The newer the iPad, the better — but as long as you are not having issues, older models are perfectly fine for most users. When the next version of the operating system comes out in Fall 2017, it will be compatible with most of the recent models. But how old is too old?
There are some very nice features that users of the latest iPad operating system, iOS 10, enjoy, and later in 2017 this will go even further with the release of iOS 11. If your iPad is so old that the current or new iOS won’t work with it, then perhaps it is time to consider passing the old iPad to the kids and getting a new one. (Or check out some of these ideas for what to do with your old iPad.)
Whether your iPad will support the current or new iOS depends on your model number. How do you find out what model you have? Look at the back of your iPad and see the ridiculously, absurdly, near-microscopically tiny text under the word iPad and you will see the model number. I’m not kidding — get a magnifying glass (or use the zoom on your iPhone camera)! Here’s the run-down of all the iPad model names with their corresponding model numbers, listed roughly in order from the largest model numbers to the lowest:
** 9.7” iPad 5th Generation (2017): A1822, A1823
** 10.5” iPad Pro (2017): A1701, A1709
** 9.7” iPad Pro (2016): A1673, A1674
** 12.9” iPad Pro (2017): A1670, A1671
** 12.9” iPad Pro (2015): A1584, A1652
** 9.7” iPad Air 2 (2014): A1566, A1567
** 9.7” iPad Air (2013, 2014): A1474, A1475
* 9.7” iPad 4th Generation (2012): A1458, A1459, A1460
9.7” iPad 3rd generation (2012): A1416, A1430, A1403
9.7” iPad 2 (2011): A1395, A1396, A1397
9.7” iPad (2010): A1219, A1337
In the list above, the models that have an asterisk will support the current operating system (10.3.x), and the models with a double asterisk will support the current iOS as well as the new operating system that comes out later in 2017 (in the Fall?). If you have a model with no asterisks at all, your iPad might be perfectly fine for you, you just won’t be able to upgrade it any more. This means that new apps that come out might not work on your iPad, and the ones that do may run very slowly.
(Here’s the Apple support article where I got these iPad model numbers.)
The current version of the operating system (iOS) is 10.3.2. To find out what version you have on your iPad, go to the Settings app and click on General to see a summary of your iPad. About halfway down the list you will see “Version.” If your iPad model does not have an asterisk in the above list then you might already have the latest version you can get, but otherwise, to get the best out of your iPad, you should keep the iOS up to date as much as possible.