6 Things You Can Still Do With a First-Gen iPad (Hint: Not Much)

Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0
Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0 / Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

In 2010, Apple introduced a “truly magical and revolutionary product” as a third-category device to fit the space between smartphones and laptops: the iPad. It was an instant success, selling over three million units in the first 80 days. Fast forward 11 months, and not only did Apple announce a newer, faster, and thinner iPad 2, but they also announced that the original iPad would be discontinued.

Software updates continued for the device until May 2012, and then 15 million devices were left in the cold. Now that newer generation iPads use iOS 8.4.1 and most apps require iOS 7 or later, first generation iPad users (who are stuck with version 5.1.1) can’t play the latest games, watch a livestream on Periscope, or even use the YouTube app. Nonetheless, it still has at least some functionality beyond being a paperweight. Here are 10 really basic things you can do on your geriatric device.


After spending between $499 and $899 just a few years ago, your once-fancy tablet has been reduced to a not-so-fancy e-reader. Whether it’s swiping through the latest John Grisham novel or reading all of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira for the fifth time, apps like iBooks and ComicZeal still function perfectly on the first gen iPad. Buy new books from the iTunes store or upload your own PDF files directly to the tablet and you’re all set.


Older versions of iTunes and the Music app can still be used on first generation iPads, which means that you still have access to your library and all the new music available in the iTunes Store. The speakers are pretty loud, the sound quality is good, and it has Bluetooth connectivity, so your old iPad can still link up to a speaker. Also, with apps like Remote, you can also use the tablet to access and play music on your computer or docked iPhone.

That 3-month Apple Music trial, however, is not something first gen iPad users can take advantage of because it doesn’t appear in older versions of iTunes. The link does show up in the iTunes Store, but nothing happens when you click it.


Sadly, the only way to watch YouTube on the first gen iPad is through a browser because YouTube left their v2 Data API behind to focus on improving the features of the v3 API. Watching movies on the iPad, however, is still just as easy and enjoyable as it was in 2010. All you need to do is sync your video files from iTunes and press play. If you’re looking for a little Netflix and chill, an older version of the app is available, but the original iPad (with only 256MB of RAM) has been known to crash apps when pushed too hard, so streaming can be touch-and-go.


Surfing is possible, but pages do tend to load much slower than on newer devices, and more involved sites will likely cause your browser to throw in the towel, again, because 256MB of RAM is just not enough. To put that in perspective, the iPad Air 2 has 2GB of RAM, which is an increase of nearly 800 percent in only five years. So no, the first iPad won’t be your WiFi workhorse, but it will get the job done for some people.


The Messages app (or iMessage) on the original iPad is a great way to keep in touch with your friends who have Apple devices, and it still works on the outdated iOS. The iPad is much heftier than the models that followed (compare 1.5 lbs. to the iPad Air 2's 437 grams), so if you are using it to text, you can get a workout, too.


No more reaching for your smartphone and accidentally dropping it onto the floor. Download an app like Yocto Clock, prop up the iPad on the nightstand, and wake up to a big, bright touchscreen that shows the time and also plays your favorite rise-and-grind track. Also, an original iPad in a stand is a cool alternative to a wall calendar or digital clock. Sorry, that's all we got.