In praise of older devices

I am a mobile technology geek. Along with my Huawei P9 and my Lumia 640 phones, I carry round a Samsung Galaxy Note 8 tablet and an iPad 3. I don’t have specific use cases for each of these devices, but just like to have a range of specifications on me.

I guess I adhere to a certain personality type. If my interest were in guns instead of phones and tablets, I’d be packing a pistol, a revolver, a shotgun, a semi-automatic rifle, and a couple of hand grenades. I’d be scary.

What you might notice about most of my devices is that, if they were in fact weapons, they would be showing signs of age, perhaps rusting and misfiring. The Lumia 640 might even be the equivalent of a musket. They certainly wouldn’t have the same bang as more up-to-date armaments.

But how much does it really matter to have the latest hardware and OS iteration? Is Android Nugget really superior to Jellybean (setting aside the arguable security issues)? Does a 4×1.9 GHz Octa-core processor really set your phone blazing along any faster than a Quad-core 1.6 GHz?

I’m going to relate my experience of using the five-year-old iPad 3 and the four-year-old Samsung Galaxy Note 8. Both are GSM models, although only the Note can function as a phone (if you don’t mind looking like your phone has elephantitis).


The biggest disappointment I’ve had with the iPad 3, and it was a blow that completely floored me, was finding that it was unable to run the iOS version of Bioshock. Dashed were my hopes of enjoying this brilliant game all over again on a touch-screen platform. But this kind of thing is only to be expected with older devices.

Once the specs are no longer up to the job of running the latest software (Apple guard their device specifications with a cold-war level of secrecy), they can’t be updated like desktops. So you start lagging behind. It can’t be helped.

Another let-down came with the iOS 9.3 update, when I realised that the new Night Shift mode wouldn’t work on my iPad 3. A Google search indicated that the problem lay with the chip. Night Shift requires a 64-bit processor, while my dated machine has only a 32-bit one.

Now, I’m not an engineer and I don’t claim to understand processor architecture. But to my indignant mind, if the third-party application f.lux could successfully dim the screen on my iPad 3 at night, then Apple’s Night Shift jolly well aught to be able to as well.

And don’t get me started on the split-screen multitasking introduced with iOS 9, another feature that passed my iPad by like a toffee not offered to Grandpa because he can no longer chew hard enough.

I began to suspect that these feature limitations were Apple’s way of encouraging me to part with cash for a replacement tablet. I have no hard evidence of course. But it’s just the sort of suspicion that a super-rich company like Apple generates.

While I must admit that the much lighter iPad Air 3 was a tempting purchase, and would stop every ebook I read on the device feeling like it weighed the same as the original chiselled Ten Commandments (the iPad 3 weighs 1.46 pounds at first and 25 pounds after fifteen minutes of holding it), I wasn’t ready for the upgrade, and neither was my wallet.

My iPad for a long time also served very well as a laptop alternative, used in conjunction with a wireless keyboard. Admittedly, the tasks I put it to were light ones, just word-processing and photo touching-up, but performance was always good, with little sign of lag.

Alas, this has become less true with each new Apple update. There’s a noticeable slow-down these days. Text input, for example, often fails to keep up with key-presses. Overall my iPad just feels, well, kind of like an old dog that doesn’t wag its tail with quite the same alacrity any more when I call its name.


But if my iPad can be thought of as an ailing pet sleeping out on the front porch, my Galaxy Note 8 should have been buried in the garden long ago. It has been spared this fate by two of its components having been replaced – the battery, and the charging module . Both of these components are easily available for purchase on Amazon, suggesting that the procedure is a common one, a bit like hip replacement among humans.

I have to confess that I much prefer my Note 8 to my iPad. It might be the physically smaller of the two devices, but its ‘inner’ dimensions seem greater. I find this in general with Android. The Note 8 stimulates my imagination more. Though it is my pub device of choice, so my imagination is already well-lubricated when I’m using it.

Oh, and I like to twiddle with the S-pen. I roll it around my fingers and tap it against my teeth as I once used to do with a pencil. I fancy that this makes me look thoughtful and intellectual.

Of course, the undiminished performance of the Note 8 might be due ironically to Samsung having abandoned it as far as updates go (very much unlike the slowing-down iPad). In fact, it was mid-2014 when Android version 4.4.2 landed on the device. Pressing my ear now to the rail along which that last update trundled, I hear only stillness.

Experts insist that security exploits in the Android operating system allow hackers to steal owner information, and that I should use an old device like the Note 8 with caution, better still paranoia.

While I can’t quibble with that, I don’t dwell on it either. But neither am I reckless. My online banking and other activities involving critical personal information are done on my presumably squeaky-clean iPad, leaving the Note free to download torrents.

In conclusion, if money were no option, sure, I’d go ahead and buy the latest and greatest. I’d be the sharpest shooter on the block. But I think I’m going to make do with re-installing BioShock on my desktop. I might not be able to play by touching the screen while lying on the couch, but I’ll have saved lots of money and will be able to afford that new graphics card.