✦ iOS 6 and the Original iPad
As reported on The Loop, support for the original iPad - released in April of 2010 - will be dropped in iOS 6. Original iPad owners will no longer receive meaningful updates to the operating system on their device.
This was bound to happen at some point, although at a glance it seems a bit premature. Assuming iOS 6 is released this fall, the original iPad will have only received OS updates for about two and a half years. Though short life cycles are somewhat defensible for iPhones (service contracts usually run for two years, so many people trade up before this becomes an issue), it’s significantly shorter than the computers that “post-PC” devices like the iPad aim to displace.
Adding insult to injury, the iPhone 3GS - a device released nearly a year prior to the iPad - will be supported. Many have speculated that this is because Apple still sells the 3GS to price-conscious buyers. Some decry this as a form of planned obsolescence, engineered by a greedy Apple to get people to upgrade.
There is, however, another aspect of this decision to consider.
Anyone who has developed for the original iPad know that it is rather memory-constrained in ways that other devices are not. With only 256 MB (shared with the operating system) to play with, resource-intensive apps can easily bump up against the limit. Released just months later, the iPhone 4 with twice the memory would not have the same problem.
Though the 3GS has the same 256 MB of memory to work with as the original iPad, it also has significantly fewer pixels to render, meaning that it doesn’t need to load nearly as much uncompressed image data as apps are run. Apps running on even recent vintage iPhones require less memory for images than their iPad-native counterparts (yes, even retina displays on iPhone 4-era phones have fewer pixels than a non-retina iPad).
Simply put, the original iPad was released with too little memory for where Apple and developers would ultimately take the platform.
Consider, though, that at the time it was released the original iPad was a major gamble for Apple. While they had found a way to stuff 512 MB of memory in the device from the start, I can see why they chose to keep costs down when introducing a risky new platform.
As painful as it might be to see one’s device left behind, as long as Apple doesn’t make a habit of dropping old hardware in the haphazard manner some other platforms are notorious for, this was probably the right decision.