I have a first-generation iPad that works well as a Netflix streamer, game platform, writing tool, and web and email machine. I have no desire to upgrade to the latest model. Rob Walker, writing for Yahoo News, reports that I'm not the only one who feels this way. "A recent report by Localytics concluded that 38 percent of all iPads in use — a commanding plurality — are iPad 2s," he writes.
So what does it take to make a device seem obsolete? I’d say there are two categories of answer. One is some sort of relatable spec improvement: Twice the memory that your straining laptop has, or the ability to hold three times more songs than your current MP3 player.
The other category basically involves aesthetics and form: A remarkably lighter object, a flashy new color that signals to the world you’ve got the latest thing. Apple is skilled at this, as the intense interest in the gold version of the most recent iPhone proved yet again. Indeed, the Macbook Air’s form-factor success even got an indirect nod in one of today’s few surprises: The new iPad is called the iPad Air.
Maybe these gambits just don’t work as well in the context of tablets. I’ve never bumped against the technical limits of my iPad 2. And since I don’t flash it in public very often, I’m ambivalent about whatever stylistic statement it may or may not make.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects