iPad Generations Explained


iPad technology, like all things Apple, has transformed the way we use technology. Since its inception in 2010, the iPad has offered a tablet-sized method for surfing the web, checking emails, watching movies and reading books. Now as Apple releases the second generation of iPad Pro, these tablets do more, perform faster and have become integral to the way we teach, do business and entertain ourselves.

iPad 1st Generation

Limited to iOS 5.1.1 or earlier, this may pose problems with newer programs designed only for newer OS’s. Available in silver with a white bezel, if you’re mostly surfing the web, reading email, and aren’t pushing the envelope with applications this iPad does its best work as an e-reader, and weighs in at 1.5 lbs.

iPad 2nd and 3rd Generations

Both the iPad 2 and iPad 3 are upgradable to iOS 9 and no further and are a nice, low cost option for folks with children or who are using older Apps. The second generation comes with a choice of black or white bezels and a silver aluminum frame. It also includes the A5 chip and was the first iPad to add cameras to the front and back. The 3rd generation sports the first Retina display and 5MP rear facing cameras. These iPads weigh in at about 1.4 lbs., and like the first generation iPad, use a 30-pin dock connector to power up.

iPad 4th Generation

The fourth generation iPad improved the cameras and was the first iPad to use the faster, thinner Lightning connector for charging. Upgradable only to iOS 10, it will eventually outgrow current Apps. This iPad has the same form factor as the 2nd and 3rd Generation models – so they can wear the same cases – and it weighs in at 1.46 lbs.

iPad Mini 1st Generation

Released for the first time in 2012, the smallest Apple iPad with a 7.9-inche screen is the “Mini Me” to the classic iPad 2nd Generation. It sports the same internal specs as the bigger model but comes with an upgraded 5MP camera. It also has the same limitations as its older sibling and can only upgrade to as far as iOS 9 and no further.

The iPad Air 1st and 2nd Generations

The iPad Air was a radical design change from the classic iPad. The Air is the first iPad to offer Touch ID and more color choices – Space Gray, Silver and Gold – and weighs in just slightly less than one pound – 20% lighter than prior models. Apple reduced the dimensions of the Air from the pervious iterations by 23%. They carved off a bit of the height and width of the case. The iPad Air 2 built upon the improvements made on its lighter older sibling with both speed and a faster processing chip, as well as adding for the first time the Touch ID technology to the home button. The iPad Air 2 also includes an 8MP rear-facing camera with a fixed f/2.4 aperture and HD. On tablet cell sign in was also introduced for the first time with the iPad Air. Both iPad Air and iPad Air 2 will upgrade to iOS 11 and beyond.

iPad Mini 2nd, 3rd and 4th Generations

Apple tends to upgrade each iteration of their iPad models to offer better cameras, faster processors, Touch ID, etc. In spite of the diminutive size, the iPad Mini 2nd-4th generations more than met those expectations. Upgrades included more storage – up to 128GB on the 4th Generation – Touch ID and multiple color options. Retina display, anti-reflective coating and faster graphics also distinguish these iPads from the original iPad Mini. All will upgrade to iOS 11 and likely beyond.

iPad Pro 12.9-inch and iPad Pro 9.7-inch 1st Generation

Apple dipped its toe into Pro tablets for the first time in 2015 with the hefty 12.9-inch iPad Pro, closely followed by the 9.7-inch option that mirrors the form factor of the Air 2 but, like it’s bigger sibling, provides more raw power than previous versions. Both Pro models offer four speakers, motion sensors, Touch ID, better screen resolution and as much as 256GB storage than the non-Pro versions. Also new with this release, the original iPad Pro 12.9-inch comes with an 8MP camera and enough room for the split screen technology to work well – it’s the same surface size as two standard iPad screens set side by side. Like the iPhone 7, the 9.7-inch version comes with a whopping 12MP camera upgrade. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro weighs in at a hefty 1.6 pounds, while the 9.7-inch is slightly less than one pound. An upgrade to iOS 11 is available on both.
Both were released with Smart Keyboards that connect to the iPad via Smart Connectors only available for use with the iPad Pro models. Soft-to-the-touch keys, a folding stand and the ability to use the keyboard itself as a screen protector rounds out the coolness factor of these keyboards. The Apple Pencil, another accessory that can only be used with iPad Pros, charges via the iPad Lightning port. The Apple Pencil includes pressure sensitivity to allow it to mimic a No., 2 pencil and no need for Bluetooth connectivity.

iPad Pro 12.9-inch and iPad Pro 10.5-inch 2nd Generation

Apple dropped the 9.7-inch version of the iPad Pro in 2017 when it introduced a 10.5-inch version. These iPad Pros include slimmer bezels on the side that offer a bigger screen; the same size as a standard keyboard. The 2nd generation iPad Pros include improved displays that are brighter and less reflective with higher refresh rates and even less lag with the Apple Pencil. Apple rounds out improvements with a 12 MP camera that allows for better document storage, up to 512GB storage and faster and more powerful 10X processors. Both, like their older siblings, have four speakers and support the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard. Like their predecessor, these will upgrade to iOS 11 and beyond.

The New iPad 9.7-inch

Otherwise known as the iPad 5th generation, this iPad brings Apple back to its roots with a tablet that, though less powerful than it’s Pro family members, offers the same features as the original iPads: web-surfing, email reading, e-reader and Apps galore. With e 9.7-inch screen and weighing in at just over a pound, the iPad 5 is available in Space Gray, Rose Gold, Gold and the ubiquitous Silver Aluminum with 32GB or 128GB storage, and Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi and Cell and upgradable to iOS 11 and further.


  1. I completely agree with Bonita. If you take each couple at face value then it’s a balancing act at the best of times, and the worst of times. All of the time.


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