iPad haters’ initial complaints seem ridiculous 5 years on

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The dream to give ever student in the L.A. schools district an iPad has officially come to an end. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
The iPad is one of Apple's greatest inventions, but at launch, people couldn't stop complaining. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Five years ago today, Steve Jobs introduced the iPad. A giant screen with one button, the iPad represented possibly the purest distillation of Jobs’ tech dreams. Yet at the time it was met with derision. “I got about 800 messages in the last 24 hours,” Jobs told his biographer, Walter Isaacson. “Most of them are complaining…. It knocks you back a bit.”

Half a decade and multiple iterations on, the iPad is an established part of Apple’s ecosystem. While it’s had its ups and downs, nobody’s flooding Apple’s inbox with iPad-related hate mail anymore.

So what were people complaining about? We hopped in our time machine to take a look at the original criticisms — and what, if anything, Apple’s done about them in the years since.

Steve Jobs was 54 when he introduced the iPad. But the iPad has become a tool for all ages.
Steve Jobs was 54 when he introduced the iPad. But the iPad has become a tool for all ages.

iPad is for old people

Ever since the GUI was introduced way back in the 1980s, Apple’s computers have been (unfairly) blasted for not being serious machines by a certain segment of tech observers. So it was with the iPad, which was criticized at launch for being little more than a giant iPod Touch aimed at older customers who didn’t regularly use computers. Specific criticisms included everything from its inability to load custom code, to its relative lack of computing power, to it being nothing more than an evil marketing tool designed to suck you into Apple’s ecosystem.

While these criticisms contain seeds of truth, the idea that the iPad was a crippled computer for elderly folks unable to handle a proper PC was as wrong an assumption as there is. Not only has the iPad swept the education market, but it’s also proved to be a powerful tool for a wide range of people, from athletes to musicians.

Today, the iPad is arguably Apple’s most versatile device (even if both my tech-illiterate parents love it).

iPad is for consuming, not producing

“Let’s face it: The iPad is basically a mobile device front-end for the iTunes Store,” wrote snippy Redditor thewriteguy soon after the iPad was announced. “And the consumer (I wouldn’t call them a ‘user’) is charged $500 for the privilege of shopping iTunes with it.”

He’s right about one thing: The iPad is a fantastic device for consuming media. It’s great for surfing the Web, watching YouTube videos, reading ebooks and anything else that your phone is too small for and your notebook’s not immediately convenient for. At its most basic, the iPad is a screen you carry around with you, and more than a century of cinema has taught us that screens are great for passive consumption.

But the idea that the iPad is not a productivity device in its own right is ludicrous. Apple has always targeted the creative end of the market first and foremost — and the iPad has excelled in that arena. When Bentley set out to shoot a new ad last year, the iPad’s iMovie app allowed them to carry out the majority of editing work from the back seat of their car, adding a whole new level of immediacy. Meanwhile, apps like itSeez3D allow people to transform their tablets into 3-D scanners, giving them a tool that previously wasn’t within the grasp of the average user.

The iPad is increasingly used for more traditional business work as well. Microsoft Office 365 was a huge hit, both commercially and critically, when it arrived on iOS last year. Apple’s 2014 deal with IBM (which we called the biggest tech news of last year) also brought a slew of new enterprise productivity apps to Apple’s tablet, offering tools to people working in everything from banking to telecommunications.

This is what counts for multitasking on the iPad.
This is what counts for multitasking on the iPad.

iPad lacked multitasking

This point is connected to the one about productivity. Multitasking is one area the original iPad critics might have had a point. Simply put: To be a true productivity tool capable of replacing your MacBook or iMac, it’s crucial that you can pull information quickly from one application and put it into another. Several generations on, Apple’s still not giving us iPad multitasking — which has certainly rubbed some people the wrong way.

There’s a good chance that will change with the 12-inch iPad Pro when the new device arrives, however.

No Flash on iPad

The lack of Flash on the iPad is one of those time-capsule complaints that, like teenage problems, felt oh-so-important at the time but now gets shrugged off with a “why did we ever care about that?” nonchalance.

Here in 2015, not even Android supports Flash anymore — and it hasn’t done so for a few years. Flash is dying out, and it’s a rare occasion when you visit a website on an iPad that can’t be viewed properly because of the tablet’s lack of Flash support.

No camera on iPad

This early omission has been well and truly fixed. Today’s iPads come with front and back cameras — as have every version of the tablet since the second one.

Not only are modern iPad cameras beautiful in terms of their image quality — we think it’s getting a bit less dorky to be seen taking photos with them. Or maybe that’s just what we tell ourselves to help us sleep at night.

The iPad is an iconic brand today, but in its early days, all people heard was a silly name. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
The iPad is an iconic brand today, but in its early days, all people heard was a silly name. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

The iPad’s name sounds like a feminine hygiene product

So quickly do Apple products become ubiquitous that it’s tough to remember a time when terms like “iPad” or “iPod” didn’t roll off the tongue. However, back in 2010 the most-cited criticism of the iPad was its name.

Some thought “iPad” sounded like a feminine hygiene product, and the term “iTampon” became a top trending hashtag on Twitter. Jezebel even ran a “Best Period-Related iPad Jokes” feature (“64 gig iPad will forever be known as the heavy flow model”).

Five years on, “iPad” has become the generic go-to term for tablets, to the point where other tablet-makers end up unintentionally advertising for Apple. When Microsoft gave NFL teams Surface tablets to review plays on the sidelines, commentators struggled not to refer to them as iPads. A 2014 survey found that kids placed the iPad name above Disney, Nickelodeon, Toys”R”Us, McDonald’s and YouTube, making the tablet the No. 1 brand among children aged 6-12.

Not bad for a name that everyone thought was a laughingstock!

What’s next for iPad?

Five years down the road, it would be ridiculous to pretend that we know exactly how Apple will iterate on the iPad going forward — it’s a bit like looking at an Apple II or first-generation Macintosh and thinking that’s as far as computers were going to go.

So what would we like to see from the iPad over its next five years? Other than an increased presence in schools, businesses, airplanes and everywhere else, I’d love to see a bigger screen, split-screen multitasking and additional RAM. As controversial as it is, you can sign me up for a Surface-style stylus, too, and an Apple-branded wireless keyboard.

What would you like to see Apple change about the iPad? Leave your comments and complaints below.

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  • Guy

    Not only is multi-tasking still missing, multiple user sign in is as well. Also some kind of basic file system would be nice. There are work-arounds for the file system lack, but it’s a kludge that should be addressed by Apple. I’m currently still on an iPad 3rd gen (which I’ve used to edit video and create multitrack podcasts) and was VERY tempted to grab an iPad Air 2 as it was $100 off last weekend at a big name reseller but ended up not pulling the trigger because my current one still does everything I need it to. If they do make a larger one though that will be my tipping point.

    • melci

      Actually, multi-tasking is supported in iOS (see above). Also, iCloud Drive and OS-level integration of DropBox, Box, OneDrive etc now gives a very useful local/external file system without the complexity of Android’s save anything anywhere filesystem (which Google has itself started to lock down with Lollipop to try and reduce the user confusion and malware apocalypse).

      • Guy

        Sorry, multi-tasking on iOS is abysmal at best and not at all intuitive. Multi-user support (which would be a big help in the education market) is non-existent, and a rudimentary file system shouldn’t be left up to 3rd party apps which only work well when connected online.

        Google’s problem is that they left too much to the manufacturers and carriers which led to great marketshare (they LOVE how they can put any kind of crapware on it and control updates outside of Google’s control) but also led to fragmentation and developer confusion over what platform, OS, and/or features to develop for.

        Even with the problems of iOS, I’d rather deal with those kinds of issues that trying to figure out Android’s issues and malware problems

      • melci

        I’m not sure what your complaints about iOS multi-tasking are considering iOS has been demonstrated to comprehensively beat Android in task-switching performance even when iOS apps aren’t pre-loaded in RAM.

        Your complaint about the lack of multi-user support are certainly valid as Apple’s preferred solution of 1-to-1 rollouts is not for every institution.

        The “rudimentary file system” issue certainly used to be valid, but not nearly so much now since Apple’s release of iOS 8, iCloud Drive and the open storage architecture.

      • Guy

        My complaints about iOS (especially on smaller devices) is that it isn’t intuitive. I don’t use Android devices so never gave much thought to how they multi-task.

        A lack of multi-user support could hurt them in the education market where not every school will be able to afford $200-400 per student per iPad. The best part of the iPad is how easy it is to configure many of them at the same time and that they’re easier to lock down than say a PC or Mac. But that PC or Mac could be used by 3-6 students on any given day making them much more cost effective. Frankly (for once) Google seems to have the right idea with ChromeBooks if you can get over the potential of Google now knowing practically everything your kids are doing (not that big a jump from now anyway I guess).

        The file system or lack of one cqn be a huge issue if you aren’t online (which is also a complaint of mine for Chrome). Take that basic structure from Cloud services and add it into iOS with a new hand gesture (slides in from the left or something). Make it so the user can’t add other folders beyond the default ones to prevent the kind of mess that can come from other OS’s. Developers could add tags for which folder(s) documents created with their apps it would reside in.

      • GR

        Do not fall for Samsung and Microsoft idea of multitasking and file system. You are blinding your self by assuming a laptop way of multitasking and file system is the only way to accomplish something.

        Research MacStories website and see how some people are running a online business on the iPad.

      • Guy

        And that’s great. I use mine in many ways to do tasks that I used to use a laptop for. But features that depend on an online component doesn’t help someone that needs to edit or create a document (or whatever) that’s going to depend on being connected.

        I use mine to create podcasts, edit audio and video, and create graphics as needed while away from my home computer and having to remember which app I used for what cn be confusing and takes time away from the creative process.

        A simple file system based on documents instead of apps (basically once you hit the document, the apps capable of doing something with it appear in a drop down menu) would make life much simplier and the folder types can be limited to just a few to prevent folder creep.

  • krabby

    The main thing i would like to see enhanced or added would be a conduit to allow me to use a mouse for exact movements for the few times a week I need precision. Maybe to allow me to use a mouse when connected to iCloud for work in Keynote. I expect limits with the iPad, but to eliminate my desktop that is all i would need.

  • Ronaldo

    Please, Please give the ability to remote control. This may be possible with some software I’m not aware of (and someone please correct me if I’m wrong) but trying to support someone on an iPad (my mother) remotely can be so frustrating. “You’ve done this same thing THIRTY TIMES! HOW CAN YOU NOT REMEMBER THIS?!?!?!”

  • acslater017

    What’s funny is that the same short-sighted complainers are dooming the Apple Watch for very similar reasons. The keynote sucked, it’s not as innovative as the iPhone, no one wears watches (uses tablets?) anymore, it’s expensive, we don’t need another screen in our life, blah blah.

    My prediction: after a slow first year (10-30 million sold), it will catch on after people see their early adopter friends wearing it, they try it on at the Apple Store, or their favorite celeb is seen with one. Third party apps will slowly come on board after WWDC 2015, and gain steam as HomeKit, HealthKit, ApplePay, and CarPlay ramp up. In 2-3 years, battery life will be 50% better, we’ll have models for $199-249 and the Watch and bands will be the gifts of choice, akin to iPods in the early 2000s. It will never be the money-making machine that the iPhone is, but a significant part of the ecosystem. Then in 2019 we’ll have an article titled “Remember When People Doubted the Apple Watch?”

    • Guy

      What is needed is for someone to keep track of these things and then be able to ask the same people about it in 2-3 years. Mostly they’ve moved on to hate other things by then

      • Tostada

        Hah! I remember Gizmodo going on about sanitary napkins and the name iPad. When I suggested that a site whose name started with gizm might have a glass house, that comment sure didn’t make it past their mods.

  • Ian

    This isn’t quite true, I email Apple almost daily with complaints about my my iPad – usually while I wait for one of many system-wide crashes resetting iOS every day. Whenever I attempt to update an app (one that Apple approved) using Apple’s own software, the whole system crashes. Every day. I keep telling them, I know why it is too, and have done through several versions of iOS7 and iOS8.

    • Greg_the_Rugger

      When the screen goes blank, it has not “crashed.” It simply shuts down when there is no activity. You can adjust this in the System Settings or just push one of the buttons. Make an appointment with a genus at the Apple store if you don’t believe me.

      • Ian

        Greg, it isn’t simply going to sleep due to inactivity, and I know the difference between a hard reset and soft reset. It does crash leading to a soft reset whenever around 200MB is transferred either between devices or when downloaded from a server. Sometimes I will force a hard reset if I don’t want to wait quite as long. Apple Geniuses have found it all works fine.

        I know it crashes partly because of the time it takes to restart, the Apple logo displaying on screen, and finally the error message telling me it crashed and needs to unlock to continue.

      • Jeo Ten

        Using what app(s) to download?

      • Ian

        The apps are irrelevant, it is due to file size and memory. For me, it mostly crashes using BBC iPlayer when I download TV shows and Apple’s own App Store app when I update apps.

        It appears likely now that another key reason for this regular crashing is because of the number of apps I have installed, which suggests it is more to do with memory management than file size.

    • Jerry Jones

      If this was a real widespread problem, we would be hearing about it. You either have a corrupt iOS load, bad app or faulty hardware. I know it is quite frustrating when you suffer issues like this but Apple is not going to prioritize your complaints when it is obviously a unique and rare issue.

      • GR

        Latest update is perfect

  • melci

    Incorrect, the iPad does indeed multi-task.

    iOS intelligently allows a huge range of app processes to multi-task in the background including tracking GPS locations, downloading files, playing music, checking for new content, refreshing data, receiving push notifications, continuously tracking accelerometer, barometer and digital compass motion data with the Motion chip, voice calls and VOIP, SMS and messaging, communication with external and Bluetooth accessories etc all in the background while other apps are in the foreground.

    Much better than the wildwest of rogue programs draining batteries on Android due to completely uncontrolled multi-tasking.

    Likewise, if you want to play Flash videos or run interactive Flash content on the iPad, all you need to do is get the Puffin Browser which runs Flash beautifully.

  • melci

    Also, the iPad name criticisms were just another attempt by competitors to demean a new Apple product unless you thought NASA was lame having all those rocket pads and how could IBM have called their laptops ThinkPads and oh man all those batchelor pads, legal notepads and how dorky are those football players with their shoulder pads and don’t tell skaters their knee pads are baaaaad or the height of uncoolness, Rap stars with their synth pads and drum pads.

  • digitaldumdum

    “iPad haters’ initial complaints seem ridiculous 5 years on”

    Their complaints were ridiculous to begin with. Haters gonna hate, and certain people seem to love to hate Apple no matter what. But as soon as you put an Apple device in their hand, or get them to step away from their PC for a moment and try a Mac, they usually thank you later.

  • Nick Byble

    There is a workaround on iOS for flash websites called Parrot Browser. It’s free and a little janky, but what can you expect for free and flash friendly. I know it works bc my wife and I were trying to download Xmas pix of our daughter with Santa and the mall subcontractors website as flash driven. It allowed us to do exactly what we wanted from our “allegedly inferior” devices.

  • Ariel Reyes

    This article seems fanboyish, like an opportunity to make people look ridiculous (and not so much their complaints).
    These complaints were accurate: crippled computer, no flash, not made for producing, no camera. You say counter all these with what the tablet can do today, which isn’t right because it is a very different device. Now it is capable to be used for producing but not originally.
    In my home of two people we have an iPad mini, an air 2 and 2 iPhones (5 and 5s). So I’m not speaking as an android user, but I was one until the iphone stepped up to the plate. Technologies change and we take advantage but it doesn’t mean the previous stuff was perfect. Try to use the ipad 1 for producing with imovie (if you can even install it), or give ipad 1’s to the schools educating with them, THEN you can say those original complaints were silly. The original iphone couldn’t even send pictures! Why wouldn’t I complain about that when feature non smart phones had been doing that for years very well? Why wouldn’t I use an android or windows mobile phone if I was able to do that with them?
    The point is, the complaint was legitimate then and it is still today. Try to use that SAME device and you’ll see those limitations were not ridiculous. I moved over from android because now I consider it a superior device, for MY needs. I can’t say that about the slow, non multitasking, non flash ipad 1. Btw, on the topic of flash, it was important then so it wasn’t silly. Again, you have to think about what you had in front of you. You’re essentially putting an iPad Air 2 in people’s hands back then which is just not the case. Those complains about today’s device would be ridiculous.
    Please limit the fanboydom. I know one when I see one. They had every right to complain without being called silly or ridiculous.
    Thanks,
    AR

    • RedNinjaX

      “Cult” of Mac

  • GR

    Do not constrain your self to old ways. Think outside the box. Look online for way other people accomplish a task you want to do on the iPad and you will discover that is more capable that you previously thought.

    Desktops has been around for over 30 years. iPad has only been here for 5. It will get even more capable in the future.

  • Joe Kelley 

    I can’t help but laugh at all the bitching. The fact that users are so jaded is a testament to just how big a technological feat the iPad is. Judging from the comments I’ve read here, I’m the “old timer” in this discussion (58). When I remember my early days of computing on an original IBM PC using text based “WordStar” and Lotus 1-2-3 viewed on a 13″ amber monitor with ⅛ the number of pixels of my iPad Air, I have trouble complaining about the iPad’s lack of multitasking or mouse support. It’s a matter of perspective I guess, but when I use the magic wand in the newest iPad version of Pixelmator and the high wires in the background of a picture of my daughter disappear, I still get a sense of wonder and amazement. The iPad may have shortcomings by some people’s estimations, but I can’t help but be reminded of something my father used to say: “Some folks wouldn’t be pleased even if you hung them with a brand new rope.”

  • josephsinger

    With the rollout of the iPhone 6+ it’s likely taken some of the bit out of the iPad mini market.

  • CelestialTerrestrial

    First things first. Give us the ability to have more than 5 icons in landscape mode. Being able to change the icon size and spacing. I have about 2+ pages of icons, but I could probably fit them nicely on one page if I could make the icons a little smaller with closer spacing. There is certainly enough room for more icons on the dock. Being able to select which WiFi connection in Control Center instead of just on/off. Come out with a weather app where it displays the current temp on the actual icon similar to the clock gives us current time. I think they should have downloadable themes as OPTIONAL so for those that want the Skeuomorphic look, they can choose that. If they want other themes, then let people be able to download/create them so we can have that option. I liked SOME of the older themes. I think there should be a couple of different pull down menus and a couple of pull up menus giving us access to different things. Yes, I think an actual easy to use file system would be nice. I think Siri could do a little more would be nice. I think there should be a pull down menu to change apps rather than having to double click the home button. Yeah, it needs to have split windowing, it just has to be easy to click on/off and adjust sizing.

    I’m wondering what the experience would be like if they had OS X for iPad. Would people prefer it. Just something I would like to at least experiment with.

  • Mr_Underhill

    The Surface Pro makes iPad look like the toy it is. Not even a comparison.