When the iPhone 4 came out, a new version of Apple's mobile operating system, iOS 4, shipped just before it. On the new device, the OS works beautifully as owners of the iPhone 4 can attest. But a funny thing happened after the update to an older version of the gadget, the iPhone 3G slowed to a crawl. For some users (like me), the phone became nearly unusable. There was a lag between touching the screen and anything happening that was sometimes half a second. So, e-v-e-r-y s-i-n-g-l-e letter of a text message was late showing up on the screen. Maybe that doesn't sound like much of a performance downgrade, but iOS is so finely tuned that it destroyed the user experience.
Why all this history? Well, along with the debut of the iPad 2, Apple announced that they'd be releasing an upgrade to iOS, taking it up to version 4.3. The iPad 2 is twice as fast as its predecessor, Apple says, so it should be fine with whatever changes are made to 4.3. But what about the first-gen iPad? Apple still hasn't totally come clean about what happened with the 3G slowdowns, which almost required you to downgrade your software or upgrade to the iPhone 4.
This software update -- 4.2 to 4.3 -- is not as significant as the bump from 3 to 4, so maybe there's nothing to worry about. But given how awful the 3G experience became and how noticeable even small performance changes are in a device you use every day, I'd be careful about any iOS upgrades for the iPad 1 until you see that it works well in the field.
As for me, I held off on buying the iPad 1, but I'm definitely going to buy the iPad 2 in the first couple of weeks. Expect me to be noticeably more annoying before the end of the month.
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