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The Best iPad Is the One You Already Own

Unless it's totally broken, I guess.

The iPad and Apple Pencil on a pink background.
FellowNeko / Shutterstock.com

We live in a culture that values wastefulness. I’m reminded of this fact every time Apple announces a new product. So, to celebrate the launch of Apple’s latest iPads, I’m going to tell you a special secret—the best iPad is the one you already own. You don’t need the latest or greatest tablet.

Old iPads Still Work Great

Apple provides outstanding support for its products. You can use an iPhone, iPad, or Mac for more than half a decade before it starts to feel slow or outdated. Yeah, Apple likes to brag about massive leaps in performance, but these performance upgrades rarely impact the real-world user experience.

But what about apps and updates? Well, modern iPads receive at least five years of annual OS updates—if you buy a 2022 iPad, it will probably receive its final OS update in 2027.

If you already own an iPad, you probably don’t need to replace it anytime soon. All models launched in 2015 and later support the 2022 iPadOS 16 update, meaning that they offer exciting new features and can run the latest apps or games.

Of course, people who regularly use their iPad may find that its battery no longer holds a charge. In this situation, I strongly suggest asking a repair professional (or Apple Store employee) how much a battery replacement might cost. It’s cheaper than buying a brand new iPad; I’ll tell you that much.

iPad Upgrades Are Iterative, Not Groundbreaking

Someone using their iPad over a desk.
Framesira / Shutterstock.com

Customers and critics expect every new iPad to include some groundbreaking feature, which is simply unrealistic. Most iPad upgrades are iterative—the 10th generation iPad, for example, packs a faster chipset than its predecessor and ditches the Home button. It’s not a “substantial” upgrade, and that’s the whole point!

One of Apple’s greatest strengths is its restraint. Instead of trying to force groundbreaking features out the door, Apple focuses on small semi-annual upgrades. This tactic provides a sense of balance for customers—you can enjoy an iPad for three or four years before the newest model feels like a compelling upgrade. (Crazed Apple fans haven’t realized this fact. They’re too busy buying new toys every year.)

Admittedly, some upgrades are hard to resist. The introduction of the Apple Pencil, for example, gave graphic designers a good reason to buy the latest and greatest iPad. But groundbreaking upgrades are rare. And if you’re just using the iPad to stream video or play games, this kind of stuff really doesn’t matter.

Maybe you’ve reached the point where the new iPad looks like a great upgrade. You’re ready to ditch the iPad you’ve enjoyed for the past few years. Well, I suggest avoiding the latest iPads and taking a slightly different approach.

If You Need a New iPad, Don’t Buy the Latest Model

Someone with an iPad in the original packaging.
blackzheep / Shutterstock.com

Nobody’s forcing you to buy the latest iPad. In fact, you’re probably better off buying a previous-generation model—it’ll run fast, work with your favorite apps, and cost a lot less money than a brand-new iPad.

Buying an “older” iPad also helps you stretch your budget. Instead of spending $450 on the latest base-model iPad, you can spend the same amount of money on an older model with increased storage space or cellular connectivity.

At the time of writing, there are plenty of awesome “old” iPads available at a deep discount. Here are some of our favorite options:

All of these iPads run the latest version of iPadOS and support the Apple Pencil. They’re fantastic products, they’ll last for a long time, and they’re dirt cheap when compared with Apple’s current-generation iPad models.

Apple 2021 10.2-inch iPad (Wi-Fi, 64GB) - Space Gray (9th Generation)

With its excellent A13 Bionic chipset, the 2021 iPad is still a very powerful tablet. And since it's a "previous generation" device, it's super affordable!

Are the Latest iPads Ever Worth the Money?

A man carrying a car-sized iPad Pro on his back.
ShotPrime Studio / Shutterstock, Apple (Modified)

As I mentioned earlier, some iPad upgrades are hard to resist. If you’re an artist, a musician, or a FaceTime fanatic, you may find yourself drooling over game-changing new features introduced with an iPad Pro or iPad Air.

But unless you fit in a certain niche, such upgrades are rarely worth the money. Tons of people bought the original iPad Pro because it introduced Apple Pencil support—how many of those customers still use their Apple Pencil today?

You should also be wary of any opinions you read online (including my opinions). Journalists and critics write from a place of “authority,” and they tend to over-inflate the importance of their beliefs or experiences. For example, when a journalist proclaims, “the new iPad replaced my laptop,” they’re describing something that’s actually quite niche.

I strongly suggest buying previous-generation iPads and avoiding the newest models. It’s a smart and easy way to save money. And if you own an iPad that’s still working perfectly, try to hold out. You probably don’t need to buy a new iPad just yet.

Apple iPad Air 10.5-inch (3rd Gen) Tablet A2152 (Wi-Fi Only) - 64GB / Space Gray (Renewed)

The third-gen iPad Air (2019) features a powerful A12 Bionic chipset and will continue to receive software updates until at least 2025. (Note that this is a refurbished item.)

Andrew Heinzman Andrew Heinzman
Andrew is the News Editor for Review Geek, where he covers breaking stories and manages the news team. He joined Life Savvy Media as a freelance writer in 2018 and has experience in a number of topics, including mobile hardware, audio, and IoT. Read Full Bio »