iPad turns 5: What Apple's tablet has meant to us

ipadair2 schultz compare
Credit: Rob Schultz

The iPad was rumored long before it was announced—luckily the one about it costing $1,000 wasn’t true—but even after Steve Jobs walked us through its apps and features, we still didn’t get it, not exactly. People said it was just a big iPod touch. Those people were wrong.

Once the first iPad shipped April 3, 2010, it quickly became clear: the iPad is a game-changer. It wasn’t the first tablet, but it was the first one that really mattered to the world, and the rest of the industry has been trying to catch up ever since—for five years and counting.

For the occasion of the iPad’s fifth birthday, the Macworld staff offers some thoughts about how the iPad changed our game—and we’re joined by some of the readers who chimed in on Twitter. What has the iPad meant for you? We’d love to hear your memories in the comments below.

I don’t want to upgrade

I bought a first-gen iPad for my boyfriend as a gift before I wanted one for myself. I had little interest in a tablet, preferring to use my iPhone and MacBook, but he wanted one. Badly. I finally came around to the idea in 2012, but I was about to uproot my life to move to San Francisco, so dropping a few hundred dollars on a new device wasn’t a high priority. Before I left, he gave me the ultimate goodbye gift: a third-gen iPad tucked inside a vintage red American Tourister suitcase.

ipad 3 gen

That iPad kept me company while I headed off to the Bay alone. I still use it every day (which is more than I can say for the suitcase), and while it’s slowing down in its advanced age, I don’t want to upgrade. That iPad was more than just a tablet: It cheered me up with FaceTime dates and episodes of 30 Rock through a tough but rewarding year. But my sentimentality will lose out to a new iPad sooner rather than later, because it’s about time.—Caitlin McGarry

My own personal reading machine

What sold me on the idea of the iPad was using it as a fancy reading device, so I loaded my first iPad up with basically every newsreader available as soon as I got it (though I never liked using it to read books—I still prefer paper). Two of those early iPad apps are now so ingrained in my iPad use that I forget that they launched so early in the game—Flipboard and Instapaper.

flipboard for ipad

Flipboard’s image-heavy layout and gesture-friendly design makes it super easy to browse content. My Flipboard is filled with pieces on travel, science, and wildlife—stuff that I like to read about, but that isn’t crucial must-know material that would make my Feedly list. Instapaper, of course, dominated the read-it-later category thanks to its cross-platform integration and simple layout. Although both apps launched early, they launched strong, and continue to get better and better.—Leah Yamshon

A killer lean-back device

My first-gen iPad marked the very first time I waited in a long retail line to buy an Apple product on the very first day. I had the tablet within hours, and it immediately replaced my iPhone as my go-to “kick back on the couch and swipe through websites” device. I knew it would become a major part of my digital life before buying it, and wasn’t disappointed. But the bad news for Apple? I’ve only felt the need to upgrade my iPad once.—Jon Phillips

The best product I never needed

I was at the launch event for the first iPad, and had been dubious before the invitations went out that Apple would really make a tablet. They were so negative about netbooks, and the initially rumored $1,000 price leaked successfully to the Wall Street Journal seemed far too high for the kind of adoption necessary.

applekeynotes ipad 100040367 gallery

But then the invites went out and it seemed clear it was going to happen. I have a few distinct memories. How thin Steve was, his pants baggy. The strangeness of spending so long on iWork apps. And then being handed a device in the demo area to play with freely—holding a sky-mapping app overhead and seeing the stars wheel around me.

It seemed impossible, like a device that dropped out of the future, but also one that I wasn’t sure I would ever need. I’d long learned by then not to try to predict consumer response to Apple’s products, and they tapped into a need. I’ve owned four and still own two, but truth be told, almost no one in the family consults them: it’s iPod Touch, iPhone, TV, and laptop all around.—Glenn Fleishman

Family technology

My family didn’t even have a computer until I was in middle school, but my 3-year-old son thinks that pretty much every screen he sees is a touchscreen, and he wants them all to be the iPad. The two of us have spent hours role-playing Toca Store, cooperating on Plants vs. Zombies levels, and using real-life objects to manipulate onscreen action with Osmo.

osmo kids

Its kid-friendly storybooks and videos have kept us both sane during long trips. (I honestly don’t know how people flew with toddlers before the iPad.) We use its cameras to video-chat with faraway grandparents. But more than anything, it’s been a friendly, hands-on introduction to technology and the many ways it can empower its users. I can’t wait to see what he gets into next.—Susie Ochs

This story, "iPad turns 5: What Apple's tablet has meant to us" was originally published by Macworld.