Though Apple and the iPad's defenders — and I count myself among them — have always argued that the tablet is more than just "a big iPhone," as Apple's smartphones have gotten larger and more capable, that's exactly what the iPad has started to feel like. Things that I used to turn to the iPad for now happen on the phone (because I have it with me), or the Mac (my primary work device).
So, has the iPad become just a third device, unsure of its place in the world? It's become harder and harder to ignore that the its sales figures are slumping, and while some of that may be attributable to the long lifecycle of those devices, part of it may also be the lack of a raison d'être for Apple's tablet.
That said, I'm not simply about to give up hope. I love my iPad mini 2, which I bought as a refurb last year after the somewhat lackluster update that was the iPad mini 3.
There are plenty of suggestions about what could light a fire under the iPad. There's talk of a larger "iPad Pro," but I'd like a better idea of what exactly we're supposed to do with all that extra space. Rumors suggest some sort of split-screen multitasking mode might appear in iOS 9, specifically for the iPad, which I think would be a great move that would really set the iPad apart from other iOS devices.
It'd also present a new challenge for third-party app makers; despite the emphasis Apple makes on designing apps for the iPad, a lot of apps for the tablet still feel like blown-up iPhone apps, even five years in.
But more than all of that, I think it's up to Apple to put forth a more compelling vision of what the iPad is now. The late Steve Jobs may have famously compared personal computers to trucks in a future where iPads are cars, but the company's also made it clear that the Mac isn't going away. And, frankly, the Mac has been on fire recently, while the iPad...not so much.
The iPad remains a fantastic device, and I know plenty of people who are still using iPad 2s and some that are using iPads as their only computing device, both of which are a testament to its success. But hard as it is to believe, we've had half a decade of the iPad and the initial excitement behind the device has waned somewhat. Now that we're all used to the idea of a tablet computer, it's time for Apple to show us what makes the iPad insanely great.
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