In 2010, Apple launched the first iPad, and it basically changed the tablet industry forever. Since then, the iPad product lineup has split up into four different models, and there have been a total of 33 iPad releases, making it harder than ever to keep them all straight.
Though Apple has had great success with the iPad, it hasn’t been without some fumbles here and there. We’re going to take a look at some of the worst iPad models that Apple has released so far, and why they made this list.
‘The new iPad’ that didn’t even last a year
The iPad 3, aka “the new iPad,” is notoriously the worst iPad product that Apple has ever released. I remember having one, and it was great at the time, but it became obsolete not even a year later with the release of the iPad 4.
Why is the iPad 3 bad? While it was the first iPad with a Retina display, which was game-changing in a hugely positive way, the A5X chip that powered it was severely underpowered for the Retina display, resulting in an overall throttled and unpleasant experience. It was also incredibly heavy and continued to use a 30-pin connector as Apple began transitioning to Lightning.
The iPad 3 came out in March 2012, but was discontinued in October 2012 when Apple introduced the iPad 4. Everything about the iPad 4 made the iPad 3 obsolete — the A6X chip could handle the Retina display, it was more lightweight, and it added a Lightning port. The iPad 3 couldn’t even last a year before being replaced, which was particularly upsetting for anyone who bought the iPad 3, including me.
No Retina display
Alongside the iPad 4, Apple launched the first iPad mini. This was the first new iPad size, going from the standard 9.7-inch display to a smaller 7.9-inch size. Those who wanted a smaller tablet to carry around everywhere found joy in the iPad mini.
However, the first iPad mini was not without shortcomings. Since it launched alongside the Retina display-packing iPad 4, it was surprising that the iPad Mini did not have one as well. Instead, it only had a 1024 x 768 resolution, which meant just 163ppi. The smaller display size made this not as noticeable for most people, but it was something you couldn’t miss when comparing it side by side with other Retina devices.
Not only did the iPad mini lack a Retina display, but it was also using the older A5 chip from the iPad 2. The main draw of the first iPad mini back then was the smaller, more portable size — but not much else.
The awkward one
Despite having four different models of iPads to choose from these days, Apple still has a yearly update for the base model iPad, which is typically the most affordable option as well. However, the most recent update was a little different, and not in a good way.
The latest 10th Gen iPad brings some worthwhile upgrades: a larger 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display with no Home button (Touch ID is relegated to the top button), an A14 Bionic chip, a 12MP wide camera, USB-C and 5G support, a new landscape ultrawide front-facing camera, and a new optional Magic Keyboard Folio accessory.
Again, worthy upgrades, right? Except for the fact that Apple now believes that the base model iPad is worth a $120 price increase to $449 for the starting model, while the previous 9th-generation 2021 iPad model is still available for $329. That’s not to mention that the new 10th-generation iPad still has a non-laminated screen and only supports the first-generation Apple Pencil, which only charges via Lightning, something that is absent on the new iPad. That means if you want to use the Apple Pencil, you need a ridiculous and silly-looking adapter dongle to charge it up.
The 10th Gen iPad has some good upgrades, yes, but it also has some questionable design choices, and it’s now at a very awkward price point. Its price is in the weird middle ground between a great budget iPad (the 2021 9th Gen iPad) for $329 and the more powerful $599 iPad Air, with a laminated screen and M1 chip.
Getting the short end of the stick
In 2021, Apple released the 3rd-generation 11-inch iPad Pro, along with the 5th-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro models, Both were the first iPads with the M1 chip inside. However, even though these two iPads have pretty much identical internals, Apple decided to differentiate them with the displays.
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro not only has a larger screen, but the screen is Liquid Retina XDR, whereas the 11-inch continues to just be the regular Liquid Display. What’s the difference? Basically, the regular Liquid Retina display is still an LCD screen with single or multiple LEDs, while the XDR version uses thousands of smaller, mini-LEDs for illumination. With the Liquid Retina XDR on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, users get higher resolution and brighter colors.
Ever since Apple began to differentiate the Pro models with the XDR display, it just feels like the 11-inch iPad Pro is the ugly duckling of the lineup. I personally love the size and portability of the 11-inch iPad Pro, but it’s a shame that it gets no love from Apple, which seems to push people toward the 12.9-inch model. And since the iPad Air also has the M1 chip and a 10.9-inch screen, the 11-inch just feels like the unwanted sibling of the entire lineup.
Power held back by software
The new iPad Pro contains Apple’s latest M2 chip inside, but other than that, it’s basically the same as the previous year’s model. The devices retain the same 11-inch and 12.9-inch sizes from the year before, with no changes in appearance or weight. The cameras are the same, and you still have USB-C with Thunderbolt/USB 4 support, up to 2TB storage, 2nd-generation Apple Pencil support, Magic Keyboard and Smart Keyboard Folio accessories, Liquid Retina XDR display (except on the 11-inch) — and the list goes on. The only change is it went from an M1 chip to M2.
In other words, if you already have an M1 iPad Pro, then the M2 iPad Pro is definitely not a worthy upgrade. And even if you’re coming from a non-M1 iPad, the M2 still a hard argument to make. I find the power of the M2 chip to be wasted because, well, the iPad Pro still runs iPadOS 16. For such a powerful chip, you still won’t find a ton of apps on iPadOS that can take full advantage of the M1 or M2 chips that are in the iPads.
Sure, there’s DaVinci Resolve if you’re big into video editing, but that’s a very specific use case. Furthermore, these kinds of apps are scarce, and many people are still waiting for Apple’s own pro-level apps to come to iPadOS, like Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro, and more.
The iPad Pro with M2 is great, but the biggest problem is it still runs iPadOS. The controversial Stage Manager may try very hard to be a complete multitasking solution, but at the end of the day, it’s hard to beat just using something like a MacBook if you really want to be productive.
As you can see, though the iPad has been a huge success and made tablets popular with the masses, there have been some flops too. Apple isn’t perfect, no matter how hard someone may try to convince you otherwise, and the iPads on this list are proof of that. I think the entire iPad lineup is a bit convoluted now, similar to the current iPhone lineups. Seriously, go back to just two models and keep it simple!
I know some of these picks may be a bit controversial since a few of them are more recent, but again, they’re just odd products when you look at the bigger picture. And if you want to keep the controversial reading going, don’t forget to check out our roundup of Apple’s worst iPhones while you’re at it.
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