A Guided Tour of the iPad

Get to know your new Apple tablet

The iPad is loaded with possibilities—so many that it can be confusing for the new user. If you've never used a tablet or smartphone before, you might have a few questions after taking it out of the box.

Whether someone gifted you with a previously owned iPad or you bought a new one, you're bound to have some questions. To answer some of them, let's take a look at what comes with the iPad.

Unboxing the iPad

In addition to the device, the box contains an insert with a diagram of the hardware and a quick explanation of how to set it up for first-time use. The box also includes a cable and an AC adapter.

The Connector Cable

The cable that comes with the newest iPads is called the Lightning connector, which replaced the 30-pin cable that came with previous models. No matter which style of cable you have, you use it to charge the iPad and connect the iPad to other devices, such as your laptop or desktop PC. Both cable types fit into the slot at the bottom of the iPad.

AC Adapter

Rather than including a separate cable just for powering the iPad, Apple's AC adapter uses the connecting cable to connect to your power outlet.

You don't need to plug your iPad into the wall to charge it. You can also charge the iPad by plugging it into a PC. However, older computers may not be able to charge the iPad properly.

If plugging the iPad into your PC doesn't charge it or charging this way is slow, the AC adapter is the way to go.

iPad Diagram: Learn the iPad's Features

Apple's design philosophy keeps things simple, so the iPad only has a few buttons and features on the exterior. Each of these features plays a vital role in using your iPad, including a navigational tool and the ability to put your iPad to sleep and wake it up.

iPad with screen facing, highlighting the Sleep/Wake button in the upper right corner fo the device and the Home button in the lower center

The iPad Home Button

You use the iPad's Home button to close an app and return to the Home screen, making it one of the buttons you'll use the most. You also use it to wake up the iPad when you want to use it.

Not every new iPad has a Home button. If yours doesn't, press the Power button (called Sleep/Wake on many models) to wake up the iPad and then swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access the Home screen.

There are a few other cool uses for the Home button. Double-clicking it brings up the App Switcher, which you can use to jump between programs and close ones that are running in the background. Triple-clicking the Home button zooms in the screen or opens other accessibility features, which are helpful for those with low vision.

You can use the Home button to go to the Spotlight Search screen quickly. Click the Home button a single time while on the home screen to search through your iPad's content, including contacts, movies, music, apps, and even a quick link to search the web.

Spotlight Search on iPad

The Sleep/Wake or Power Button

The Sleep/Wake Button puts the iPad to sleep and wakes it up again. It's great if you want to suspend the iPad, but you don't have to worry about doing it every time you stop using the iPad. If the iPad remains inactive, it puts itself to sleep.

While the Sleep/Wake button is sometimes referred to as the On/Off button or Power button, clicking it does not turn off the iPad. Powering down the iPad requires you to hold this button down for several seconds and then confirm your intention by swiping a confirmation slider on the iPad's screen. It's also how you reboot your iPad.

The Volume Buttons

The volume buttons are on the upper-right side of the iPad. The Mute button eliminates all sound coming from the speakers. You can change the functionality of this button in the settings to lock the orientation of the iPad if you hold it at an angle that rotates the screen when you don't want it to.

If you set the Mute switch to lock the orientation, holding down the Volume Decrease button turns the volume off completely.

Lightning Connector and 30-Pin Connector

Newer iPads come with a Lightning connector, while older models have a 30-pin connector. The main difference between the two is the size of the adapter that plugs into the iPad.

This connector is used to plug the iPad into your PC. You can also use the AC adapter that comes with the iPad to plug it into a wall outlet, which is the best way to charge your iPad. The connector also connects various accessories to the iPad, such as Apple's Digital AV Adapter, which connects your iPad to your TV.

You don't need to plug your iPad into your PC. The iPad doesn't require a computer for set up, and you can download apps, music, movies, and books to it without ever plugging it into a PC. You can even back up the iPad to the internet using Apple's iCloud service.

Headphone Jack

Most newer iPads don't have a headphone jack; they depend on Bluetooth accessories for wireless headphones and similar devices. However, most iPads released in 2017 and earlier had a headphone jack, which is a 3.5 mm input that accepts and outputs sound so that you can hook up a microphone or a headset with a microphone. Among the other uses for it include creating music, such as using iRig to hook a guitar into the iPad.


The iPad has two cameras: a back-facing camera for taking pictures and video and a front-facing camera for selfies and videoconferencing. The FaceTime app can create a videoconference with friends or family who have an iPad (version 2 and later) or an iPhone.

The iPad Interface Explained

The iPad's interface has two major parts: The home screen, which holds icons and folders, and the dock, which provides quick access to apps and folders. The primary difference between the two is that the home screen can be changed by swiping from left to right, which—in some cases—brings up the Spotlight Search screen, or from right to left, which brings up additional pages of app icons. The dock, which is located at the bottom of the screen, always stays the same.

Recently opened apps in iPad dock

Once you learn to navigate the iPad and organize it by moving icons around the display and creating folders, you can arrange the dock by putting your most-used programs on it. The dock even allows you to set a folder on it, giving you quick access to more applications.

Between the home screen and the dock is a small series of dots, one for each screen of apps you have available. This readout indicates where you are in the interface.

Above the home screen, at the top of the display, is the status bar. Although the locations on the status bar vary based on the version of your iPad, you'll see an indicator displaying the strength of your Wi-Fi or 4G connection, the date and time, and a battery indicator showing how much more battery life your iPad has until you need to plug it in to recharge it. 

The iPad App Store

Perhaps the most important app on the iPad is the App Store, which is where you download new games and utilities for the iPad.

Use the App Store to search for specific apps by tapping the App Store icon to open it and then typing the app name in the search field. You can also search by categories for the type of app you are interested in downloading, such as "recipes" or "racing games."

The App Store has a Today tab that showcases new and interesting apps and top charts with the most popular apps, all of which make for easy browsing for apps.

The App Store also lets you download any apps you have previously purchased, even if you bought them on another iPad or the iPhone or iPod Touch. As long as you are signed in with the same Apple ID, you can download any previously purchased apps.

The App Store is also where you download updates to apps. You'll see a notification when you have apps that need updating. This notification shows up as a red circle with a number in the middle, indicating the number of apps that need updating.

How to Find the iPad Web Browser

The most significant source of content for your iPad doesn't exist in a store; it's in the web browser. The iPad uses the Safari browser, which allows you to view web pages, create new tabs to keep multiple pages open simultaneously, save your favorite places as a bookmark, and just about everything you would expect from a web browser.

The menu on the Safari browser is kept intentionally simple. Here are the buttons and controls from left to right:

  • The Back button for going to the last web page viewed.
  • The Forward button for returning to the current web page.
  • A Bookmark button for saving your favorite websites and getting back to them quickly.
  • The search/address bar. You can use this to search the web using Google or enter a full web address (URL) to go to a website.
  • The Share button for sending a link to a friend, printing a page, or creating a shortcut to the web page on your iPad's home screen.
  • The Plus (+) button opens a new tab so you can open multiple websites at once.
  • The last button looks like two squares on top of each other. This button allows you to see the tabs you have open. You can also turn on Private Browsing mode by tapping the Private link at the top or open new tabs with the Plus button.

How to Play Music on the iPad

The Music app is where you go to listen to your music collection, even if you use home sharing to stream music from your PC or laptop.

Songs continue playing even when you go to a different app, so you can listen to music while you use the iPad's web browser or play your favorite game. When you're finished listening, go back to the Music app and stop the playback by touching the Play/Pause button.

There are also "hidden" music controls on the iPad. If you swipe down from the upper-right edge of newer iPads or up from the bottom edge of the iPad screen on older iPads, you reveal a control panel that includes buttons for controlling your music and other features. This panel is a great way to pause music or skip a song without opening the Music app. These controls also work with apps like Pandora. You can also perform tasks like turning on Bluetooth or adjusting the iPad screen brightness.

The Control Panel on an iPad

The Music app also works with iTunes Match, allowing you to listen to your music collection from the internet.

How to Watch Movies and Play Video on the iPad

The iPad is a great way to watch movies and TV shows while you're out of town on vacation or a business trip. And, it's just as good for taking that movie into a cozy nook in your home that doesn't have a TV.

Using the Netflix mobile app (shown on an iPad Pro), after selecting a movie, tap on the Download icon to download and watch it on your mobile device.

The easiest way to watch movies on the iPad is to use a streaming service such as Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Video. These apps work great on the iPad, and they let you stream a collection of movies or TV shows. While Netflix and Hulu are widely known, Crackle may be the real gem. It's a free service that has a good selection of movies.

If you have a cable subscription, you may be able to use your iPad as a TV. Many cable networks, including AT&T U-verse, DirectTV, and Verizon FIOS, have apps for cable subscribers. While you can't get every channel on these apps, it opens the door to more viewing options. Most of the premium channels like HBO and Showtime also have apps, so if it's movies you are after, these are great options. The major networks all have their own apps showcasing current and older shows.

There are several ways you can watch live television on the iPad through some of the apps mentioned above or through EyeTV, which uses an antenna to receive TV signals.

You can play movies and TV shows on your HDTV by connecting your iPad to your TV either through a special cable or through Wi-Fi via an Apple TV box.

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