see the iPad as meaning tablet computer and many don't even know that there are alternatives :-( Getting to be a bit like Vacuum = Hoover.

    2. Mike Moyle

      Re: Seniors

      "...and too many websites assume that I'm using an iPhone..."

      FWIW, both iCab and Desktop Browser are available for iPad. Both let you set your user agent to pretty much anything you want. I keep st least one set to "Edge browser running on a Windows computer" at all times for sites that don't play well with mobile browsers or insist on sending a phone-sized layout.

  22. HMcG

    All the comments about the use case being media consumption are missing the actual utility of Ipads or other tablets, which is information consumption. That information may be cat videos, or it may be detailed medical records, MRI

    scans, industrial diagnostics tools, or constantly updated technical reference works. If you cannot see the utility, that is a limitition of your own abilities, not the tablets.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      > All the comments about the use case being media consumption are missing the actual utility

      Your problem is the restrictive definition of "media", apparently as just "entertainment media". Your MRI, scans, reference works are actually "media" too, as in "media to convey information".

      The real opposition is not between "serious" and "frivolous" media, but between media consumption and creation. Tablets are excellent for consulting information (of whatever kind), even as mobile input devices, but "normal" computers are usually better at creating and managing those files and that input. Tablets can't do serious number crunching or host and serve big databases.

  23. Chairman of the Bored

    Outstanding telework tool

    For non-critical meetings where you are required to attend but needn't truly participate, it is fine to prop up the iPad underneath your large, widescreen monitor - which is ergonomically elevated to eye level.

    Then you can perform tasks on your real computer without having to switch windows back and forth. Actually joining the meeting takes only a stab or two at the glass under the monitor. If you have to keep a camera on, the audience will believe you are looking at the meeting device whilst you actually work on your computer.

    Would I pay my own money for this use case? No. But my employer provides the tablet...

  24. martinusher Silver badge

    The Computing Appliance

    The original vision that Apple's founders had was of a computer as an appliance and the iPad is one expression of this concept. Being an Apple product of its time iits a touchscreen interface device that's grossly overpriced (it still is -- you can get something just as good for $100 these days) but it doesn't blunt its usefulness. Its so useful that we pretty much take it for granted now.

    I think Apple's weakness is that they never managed to get Siri developed to the same level as Alexa or its Google equivalent. The best computer interface is no interface at all, the computer stops being a 'thing' and becomes a seamless part of our environment. We're still not there yet but the idea that the computer as an extension to us that extends our capabilties is now firmly entrenched (with the downside that its quite capable of controlling us if we let it).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Computing Appliance

      "The original vision that Apple's founders had was of a computer as an appliance"

      The Apple ][ was very useful for all sorts of hardware and software customisation projects. I had one that emulated being a mainframe interface controller - and even communicated via the network to another emulating a video terminal cluster.

      After that - Apple did make PCs that were effectively just "appliances". I moved to IBM PC clones in decent sized cases with user accessible buses.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Used widely in education

    I work in a large university and iPads are used widely in teaching, especially in medical and health related areas. They provide good access to virtual learning environments and have some very good subject specific learning tools.

    From my perspective as a senior manager they are also great in meetings where the traditional committee papers brick is replaced by an iPad and SharePoint online. I have the advantage of having both a iPhone and a iPad so in meetings, it’s something a bit more akin to that sci-fi world where you have your documents on the pad whilst looking at companion information on the phone and copying between the two for notes because Apple stuff works quite well at doing that. It also means that I can lie in bed and approve purchase orders on a Monday morning instead of going to the office.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Used widely in education

      >"it’s something a bit more akin to that sci-fi world where you have your documents on the pad whilst looking at companion information on the phone and copying between the two for notes because Apple stuff works quite well at doing that."

      But it is still a long way off what Palo Alto were doing with ubiquitous computing back in the 1980's...

  26. JDX Gold badge

    I think iPad is probably more of a design success than iPhone. They carved out a new form factor nobody thought was useful... myself included. However they were right, it's a very flexible and capable device.

    My main use-case is on a music stand to replace paper, worth it for that alone. With Pencil, it's also a viable doodle-pad for artists.

  27. David Lawton

    It gives me time back!

    So glad my parents, grandmother, aunts and uncles all got iPads, its stopped my weekends being taken up fixing Windows laptops! The iPad gave me my weekends back. The fact iOS is sandboxed means I don't get to remove malware and other things that would take over their Windows devices and make them unusable. The iPad fits their needs well too, so its win win!

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