What is an iPad?

The iPad is a tablet computer first offered by Apple in 2010. Although a few rival models were previously available, the iPad is largely credited with creating the current market for tablets – by late 2012, more than 100 million iPads had been sold worldwide. Some 71 million iPads were sold in 2013 alone. 

The device resembles a much larger version of Apple's iPhone or its iPod Touch, and is about the same size as a magazine.

Key features and benefits of the Apple iPad

  • The iPad uses the same operating system as the Apple iPhone, and uses very similar hardware. It is, however, much more powerful and capable than the smaller device.
  • The iPad is perfect for browsing the web while lounging around, particularly because it comes with a wifi connection as standard. You can also buy, for a bit extra, a 4G version, which allows you to connect to the internet wherever you are.
  • The iPad can access the Apple 'App Store', where you can purchase and download any of over one million applications, with over 700,000 made specifically for the iPad. The latter can also run almost all of the iPhone apps, but these might not have been modified for the larger screen.
  • As well as the regular apps, Apple has also made iPad versions of its iWork, iMovie and GarageBand programs. Though they're pared down from what's available in the Mac computer versions, they're still very capable, and the iPad's touchscreen interface makes them easy to use.
  • In 2013, Apple released the newest version of the device - the iPad Air. The iPad Air is incredibly thin and light, with a retina display screen, a 5-megapixels camera, Siri voice control software, improved ultra-fast wireless and more...
  • The new iPad (full size) costs from £399, depending on how much on-board memory you choose and whether or not you want a 4G connection.
  • A new iPad Mini is now available, it is 23% thinner and 53% lighter than the larger model, with a 7.9 inch screen. Available in black and slate or white and silver, wifi or 4G. Prices start at £269.
  • The iPad does many things well and it's cheaper than a Mac computer. However, it really isn't a replacement for the latter (or, for that matter, for a PC) if you need to do a lot of writing.

Alex Duin is a freelance writer, specialising in technology.