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The Best iPad to Buy (and a Few to Avoid)

The Best iPad to Buy (and a Few to Avoid)

Buying an iPad should be simple. You just get whatever’s new, right? If only. Apple sells four main iPad models, each with its own strengths. In addition, a growing number of older iPads are floating around the eBays of the world. Since all of these devices look pretty much the same, it’s important to know what you’re buying and what you should pay for it. This guide covers the best iPads available right now, what’s coming up, the important differences between models, and the old models that exist (including the ones you shouldn’t buy at any price).

Be sure to check out all our buying guides, including the Best iPad Accessories, Best iPhones, Best iPhone 13 Cases and Accessories, Best Tablets, and Best MacBooks.

Updated September 2022: We’ve added buying advice ahead of Apple’s September event. 

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How to Install the Google Play Store on an Amazon Fire Tablet

How to Install the Google Play Store on an Amazon Fire Tablet

Once you’ve installed all four apps, it’s time to restart your Fire tablet. Press down on the power button until the power menu comes up, then tap Restart.

4. Log In to Your Google Account

Once your Fire tablet has restarted, you should be able to open the Google Play Store, sign in to your Google Account, and start downloading apps. Again, not everything works, but there’s certainly a larger selection than what you get in Amazon’s Appstore.

Tips and Troubleshooting

If you want a more stock Android experience, you can install a custom launcher, which will let you hide all the Amazon apps you don’t need. I like Nova Launcher, but there are many others available.

Assuming you are done installing the APKs from unknown sources, it’s a good idea to go back and turn that option off. It’s in Settings > Security & Privacy. Toggle off the Apps from Unknown Sources option. It’ll prevent you from accidentally downloading malicious software.

If you run into problems installing apps from the Play Store, try clearing the app data. Head to Settings > Apps & Notifications > Manage All Applications. Look through that list and find the Play Store. Tap to edit the settings. The first step is to tap Force Stop to shut down the Play Store. Next, tap Storage, then Clear Data (or Clear Storage, depending on which version of Fire OS you’re running). Once that’s done, restart your device and try logging in to the Play Store again.

If that doesn’t work, you may want to punt: factory reset and start over. However, be aware that a factory reset will erase all your data and files, not just the Google Play store, so make sure you have a good backup before you try that.

Finally, for those who’d like to try installing LineageOS, the open source alternative to Android: I do not recommend it. Fire devices do not have unlockable bootloaders, and getting LineageOS installed is not for the faint of heart. Even if you pull it off, things rarely work 100 percent of the time, and you can still screw things up after the installation. I bricked an older Fire HD 8 running LineageOS (I tried to update the bootloader within LineageOS, which proved a mistake). There is also, as far as I’m aware, no version of LineageOS that fully supports Fire hardware. If you want to run LineageOS on a tablet, a Samsung slate is probably your best bet.

The Top New Features in Apple’s iOS and iPadOS 16

The Top New Features in Apple’s iOS and iPadOS 16

It’s that time of year again. At WWDC 2022, Apple showed off iOS 16 and iPadOS 16, the next versions of the operating systems that run on its iPhones and iPads. This update builds on many of the new features Apple introduced in iOS 15, like SharePlay and Focus, and adds a greater degree of customization.

Here’s everything you need to know. 

Is Your iPhone or iPad Compatible?

With iOS 16, Apple is ending software support for the following devices: the iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus, iPhone SE 2016, iPhone 7, and iPhone 7 Plus. Basically, if you have an iPhone 8 (2017) or newer (including the second- and third-gen iPhone SE), you’ll be able to download and run iOS 16 when it’s released this fall. That doesn’t mean every feature in the update will be available on your iPhone, though, as some features like Live Text work only with iPhones powered by an A12 Bionic chip or newer.

It’s a little more complicated for iPads, since they don’t have sensible naming conventions. Here are the generations that will receive iPadOS 16 this fall. You can figure out which model you have by following the directions here.

  • iPad: 5th-gen and up
  • iPad Mini: 4th-gen and up
  • iPad Air: 2nd-gen and up
  • 9.7-inch and 10.5-inch iPad Pro
  • 11-inch iPad Pro: First-gen and up
  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro: First-gen and up

What’s New in iOS 16?

Here, we’ve highlighted the top new features coming in iOS 16. We’ll be adding more continuously until Apple releases the final version this fall.

Lock Screen Overhaul

Hands holding iPhone

New lock screens.

Photograph: Apple

Apple is redesigning the lock screen completely in iOS 16. Notifications now appear on the bottom of the screen so as to not clutter up your beautiful lock screen photo. The clock widget cuts behind the subject of your photo, giving off a cool depth effect, and you can customize its design, from the typeface to the color—just press and hold the lock screen to go into editing mode. 

You can add more widgets below the clock, like weather, activity rings, and the calendar. All the way at the bottom, where the notifications live, you can also pin certain kinds of live activities. For example, if you’re following an NBA game, you can see the scores via a pinned notification at the bottom. You can also pin things like Uber rides, workout activities, and Now Playing controls, which can expand to the full lock screen now to show album art. 

There’s a new wallpaper gallery with tons of designs to choose from, including a live weather lock screen that mimics the real-time weather conditions, or suggestions using photos from your very own camera roll. Apple will let you set up multiple lock screens, and it’s easy to cycle through them, just like how you can easily switch watch faces with a swipe on an Apple Watch. 

More Focus Improvements

iPhone showing iOS 16 Lock Screen

More customization in Focus.

Photograph: Apple

Your lock screen can also be tied to a Focus, meaning you can set a lock screen for your Work Focus and a different one—with a more personal photograph—for your Personal Focus. Swiping to the relevant lock screen will simply trigger that Focus. iOS 16 also adds Focus Filters in apps like Safari, Calendar, Mail, and Messages. This means when you open Safari with your Work Focus turned on, you’ll only see work-related tabs. The same goes for the other apps that support these filters, and Apple says developers can take advantage of an API to add support. 

Messages, but Editable

Poof.

Courtesy of Apple

Twitter still won’t let you edit tweets, but Apple is letting you edit messages in the Messages app after you’ve sent them. You can even “Undo Send” to recall messages. Also new is the ability to mark any thread as unread so you can check back on messages at a later time. Apple is also adding SharePlay support to the Messages app. Now, you don’t need to FaceTime a friend just to watch a synced movie together—you can start the action in the Messages app and chat with synced video and shared playback controls.

If you’re a fan of dictating your messages instead of typing (fewer “ducks,” am I right?) then you’ll be happy to see the improvements to dictation. Now, the keyboard will stay open during dictation so you can easily move between voice and touch. You can tap text to select it and replace it with your voice, and even send emoji without taking forever to find one. 

Pay It Later With Apple Pay

iPhone showing iOS 16 Pay Later feature

You can afford it. Really.

Photograph: Apple

Services that let you buy now but pay later have received some pushback from consumer analysts, but Apple is barreling ahead with its own take called Apple Pay Later. Soon you’ll be able to split the cost of an Apple Pay purchase over four equal payments spread over six weeks with zero interest and no fees. You’ll have the option for Apple Pay Later when you’re checking out with Apple Pay, and Apple says it’s available everywhere Apple Pay is accepted online or in-app. 

You’ll also be able to see order tracking directly in Apple Pay, though this is available only with participating merchants. And if you’re a small business owner, you’ll be able to accept Apple Pay payments via an iPhone instead of having to use a separate terminal. 

Apple’s iPad Mini Proves That One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Apple’s iPad Mini Proves That One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Sadly, battery life struggled with all that activity. I managed to squeeze about five hours out of it, so almost a full workday. Apple claims up to 10 hours of web browsing or watching video on the Wi-Fi model and nine on the 5G variant. But when I streamed a Netflix show (with iMessage, Telegram, the Notes app, and Google Calendar running in the background) it hit 1 percent at around the six-hour mark. Unless you’re using it lightly, don’t expect it to last from 9 to 5. 

If there’s one thing you take away from this review, it’s that the accessories matter. Without the Smart Cover (or a third-party equivalent) and the second-generation Apple Pencil, then streaming movies and shows is likely the most fun you’ll have with the Mini. Tack on both and the Mini can transform into a viable notebook, sketchpad, smart display, external monitor, TV, and ebook reader. If you’re brave enough, it can also double as your primary iPhone.

I still prefer using those respective items over the Mini. The tiny screen can feel cramped, especially if you try to use it for work. But if you don’t have an external monitor, or a notebook you regularly use, or a sketchpad, or a reading slate, then it can be all of those things. 

All of that that comes at a cost. This iPad Mini is the most expensive model to date at $499 for 64 gigs, but the Smart Cover and Pencil bring your total to a whopping $667 before tax. Need more storage? Your only option is 256 GB for $649, bringing that total to $817, which is a little more than the 128-GB iPad Pro and almost the price of an M1 MacBook Air (2020). And that’s just for the Wi-Fi-only model. 

Small Screen

This iPad Mini stole the thunder from the iPhone 13 this year. But when you tone down the long-overdue redesign and push through the marketing lingo, this slate is a just very small, expensive screen at its core. It feels redundant without its accessories. That’s especially true if you spend most of your time in one room with access to a laptop, a monitor, a TV, and plenty of notebook paper. 

The Mini feels like it was built for the post-pandemic era that’s not quite here. If you’re frequently reading or playing games on a train or at the coffee shop, it’s great! But I’m still spending most of my time indoors, and it’s tough to justify such a high price on a screen when I already have so many around me. 

I’ll wait until Apple’s tiny, cute, powerful tablet one day becomes more affordable. Until then, I’ll stick to my pen and paper, budget e-reader, and flatscreen TV, all of which are always within arm’s reach.

The Best Kindles to Take Your Library Anywhere

The Best Kindles to Take Your Library Anywhere

Kindles are one of our favorite devices. They’re simple, reliable, and perfect at what they do—in one palm-sized device, you can bring thousands of books with you to the park or your mountain. They get more than a month of battery life per charge and you can subscribe to get unlimited books from Amazon. You can also get free books from your local library. But what’s the best Kindle? Our guide will help you decipher the differences.

Are you ready to wade even further into the field of Amazon devices? We have guides to the Best Fire Tablets, Best Alexa Speakers, as well as many other buying guides for more advice.

Updated June 2021: We’re patiently awaiting new Kindles in 2021. We’ve adjusted prices, and refreshed copy in some areas.

Special offer for Gear readers: Get a 1-year subscription to WIRED for $5 ($25 off). This includes unlimited access to WIRED.com and our print magazine (if you’d like). Subscriptions help fund the work we do every day.