The iPad is 5: How Apple’s tablet changed the world

The iPad is five years old today. In that time, Apple’s tablet has both defined and dominated a whole category of smart devices.

It’s easy to be blasé about the iPad today, but the fact that it continues to be the best tablet around year after year is astonishing.

Even the all-conquering iPhone has arguably been matched or even bettered by various Android smartphone rivals over the years. When it comes to the iPad, though, there really is no argument to be made.

With that in mind, we thought we’d pay tribute to the iPad by identifying five industries that have benefited from Apple’s imperious tablet.

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Nexus 9

The tablet industry

Let’s start with the obvious one. While we’ve already acknowledged that no rival device has managed to match the iPad, Apple’s tablet rivals have benefitted hugely from its presence.

Isn’t that a contradiction? Not at all. The simple fact is that without the iPad, there wouldn’t be a tablet market – at least, not in its current form.

Tablets have gone way beyond novelty or luxury status to the point at which there seems to be at least one in every household. It’s become part of the furniture, and that simply wouldn’t have been the case without the iPad blazing a trail.

Google, Samsung, Microsoft, and Amazon have all been forced to doff their caps to Apple’s sleek slab in their time.

ComiXology

The comic book industry

The comic book industry has received a massive boost from the proliferation of tablets – and thus owes a large part of its recent resurgence to the iPad (alongside the current popularity of super hero films, of course).

For years prior to the arrival of the iPad, comic publishers had struggled to boost sales of their physical publications. The answer, as with all media, was to go digital – but until the arrival of the iPad, there wasn’t really a suitable mainstream format for such things.

Early (and even more recent) smartphones just weren’t big enough to fully replicate the comic book experience, but a 10-inch tablet provides a near-enough full-scale comic book experience.

The biggest and best example of this is ComiXology, which provides a slick app with powerful reader and shop front facilities to purchase and consume comics on smart devices. By the end of 2013, the company had managed 200 million digital comic downloads, and a few months later it was acquired by Amazon.

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Square

Small businesses

Go into a trendy boutique shop, independent cafe, or small restaurant in one of the developed world’s hip cities, and you’ll probably find an iPad at the heart of its transactions.

Thanks to its (relatively) cheap price, compact size, sharp and responsive screen, cool image, and unmatched app ecosystem, it’s the perfect device for a small start-up business to get up and running with. Indeed, we’ve also seen the emergence of affordable mobile card payment system providers like Square and iZettle for just such small iPad-driven businesses

The result is that small businesses don’t need to spend big on a bulky cash register and card payment system anymore, and it’s largely thanks to the iPad.

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Classroom ipad

Education

The arrival of the iPad has revolutionised teaching at all levels, but particularly for the very young.

As the BBC Active website puts it, “The introduction of the iPad, with its easy to manipulate touch screen technology, has allowed even very young children to take advantage of a computer. Its portable format and fast load-up time has made it possible for them to be used easily in the classroom.”

It provides quick access to a vast array of educational sources right there in even the most crowded of classroom, where just six years ago you would have needed to book out time in a vast yet limited IT room.

Foreflight

Aviation

The influence of iPads on the aviation industry has been profound, drastically increasing safety as well as efficiency and comfort.

Pilots no longer have to struggle with weighty books and unwieldy maps in the confines of a compact cockpit. All the information they could need is there on Apple’s 10-inch display, accessible in a way it never has been in the past.  

Many pilots will even mount an iPad on their yoke or controls for easy reference, saving valuable space. It’s also made flying older planes with antiquated flight systems safer, as you can implement an iPad into any set-up.

Meanwhile, there is a decidedly niche but highly lucrative market for advanced mapping apps (such as ForeFlight) targeted directly at pilots.

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