My iPad Air is obsolete! Don’t worry – I’m not griping about the most recent update to Apple’s middle tablet and claiming it’s useless because it doesn’t have an M8 chip, even though that 1) hasn’t been invented yet, and 2) looks like txt spk for ‘mate’ and makes me hope Apple will immediately leap from the M7 to the M9. I’m talking about the original iPad Air.
I bought one back in 2014, some months after the launch. I’d like to think this was a considered purchase to deal with my then-ageing original iPad making sad little wheezing noises. But it was probably because I was smitten with the iPad as a platform, seduced by the Air’s A7 chip, higher-res display and skinny bezels, and could hold out no longer. Now, according to an internal memo obtained by MacRumors, Apple on 31 May declared this fine tablet obsolete.
To be fair, this is normal. The device was discontinued in 2016. It’s Apple policy that seven years after it last distributed an item for sale, someone menacingly bellows BWAHAHAHAHA and brings an oversized fist crashing down on a massive red button labelled DEATH. Or, you know, types up a memo.
It’s not often I find myself in possession of obsolete kit, unless it’s really obsolete. I have a ZX Spectrum in a frame, idly wondering why it’s hanging on a wall and not spewing retina-shattering colours into someone’s face by way of a dodgy CRT telly. But I’m not one of those people with drawers full of Apple kit, mostly because when I buy something new, I sell the previous unit on.
For some reason, I’ve not done that with a few iPads. I still have the original, which reached me by way of an exciting road trip adventure after its journey by air was scuppered by the tiny snag of someone inconveniently setting off a volcano in Iceland. And the Air has lurked in a drawer for years. Which late last year, gave me an idea.
32-bit appageddon had long rendered many App Store favourites unplayable. I was dearly missing Gridrunner, Space Invaders Infinity Gene, Giant Metal Robot and many more. And the iPad Air was capable of running iOS 10, which supported 32-bit titles… The tiny snag: mine was running iOS 11.
Air we go again
One weekend, I threw myself into YouTube videos and web pages, learning how I could potentially, in theory, probably downgrade the iPad without setting it on fire. Lengthy arguments with command-line tools and quite a few reboots later, the iPad sprang back to life, in all its iOS 10 glory. I scoured my App Store purchase history and downloaded everything I could find, and sideloaded some missing titles I’d long ago backed up to iTunes by way of iMazing. (Thanks, previous me!)
Far from being obsolete, then, I now consider my iPad Air essential. Today, there are no other ways to revisit ‘retro’ iPhone and iPad games, and so this tablet is like a moment of history, frozen in time. Albeit one you can ‘unfreeze’ for a bit when you fancy a blast on Gridrunner.
One day, something will go wrong. I’ve cunningly turned off Wi-Fi to make sure I can’t blearily update the Air back to the evil iOS 11. But something else will go FTTTZ! eventually. However, this rejuvenated tablet is a good reminder that just because a tech company says old hardware’s fit for the scrapheap, that doesn’t mean there’s not still plenty of life left in it.