Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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iPad Retrospective

Looking back on 8 years of apple tablets.

I got my first iPad (1st generation!) back in 2010 with 64gb storage. This version was purchased for me by a friend in Singapore. I got the 3g model back then, but I never got around to using that feature. Future purchases would be wifi only. My main usage for the iPad back then was for reading ebooks/comics and playing some games. I spent a lot of time on Tilt to Live on that bad boy.

My first upgrade was a 4th generation iPad that I asked a friend to buy for me in Hong Kong in October 2012. This was a straight upgrade for performance reasons. The 1st gen iPad was already having trouble with modern apps and the latest iOS, my usage for it was pretty much the same. I think the game I played the most on the 2nd iPad was Mika Mobile’s Battleheart. Come to think of it I don’t think I ever finished that game, I wonder if my save would still be there if I reinstalled it.

My current iPad Pro is my 3rd apple tablet. It’s a 1st generation iPad Pro (2015) with 128gb, which I bought around this time in 2016. At this time, my previous iPad was still doing well, but my main motivation for getting the iPad Pro was the Apple Pencil. I had started getting back into drawing as a hobby and wanted to explore digital sketching. With my previous iPad I had tried purchasing some kind of capacitive stylus, but those never worked out, as the precision was never good enough for my liking. The Apple Pencil solved those issues and has been great, it’s a fantastic product. Most of my digital drawing is done using Procreate, although I also tried a few other apps like Paper by 53 and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. I could also be using the Apple Pencil for note taking, and I have done so on occasion, but I’m not that much of a note taker so this doesn’t come up often. When I do use it, I find the handwriting functionality fairly good as well. My note-taking app of choice is ???.

Despite being my newest iPad and being only two years old, this one is the least well-maintained and is experiencing some problems. It already has quite a few cracks on the display, so it looks quite worse for the wear. (See the visible cracks in the image below.) I don’t think the cracks are on the display itself, probably on the thin protective layer on top, because the cracks extend over the bezels. I suspect this is due to me banging my bag around too much. The battery life also seems much worse these days, I’m not sure if that’s due to the most recent version of iOS. When my niece comes over she always drains the battery with her Youtubes and weird games.

(Click to view full-size)

But the most mysterious problem is an incessant beeping. It’s been happening for a while, but I haven’t been able to figure out yet. Basically, at times the iPad will beep continuously, as if it was being repeatedly plugged and unplugged into the charger. It happens most often when I’m lying in bed holding the iPad above me at an angle or at my side. I can’t identify whether it happens due to position or something else. Also, it’s rare for it to happen when I’m using the iPad in some other place or position. And it never happens when I’m not using the iPad. I’m starting to suspect that it has to do with some sort of static charge caused by my hands and the bed somehow, but that seems ridiculous. That, or my iPad has developed sentience and is trying to communicate with me through beeps. (That theory gives a fun image whenever I put the iPad down and the beeping starts to taper off.)

Speaking of charger problems, another issue I have with Apple tablets in general is hardware-related but not with the tablet itself - the problem is their lightning cables, which tend to rapidly fall apart over time. I’m talking the official Apple lightning cables here. I’ve tried some unoffical ones as well, but those seem highly inconsistent as to whether they’ll even work, so I tend to prefer the official ones. I just wish they lasted longer.

I have no idea why this keeps happening to my ipad cables. (Probably not rats, no other cables are affected)
I have no idea why this keeps happening to my ipad cables. (Probably not rats, no other cables are affected) (Click to view full-size)
I have no idea why this keeps happening to my ipad cables. (Probably not rats, no other cables are affected)
I have no idea why this keeps happening to my ipad cables. (Probably not rats, no other cables are affected) (Click to view full-size)

Some friends have told me that supposedly the cable material is not very tolerant of our tropical heat. Apple needs to be better than this! More pictures (these are 3 different cables.):

(Click to view full-size)
(Click to view full-size)

Re: apps. When I first got the iPad, I did indulge myself in purchasing a few apps, mostly games like the aforementioned Tilt to Live and Battleheart. Gaming on the iPad is okay, but as can be expected it’s a big battery drain. I often got iPad versions of “real” games like Street Fighter, Injustice, and so on. But I stopped buying apps in 2013. I don’t know my rationale at the time, but I do know today that buying apps on the iPad is extremely problematic for one reason: rapid changes in iOS. The programming APIs change rapidly, and apps will often need to be updated to work with more recent versions of iOS, and many app developers won’t bother keeping up. That means many apps will tend to be short-lived - I checked my purchase history and roughly more than half of my previously purchased apps could not even be downloaded anymore. (Not sure if this would be alleviated by using older iOS versions). Maybe I’m spoiled by backward compatibility on Windows, where I can basically still run software from two decades ago. These days, my iPad gaming is mostly just Words with Friends.

Aside from drawing and gaming, my other main usage is for reading. I use both iBooks and the Kindle app and also Comic Flow for comics. At any given time, my tablet is loaded with hundreds of books and comics, so it’s hard to run out of things to read even if there’s no internet. I still enjoy reading physical books, but having a fairly large library easily accessible is great too. This is the main reason I often get high-storage versions even though they’re a lot more expensive.

All in all, I’m happy with my iPad purchases so far, I’ve used them constantly, and even the older models are still in use by other family members. I will admit I am tempted by the recently announced new iPad Pro iteration, especially given the problems my current iPad already has. It’s attractive for me mainly due to the Pencil now being able to be docked on the iPad itself and the reports that it performs about as well as a Macbook. These tablets are quite expensive though, and I’ve already made one big tech purchase this year (more on that in a future post I guess), so I’m skipping on the new iPad Pro for now. Maybe next year.

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